Alumni Profiles

Michele Walfred

Degree: 2014, MALS
Job Title: Communications Specialist

The MALS program encouraged 2014 alumna Michele Walfred to combine her interests in journalism and art with her growing fascination for the 19th century American immigration experience.  Originally motivated to explore her own Irish heritage, her last MALS course, Contemporary Culture: Asian Immigration to America, inspired Walfred to look beyond the familiar and probe deeper into the commonalities between the Irish and Chinese immigrant experiences, and the social, cultural and political reasons for their volatile relationship in a youthful yet expanding America.

Walfred’s capstone project, Illustrating Chinese Exclusion ( explores the 46 cartoons drawn by Thomas Nast for New York-based Harper’s Weekly, and compares Nast’s depictions to that of George F. Keller, who drew for The San Francisco Illustrated Wasp. It is the first thorough examination of Thomas Nast’s work featuring Chinese immigrants, Chinese Americans and U.S.-China relations as subjects for editorial cartoons.

While Illustrating Chinese Exclusion provides a glimpse into the percolating immigrant issues of that era, Walfred’s historical spotlight remains relevant today as national conversations about immigration and inclusion/exclusion continue to be passionately discussed.

Nearly 173,000 have visited the website in its first two years.  Walfred’s MALS project is used as a resource for high school students and colleges such as University of Dayton, University of Connecticut, Louisiana State University, Baruch College-CUNY, St. Joseph’s College and Brandeis University to name a few. Her work has been cited by NPR, Politico and The Boston Globe, among others.

“The MALS program changed how I view everything,” says Walfred. “I soon found that what you think you know, or what has been handed down to you, is often coming from a limited point of reference.  The MALS program has trained me to look around. Indulge my curiosity. Go find out.  Explore.  Peel back the layers. You will be surprised by what you discover!”