PhD Candidate in History, Columbia University
Westenley (Wes) Alcenat is a PhD candidate in history at Columbia University in New York City. His research interest is in comparative U.S and Caribbean history with a strong focus on the shared histories of the African Diaspora and nations in the Atlantic basin. He is currently working on his dissertation, “The Elusive Quest: Black Emigration to Haiti and the Struggle for Full Citizenship in a White Republic, 1815-1865,” which explores the experience and radicalism of the African-American settlers who emigrated to Haiti in the nineteenth century. His studies focus on how this migration movement influenced African-American and Haitian political thought and the transnational struggle for Black citizenship before and during the American Civil War. His academic interests have intersected with public history and equity in higher education to highlight histories of marginalized groups inside the university and provide critical policy recommendations. His professional experience includes working as graduate mentor to undergraduates in the GSAS-Leadership Alliance Summer Research Program and as Associate Academic Director in the Great Books Summer Reading Program at Amherst College.
Wes holds a BA in political science and history from Macalester College, where he was a Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellow. He has participated in the biennial conference of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) and helped organized a graduate student workshop at Columbia. As a graduate Teaching Assistant, Wes taught undergraduate seminars in various topics, including: Black Urban Political History, Merchants and Slaves in Atlantic Capitalism, the Radical Tradition in U.S History, and the Modern Caribbean. He has periodically served as a co-moderator for Prof. Eric Foner’s Edx Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on the Civil War and Reconstruction. Wes is a past recipient of the Richard Hofstadter Fellowship from Columbia University. He has held fellowships from the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC)-Mellon Mays Graduate Initiative Grants, and most recently the Gilder Lehrman Institute Fellowship in American History.