Sydney Tunstall has been working with CSS since August of 2021, when she began a semester-long position as Rackham Doctoral Intern for the Crafting Democratic Futures (CDF) project. Sydney remained with the Center beyond that one semester, though, and now serves as a research assistant, a position she’s held since January 2022. “One of my favorite things about working at the Center is that no two semesters have looked the same in terms of tasks,” Sydney says. “I’ve gotten to work on so many different kinds of projects and each one has given me the opportunity to develop new skills or apply skills that I already have to new contexts. Currently, I’m helping with the creation of a CDF podcast by researching and developing storylines for some of the episodes.”

The Crafting Democratic Futures project creates and leverages a national network of college and university-based humanities scholars, working in partnerships with community-based organizations, to develop research-informed reparation plans for each location. Within this project, Sydney is most inspired by “how expansive and varied each team’s approach to reparations is and the amount of creativity, empathy, and care that they employ in designing and implementing their projects.”

Beyond the Center, Sydney is a PhD candidate in U-M’s joint English and Women’s & Gender Studies program. “I consider myself first and foremost a scholar of Black feminist thought, with specific interests in Black lesbian feminism and Black lesbian literature and cultural production. I am beginning to write my dissertation, which examines the works of Black lesbian writers and cultural producers to consider how they craft responses to crisis as it emerges and shapes the conditions of our lives.”

Sydney’s work at the Center “has really helped me see the kinds of meaningful, research-focused work that can take place outside of a tenure track professorship.” Her goals for the future include “build[ing] a career that allows me to continue doing that kind of work and that can have resonance for people outside of the sole domain of the university.” 

Outside of work? “I can usually be found hanging out with my three cats who are, without shame, some of the loves of my life. When I’m not bothering them, I really enjoy baking, finding new movies or TV shows to watch, and following women’s sports. I’ve gotten into basketball over the last couple of years, but I especially love soccer!”

Thank you, Sydney, for your continued work at the Center as an invaluable member of our team!