British Association for American Studies


Cowboys and Unions: Glenn Houlihan and the Peter Boyle BAAS MA GTA Award

I was surprised, and delighted, to receive the Peter Boyle Teaching Assistantship BAAS Award in the spring of 2019. Although I didn’t expect to be spending two years studying in Wyoming following the competition of my undergraduate degree (Laramie is certainly a change of pace from Brighton!) I can honestly say it’s been a fantastic decision.

The Master’s degree is extremely flexible; apart from two required American Studies courses (one in the Fall semester of my first and second year) I was free to pick any classes I liked from the vast selection on offer. This has enabled me to study diverse topics such as Data Politics and Cultural Geography alongside my core American Studies work.

The opportunities outside of the classroom have been equally as varied. In November 2019, just a few months after arriving at the University of Wyoming (UW), I was chosen to represent the American Studies faculty at the American Studies Association (ASA) annual conference in, of all places, Hawaii. The trip, funded entirely by the university, was incredible. It’s not often that you can break up attending panel discussions by snorkeling in Hanauma Bay or hiking up Dimond Head, but on this trip we managed it! The conference itself was also outstanding, and actually inspired my MA thesis research on Graduate Assistant (GA) Unions.

For my Graduate Teaching Assistantship I helped teach Intro To American Studies in my first semester at UW, which I really enjoyed. However, the American Studies faculty also lets MA students work with community organizations for Assistantships, which meant I could join Laramie Interfaith, a local non-profit, for my Spring 2020 and Fall 2020 semesters.

Working with Interfaith to provide the Albany County community with food and emergency rental assistance has, quite honestly, been the highlight of my time here so far. I’ve planned fundraisers, edited monthly newsletters, and even started a new podcast! Balancing out academic duties with more ‘hands-on’ work has been really rewarding, and I would thoroughly recommend it.

Finally, I would like to say that the location – although perhaps not as conventional as New York City or Chicago – has been terrific. For anyone who likes the outdoors, Yellowstone and the stunning Grand Tetons are in Wyoming, and for those who enjoy city life, Colorado’s Fort Collins and Denver are close by. Laramie also has a vibrant downtown, with a great selection of bars, coffeehouses, and – because this is Wyoming – a Cowboy Saloon & Dance Hall.


The Peter Boyle MA GTA award is now open for applications. For more information, head over here. 



About the Author

Glenn Houlihan is an author at USSO.