Recent Graduates Spotlights (Ph.D.)

Nora Benedict received her Ph.D. in Spanish from UVA in 2017. From 2017-2019, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton University. Nora is currently an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Digital Humanities at the University of Georgia. Her research centers on twentieth-century Latin American literature, book history, and questions of access and maintenance surrounding both digital and print cultures. Her first monograph, Borges and the Literary Marketplace: How Editorial Practices Shaped Cosmopolitan Reading (under contract with Yale University Press), considers the marked presence of books, periodicals, and other print mediums in Jorge Luis Borges’s life by analyzing the physical features of his publications, which she reads through the lens of analytical bibliography and material studies.

“UVa prepared me for an academic career with their rigorous program requirements and dedicated faculty mentorship. Moreover, the numerous opportunities for professionalization, ranging from mock interviews and practice job talks to workshops on how to present and publish research, provided me with the tools I needed to succeed.”


Jessica (Jessie) Marroquín is an ACLS Emerging Voices Fellow at the University of Chicago in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures in the Division of the Humanities. She is further developing her research project on the Santa Muerte, or Holy Death, in Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico Border. She collaborates with interdisciplinary efforts at the University that focus on public and digital humanities, with the goal of lessening the gap between non-academic and academic communities. Jessie is also exploring how to use audio documentaries and podcasting as means to attain this goal and as ways to recover and reincorporate Latinx histories and stories in the U.S. Her research and teaching interests include intersectional feminism, digital, and death studies in cultural productions in 20th and 21st century Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico Border.

“I would like to say that my path at UVA was a tidy one. But I admit that my ultimate path was an untidy one: one that included a two-year pause from and return to academia. Altogether, the five and a half years at UVA were critical building blocks to my career (probably careers?). These blocks featured exciting yet hard twists and turns that invigorated and challenged me to continue my studies. With ongoing support from various mentors and department and university resources, I conducted research in multiple countries (from Argentina to Spain to Mexico to Texas), fomented interdepartmental collaborations (made my first podcast with the Religion, Race, and Democracy Lab), and pursued interdisciplinary research. Thanks to UVA, I have assembled an invaluable toolbox that I will continue to use as a scholar, teacher, analyst, and member of the community.”



Nasser Meerkhan holds a joint position as Assistant Professor between the departments of Spanish & Portuguese and Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley. His book project, tentatively titled From Muses to Makers: Women Writers of Medieval Iberia, retells the literary history of medieval Iberia from the perspective of women writers. The project foregrounds the measures that medieval Iberian women writers took to (re)produce meaning through social interactions, at once appropriating and subverting the channels that they had at their disposal to push against constant attempts to restrict their creative processes. Other research and teaching interests of his include the historiography of medieval Iberia, frame tales, aljamiado literature, Don Quixote and the picaresque.

“I think of my experience at UVA as a neatly woven net of critical thinking, professional experience, and scholarly endeavors that took shape thanks to the university’s incredible resources as well as the consistent support from my mentors. I came to UVA with the curiosities of an amateur scholar, yet I graduated from it with the preparedness, passion and professionalism of a critic and of an educator.”


David Vassar currently serves as assistant dean for professional and corporate programs at Rice University’s Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies in Houston, Texas, where he oversees a wide variety of professional development offerings for adult professionals in the Houston community and beyond.  This is David’s second stint at Rice University, having served as senior assistant to the president and associate vice president for global affairs from 2007-2016, a role in which he was a primary advisor and project manager for Rice President David Leebron on matters related to constituency communication, faculty and student engagement, international relations and general office administration.  In between those two roles, David was director of programs at CONTEX, a binational research and graduate education center jointly funded by Mexico’s CONACYT and the University of Texas System Board of Regents.

“I recall UVA’s SIP department as a place that welcomed me unconditionally and provided the community and warmth of the cultures studied in the department, along with an exacting yet imaginative rigor for the work undertaken in literary and cultural criticism.  This serious and generous approach to graduate education has served me well throughout a somewhat non-traditional path through higher education ever since, especially when interfacing with faculty and academics from the many disciplines that make up the university.”