33: Ashley Serpa



Program and year of study

PhD, 3rd year

Previous degrees and colleges

BA History, University of California, Santa Cruz

MA History, San Jose State University

Where did you grow up?

The Bay Area

Where do you live now?

Davis, CA

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

My couch

How do you relax?

I read science fiction and urban fantasy, which is as far away from history as possible.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

Abhorsen, the first book in Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

The Good Place, which everyone should watch because it’s hilariously dark

Research interests

Cold War U.S. and Portugal, foreign policy, decolonization and authoritarianism

Dissertation title or topic

My dissertation will be on the Cold War-era tensions in the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Portugal that arise because of Portugal’s colonial conflict in Africa. Portugal will be used as a case study for understanding the U.S.’s conflicting stances on decolonization and authoritarian regimes. 

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

Portugal had a rather robust propaganda apparatus operating in the U.S. during the Kennedy years which was so egregious it caught the eye of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and became an example of foreign interference in American policymaking during a series of Senate hearings.

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

My MA adviser

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis. It’s probably the most beautiful academic book I’ve ever read.

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

I admire Marian Schlotterbeck’s research on social movements and the history of Chile’s revolutionary left, which I think gives me a broader view of the Cold War and the U.S.’s relationship with oppressive regimes. I am also fascinated by Brandon Kinne’s research on militarized conflicts, international security and autocratic governments and hope to read more of his work.

What’s the best thing about being a grad student?

Doing what I love every single day—it’s easier to get through the grind and moments of stress when you love what you do.

What's the worst?

Lack of sleep

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

Teaching high-school history

Finally, please ask yourself a question

Do you have any predictions for the near future?

I will be ABD and (hopefully) getting more sleep!


—January 2018


Are you a grad student in the Division of Social Sciences at UC Davis? Do you enjoy answering questions? If so, .