Nikita Shepard /// PhD Candidate /// Department of History

Nikita Shepard (they/them) explores histories of gender and sexuality, LGBTQ communities, social movements, data and surveillance, and radical politics in the twentieth century United States and beyond.

Their doctoral dissertation, currently in progress under advisor George Chauncey, documents the history of public bathrooms and political struggles over them in the modern US. Additional topics of their research have included queer youth culture and organizing, analogies between sexuality and race and the origins of the minority model in the homophile (early gay and lesbian) movement, the politics of data, surveillance, and privacy in the gay liberation movement, and nonbinary identities and the carceral state. They have received research fellowships from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Texas A&M University, the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of American History, and Columbia's Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life. As an oral history interviewer, they have founded ongoing projects on the Radical Faerie and LGBTQ communities of rural Tennessee and on US anarchist movements, and have contributed interviews to the Rainbow Triangle Oral History Project (Durham, NC) and the Progressive Activists Oral History Project (Nashville, TN).

They have contributed to a wide range of academic initiatives at Columbia through research, lectures, event organizing, web development, archival processing, digital mapping, and more. They are serving as a 2023-24 Graduate Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Sexuality and Gender, and participate as a graduate affiliate in the Columbia Research Initiative on the Global History of Sexualities, for which they developed a Research Guide describing over 150 archival collections in the Columbia University and Barnard College Library system relevant to the history of sexuality. As a 2022 Graduate Intern in Primary Sources at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, they processed, catalogued, and authored the finding aid for an extensive archival collection focused on LGBTQ politics and culture. As the Graduate Coordinator for the Lehman Center for American History in 2020-21, they co-organized events for the "Policing America," "Race, Inequality, and Health," and "American Politics, American Identities" lecture series, as well as building the Lehman Center's website. They worked for the Center for Spatial Research on their Mapping Historical New York City GIS project and for the Columbia Oral History Archives, and founded the "Data, Algorithms, and Social Justice" working group at the Center for the Study of Social Difference. As rapporteur for the Columbia University Seminar on Death (2021-present), they managed the group's 50th anniversary oral history project and built the seminar's website. Their collaborations with Columbia's Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusion (OADI) have included facilitating discussions on intersections of race and sexuality in US history and participating in OADI's 2022 Pathways Into Academia program. They served as the LGBTQ+ Representative to the Graduate History Association for 2020-21, and are a proud member of the Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC-UAW Local 2710).

Nikita brings a longstanding passion for teaching and pedagogy to their work at Columbia. They have served as a teaching assistant for a variety of courses, including "US Lesbian and Gay History" with George Chauncey, "Introduction to Sexuality Studies" with Jack Halberstam, "Data: Past, Present, and Future" with Matthew Jones and Chris Wiggins, "Critical Approaches to Social and Cultural Theory" with Marisa Solomon, and "Technology and US Politics" with Alma Steingart. They are an advanced track participant in the Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning Teaching Development Program, for which they served as the History Department's Lead Teaching Fellow in 2021-22, and hold a certificate from the Graduate Teaching Assistant Teaching Certificate Program at Middle Tennessee State University's Learning, Teaching, and Innovative Technologies Center.

Prospective students who would like to discuss Columbia's history PhD program are warmly encouraged to reach out by email.

Photo credit: Chris Berntsen


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