Program in American StudiesWestern Social Science

American Studies Speakers' Series

Each year, the Centre for American Studies Speakers' Series invites diverse and dynamic speakers to Western to engage students and faculty in discussions about American culture, history, politics, and current events. Admission is free for all events, and everyone is welcome to attend. The Speakers' Series is sponsored by the Centre for American Studies and generously supported by the Consulate General of the United States.

Our sponsors



Dr. Kevin Strait
April 9, 2018, MC 105B, 3:30 p.m.

Kevin Strait: Freedom Sounds

Letter-sized poster (PDF)

Text-only version of poster (PDF)

This presentation will explore the creation of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, its various exhibitions including Musical Crossroads, and will highlight the processes of research, design, object procurement and installment from a
curator’s perspective.  Specifying the museum’s unique features and key acquisitions, this presentation will discuss how the complex, dynamic and global story of African American identity, history and culture is told to a national audience.

Dr. Kevin Strait is a museum curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Since 2010, he has worked in the museum’s Office of Curatorial Affairs on the research, development and acquisition of objects for several of the museum’s permanent exhibitions.  Dr. Strait is a graduate of Wesleyan University and received his Ph.D. in American Studies at the George Washington University.

Dr. Rose Stremlau
February 8, 2018, UCC 41, 4:30 p.m.

Dr. Rose Stremlau. From Trauma to Resilience: Cherokee Children During the Long Removal Era 

Letter-sized poster (PDF)

Text-only version of poster (PDF)

Dr. Rose Stremlau specializes in the study of the Native South, American Indian women, gender, and sexualities; federal Indian policy; and sexual violence.

For more about Dr. Rose Stremlau, click here.

Dr. Laura Cook Kenna
January 16, 2018, UCC 37, 4:30 p.m.


Letter-sized poster (PDF)

Laura Cook Kenna is a writer, speaker, independent scholar, and sometimes editor.

Most recently Kenna taught as faculty for Writing and Cultural Criticism at the Trinity Forum Academy fellowship program in Royal Oak, Maryland and has been a regular guest lecturer on “Trends in Americana” as part of the Public Diplomacy track at the US Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute.

A Contributor to the “Women” and “Entertainment” sections at Christianity Today, Laura Kenna’s essays have also appeared in print in USAToday and The Washington Times and online at Rare and Patheos.  She also blogs about television and film at

Kenna has published a range of scholarly articles and book chapters drawn from research for her scholarly monograph, American Gangster.  The not-yet-published book tells the story of how popular gangster film, rap, TV and video games organized Americans’ ideas about censorship, Italian American ethnicity, and what counts as “artistic” pop culture for nearly a half a century.

Laura Cook Kenna holds a PhD in American Studies from the George Washington University where she also served as Visiting Assistant Professor teaching courses in the history of 20th century American culture,  film and television, cultural theory, and research writing. She was the winner of a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship from the US Department of Education, which funded four years of her doctoral work, and a residential, archival fellowship from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in addition to a handful of fellowships and grants from George Washington University.

Kenna lives in Washington, DC with her dashing husband, chatty daughter, and two big-eyed sons. They are, she estimates, just the right amount of eccentric. She spends her downtime on sci-fi, baking, and playing the drums.

You can read Laura Cook Kenna’s full Curriculum Vitae here.

Dr. Katie Batza
November 16, 2017, UCC 41, 4:30 p.m.


Katie Batza poster

Letter-sized Poster (PDF)

Dr. Katie Batza is an Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at University of Kansas. Her book Before AIDS: Gay Health Politics in the 1970s will be available from the University of Pennsylvania Press in the spring of 2018. Her work explores the intersection of sexuality, health, and politics in Post-WWII United States and has appeared in various publications including the Journal of Women 's History and has earned her many grants and awards. Last summer she won a stipend from the National Endowment of the Humanities for her second book project on the early AIDS epidemic in the US Heartland. She has also been working in collaboration with the U.S. National Parks Service's LGBTQ Initiative to ensure that historical sites and landmarks become more inclusive and representative of LGBTQ historical events and people.