Professor of Creative Nonfiction and Co-Director of Thomas Wolfe Scholarship at UNC-Chapel Hill, 2023-present

Margaret R. Shuping Scholar and Associate Professor of Creative Nonfiction at UNC-Chapel Hill, 2018-2023

Margaret R. Shuping Fellow and Assistant Professor of Creative Nonfiction at UNC-Chapel Hill, 2013-2018

Viebranz Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at St. Lawrence University, 2012-2013
Spent academic year as writer-in-residence, professor, and hostess of literary salons at the Department of English.

Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, 2005-2006
Spent academic year as writer-in-residence at Princeton University’s Council of Humanities/Department of Creative Writing.

Board Member of the National Coalition Against Censorship, 2005-2010

Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute, 2005-present
Member of progressive think tank dedicated to policy research and advocacy on critical world problems.


Art Above Everything: Global Women With A Singular Vision
Author, Beacon Press, 2026 (forthcoming)

All the Agents & Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands
Author, UNC Press, 2017

Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010
Editor, Travelers’ Tales 2010

Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines
Author, Washington Square Press/Simon & Schuster 2008

100 Places Every Woman Should Go
Author, Travelers’ Tales 2007

Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana
Author, Villard/Random House 2004


Virginia Quarterly Review, The Believer, Oxford American, New York Times Book Review, Travel + Leisure, BBC Travel, Orion, AirBnB Magazine, Texas Monthly Magazine, Poets & Writers Magazine, The Wilson Quarterly, Earth Island Journal, Witness, Dallas Morning News, Latina Magazine, USA Weekend, Bitch, Florida Review, World Pulse MagazineWorld Literature Today, Texas Observer, INDY Week, Los Angeles Review of Books
Freelance Writer
Published essays, profiles, travel stories, book reviews, and interviews with artists, activists, and political figures.

The Odyssey: US Trek
National Correspondent,
One of 10 Americans selected from application pool of 500 to travel 45,000 miles across the United States and document its history for The Odyssey, a non-profit Web site with audience of 100,000 K-12 graders. Interviewed key historical experts; shot documentary footage; filed 50 dispatches; presented at dozens of schools.

The Associated Press 
Austin, TX, 12/98-6/99
Political Reporter
Covered 1999 Texas Legislative Session. Published 150 stories.

1997 Henry Luce Scholar
Beijing, China, 9/97-7/98
Journalism Instructor and Editor, China Daily
One of 18 young American professionals selected by Henry Luce Foundation to work in Asia for one year. Led staff of 11 Chinese reporters in publication of weekly newsmagazine; held series of newswriting workshops and lectures; conducted extensive research and interviews for memoir.

The New York Times
New York, NY, 5/97-8/97
Scotty Reston Fellow
Published articles in Culture, Sunday Living Arts, and City Weekly sections.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Moscow, Russia, 6/96-7/96
Freelance Journalist
Covered Russia’s 1996 presidential election and its aftermath. Facilitated Russia’s first on-line chat between readers of the P-Iand the Post-Soviet National Press Institute.

The Washington Post
Washington, D.C., 5/95-8/95
Summer Intern
Published articles in Style section.


University of North Carolina-Chapell Hill, Department of English
Chapel Hill, NC 7/13-present
Professor of creative nonfiction writing to undergraduates.

St. Lawrence University, Department of English
Canton, NY 8/12-5/13
Professor of creative nonfiction writing to undergraduates.

International Writing Program, University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 1/12-5/12
Instructor of online distance-learning course connecting students of ten different nations.

University of Iowa, Department of English
Iowa City, IA 8/10-5/12
Instructor of nonfiction writing to undergraduates.


Youth Free Expression Network
New York, NY 5/02 – 6/05
Co-founder & Director
Founded and directed anti-censorship coalition of youth and adults, as part of National Coalition Against Censorship. Organized national “Free Speech and Democracy Film Contest” for young filmmakers; moderated youth panels at conferences including National PTA Convention; conducted censorship workshops at schools and youth media programs; created and edited youth-run Op-Ed service; wrote grants.

The Free Expression Policy Project
New York, NY 1/02 – 12/03
Communications Director
Spokeswoman for think tank on artistic and intellectual freedom. Organized national colloquium on youth and censorship; edited, designed, publicized, and distributed four public policy reports; handled press calls and media affairs; wrote commentaries and reviews for Web site; presented at national conferences.

Nong Jia Niu: Rural Women Knowing All
Beijing, China, 10/97-5/98
Volunteer Editor
Researcher and translator for China’s only NGO for rural women. Wrote grants; edited the center’s English language reports and publications; organized seminars for migrant workers and village women doctors.


