Iowa Writer’s Workshop student awarded fellowship at Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Jorrell Watkins University of Iowa Masters of Fine Arts student Jorrell Watkins was awarded a Graduate Student Fellowship with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. Watkins will conduct research this summer for his MFA in Creative Writing poetry thesis to be submitted next spring.

Watkins, who holds a Pflughaupt Fellowship to study in the Workshop, will be conducting research on Black American Music Tradition (BAMT) from Blues to Hip-hop/Trap, and how the BAMT creates pathways for Black migration, and social/political movements. His research will culminate in a historically researched poetry manuscript that integrates Black American Music with that of nation building and formation(s) of Black identity and experience. Dr. Nancy Bercaw, chair of the museum’s Division of Political and Military History, will advise Watkins during his ten-week fellowship at the Smithsonian.

Watkins is also a Diversity and Disability Fellow for the UI’s Center for Disabilities and Development, a program of the Stead Family Children's Hospital.

The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 19 museums and the National Zoo.


The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.