Mario Alvarez is a Dominican-born New Yorker and oral historian. Currently a law student at NYU, he received his B.A. in History and M.A. in Oral History, in 2014 and 2017, respectively, from Columbia University. His master’s thesis, “Being Real: The Struggle for Authenticity in the Historian-Narrator Exchange,” focuses on authenticity and the moral defensibility of oral history work. His other research interests include American presidential campaigns, the history of hip-hop, and the all-too-complex stories behind American racial identities.

Benji de la Piedra is an independent oral historian and writer currently based in Little Rock, Arkansas. He is at work on the biography of Herbert Denton Jr. (1943-1989), a pioneering African-American journalist at the Washington Post. He currently works as director of the Columbia Life Histories Project in New York City, and as an oral history audit-editor for the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Art. Previously, he worked as oral history trainer and volunteer coordinator for the DC Oral History Collaborative in Washington, DC, and was a 2016 fellow of the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability. A graduate of Columbia University’s Oral History MA program, he was awarded the Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Thesis Prize for his master’s thesis, “That Something Else: B.A. Botkin, Alessandro Portelli, and Ralph Ellison on Democratic Pluralism and the Dialogical Encounter.” Benji teaches and consults on community-based oral history projects around the United States, and speaks and writes regularly about American history and culture, with an emphasis on Black intellectual expression. In the Spring 2020 semester, he will teach the Oral History Methods course at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.

Alissa Rae Funderburk graduated from Columbia in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology as a John W. Kluge Scholar. Her interests included the studies of race, culture and religion, particularly those of the diaspora. In 2013, Alissa Rae began working with Hope Church NYC as the director of kids programming and as an assistant at York Prep School. She is in her last semester of OHMA, creating a thesis about the religious and spiritual experiences of black men in New York City.  



  • April 2016 - Second Annual North Eastern Public Humanities Consortium Conference, Brown University

  • September 2016 - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences New Student Orientation, Columbia University

  • December 2016 - Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability (AHDA) Conference, Amsterdam

  • April 2017 - Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region (OHMAR) Annual Conference, Columbia University

  • October 2017 - 51st Annual Meeting of the Oral History Association (OHA), Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • May 2018 - A Public Dialogue about Findings-in-Progress INCITE Listening Session, Columbia University

  • October 2018 - 52nd Annual Meeting of the Oral History Association (OHA), Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

  • February 2019 - Office of University Life’s Task Force on Inclusion & Belonging General Meeting , Columbia University

  • upcoming April 2019 - Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region (OHMAR) Annual Conference, Monmouth University

  • upcoming October 2019 - 53rd Annual Meeting of the Oral History Association (OHA), Salt Lake City, Utah