The University of Iowa
MFA from the Nonfiction Writing Program; May 2012
Dean’s Graduate Fellowship

The University of Texas at Austin
B.J. Magazine Journalism; B.A. Post-Soviet and East European Studies; May 1997
GPA: 3.95/4.0. Honors: Golden Key, Mortar Board, Phi Beta Kappa

Moscow Linguistics Institute, Russia
Certificate of Advanced Russian; May 1996


2024 Visiting Writer, Casa Uno, San Juan, Costa Rica
2023 Literary Ambassador, International Writing Program Literary Tour of Mexico
2023 Faculty Fellow, Institute for the Arts & Humanities, UNC-Chapel Hill
2023 Visiting Artist, Bogliasco Foundation, Genoa, Italy
2021 Bronze Award, “Short Work on Travel” category, Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition
2021 Writer in Residence, Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, Santa Fe, New Mexico
2019 Writer in Residence, Marble House Project, Dorsey, Vermont
2019 Fellow, Lannan Foundation, Marfa, Texas
2018 Finalist, International Latino Book Awards, Current Affairs
2018 Fellow, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Amherst, Virginia
2017 University Research Council Grant, UNC-Chapel Hill
2016 Junior Faculty Development Award, UNC-Chapel Hill
2015 Faculty Fellow, Institute for the Arts & Humanities, UNC-Chapel Hill
2015 Literary Ambassador, International Writing Program Literary Tour of Venezuela & Colombia
2014 Writer-in-Residence, Sangam House, Bangalore, India
2013 Inductee, Texas Institute of Letters
2013 Nominee for Hillman Prize in Journalism by Earth Island Journal
2012 Dean’s Achievement Award, Office of Graduate Ethnic Inclusion, University of Iowa
2011 Nominee for Outstanding Graduate Assistant, University of Iowa
2010 Finalist, Dorothy Churchill Cappon Prize for the Essay
2010 Winner, Gold Medal, Best Travel Book, Independent Book Publishers Awards
2009 Winner of the PEN Southwest Book Award for Nonfiction
2009-2011 Dean’s Graduate Fellowship, University of Iowa
2009 Invitation, Sandra Cisneros’s Macondo Workshop
2009 Finalist, International Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction, Salem College
2009 Writer-in-Residence and Scholarship Recipient, Ragdale Foundation
2008 Inductee, PEN America
2008 Winner of “Best Travel Book” category of International Latino Book Awards
2008 Fellowship to Can Serrat Residency outside Barcelona, Spain
2007 Winner of the Richard J. Margolis Award for Social Justice Reporting
2007 Gold Prize in “Best Travel Book” category of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition
2007 Residency at Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow, Arkansas
2007 Residency at Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Nebraska
2007 Book of the Year, Austin Mayor’s Book Club, Austin, Texas
2006 Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Scholarship, Art Omi International in Ghent, NY
2005-2006 Hodder Fellow, Princeton University
2004 Best Travel Book of the Year, National Association of Travel Journalists of America
2003 Writer-in-Residence and Scholarship Recipient, Ragdale Foundation
1997-1998 Henry Luce Scholar, China
1996 USA Today All Academic First Team
National Association of Hispanic Journalists Scholarship
Freedom Forum Journalism Scholarship
Network of Hispanic Communicators Award and Scholarship
Scripps-Howard Journalism Scholarship
Headliners Foundation Journalism Scholarship
Pan-American Golf Writer’s Association Scholarship and Fellowship
National Hispanic Scholarship Fund Award
American Society of Newspaper Editors Scholarship
UT Austin Texas Achievement Award


2024 National Selector, Henry Luce Scholars Program
2023 National Selector, Henry Luce Scholars Program
2022 Judge, Charlotte Lit’s Lit/South Awards, Creative Nonfiction category
2021 National Selector, Henry Luce Scholars Program
2020 Chair of Selection Committee, Edwin “Bud” Shrake Award for Short Nonfiction, Texas Institute of Letters
2019 Judge, Orison Anthology Award in Creative Nonfiction
2014 Judge of Creative Nonfiction Writing Contest for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth
2013 Jury of Mid-Atlantic Arts Council grants for Creative Nonfiction
2013 Jury of Moore Prize for Creative Nonfiction and the Robert Ruark Award for Outdoors, UNC-Chapel Hill
2009 Jury of Travel Writing Contest sponsored by Intrepid Travel and Wanderlust & Lipstick
2008 Judge of annual scholarship to Can Serrat Residency outside Barcelona, Spain


Languages: proficient in Spanish; remnants of Russian; survival Mandarin Chinese