Melanie Shell-Weis

Assistant Professor, Liberal Studies Department
Director, Kutsche Office of Local History

Grand Valley State University
324B Lake Ontario Hall
Allendale, MI 49401



  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, History, John Hopkins University (2003-2006) 
  • Ph.D, History, Michigan State University (2002)
  • M.A., American Studies, Michigan State University (1996)
  • A.B., Creative Writing and Social Sciences, Residential College, University of Michigan (1994)


  • US 201: Diversity in the United States
  • LIB 100: Introduction to Liberal Studies
  • LIB 301: Interdisciplinary Research Methods
  • LIB 320: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States
  • LIB 350: The Immigrant Experience in America
  • LIB 495: Senior Seminar


As a scholar of human migration, I am especially interested in the ways that moving people transform local communities. Exploring how, why, and where people move as well as the ways that migration shapes local racial, ethnic, and cultural interactions are central to my teaching and research. Locating these developments in a larger national, international, and global context is key.

Whenever possible, I also seek ways to make direct connections between lessons we are exploring in the classroom and issues, challenges, or events unfolding in the surrounding community. Oral histories provide one good avenue to make these connections while also recording the histories of local communities. At present, these interests guide two student-focused research projects: The first focuses on documenting the history of Civil Rights activism in Western Michigan. The second focuses on the histories and experiences of immigrants and refugees in Western Michigan from 1965 through the present day.

Selected Recent Publications:

  • Help Wanted: Transforming American Communities Through Immigrant Recruitment (in progress)
  • Coming to Miami: A Social History, Sunbelt Studies Series (University Press of Florida, 2009)
  • Florida’s Working Class Past: Current Perspectives on Labor from Spanish Florida to the New Immigration, edited with Robert Cassanello (University Press of Florida, 2009; 2nd edition, 2011)


  • “A New Civil Rights Movement: Cuban-Black Relations and the Change to Win Coalition,” in Latino-Black Relations in the Nuevo New South, edited by Brian Behnken (in progress)
  • "Good Neighbors? Florida as the Gateway to the Americas, 1940-1960," in Florida and the Popular Mind, edited by Julian C. Chambliss and Denise K. Cummings (in progress)
  • "Independence and Inter-dependence: Caribbean-North American Migration in the Modern Era," in Migrants and Migrations in North America: Cross-Border Lives, Labor Markets, and Politics in Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and the United States, edited by Dirk Hoerder and Nora Faires (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011): 226-232.
  • "From Minority to Majority: The Latinization of Miami's Workforce, 1940-1980," Chapter 1 in Moving Workers, Capital,  and Corporations: Migration and the Transformation of the Modern South after 1945, ed. by Colin Davis and Robert  Cassanello (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009): 13-33.
  • "Making America: Immigration, Race, and Citizenship," Teaching American Immigration and Ethnic History Forum, Journal of American Ethnic History (Winter 2009): 74-78.
  • "'I Dreamed I Went to Work': Southern Unionism and the Puerto Rican Garment Industry, 1945-1965," in Florida's Working Class Past: Current Perspectives on Labor from Spanish Florida to the New Immigration, edited by Melanie Shell-Weiss and Robert Cassanello (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009): 295-350.
  • "Immigration, Race, and Nation: Baltimore's Immigrant Recruitment and Response, 1880-1910," Working Paper Series, Center for Africana Studies, The Johns Hopkins University (January 2008):
  • "Keeping Peace in the Family: The Jewish Court of Arbitration, 1912-1945," Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change  in East Baltimore, edited by Deborah R. Weiner, Anita Kassof, and Avi Y. Decter (Baltimore: Jewish Museum of Maryland, 2007): 65-83.
  • “Beyond Pay-per-View: New Models for Scholarship and Scholarly Communication in the Humanities and Social Sciences,” with Paul Turnbull and Mark Kornbluh, in Cushla Kapitzke and B.C. Bruce, eds. Libraries: Changing Information Space and Practice(Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006): 211-228.
  • “Coming North, Going South: Immigration and Labor in Early Twentieth Century Miami,” Florida Historical Quarterly, special issue on Transnational Communities (Summer 2005): 79-99.

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