Margaret “Maggie” Nolan O’Neill Fellows 2024

The Margaret “Maggie” Nolan O’Neill Fellowship  was established in 2022 in memory of Margaret “Maggie” Nolan O’Neill (Class of 2021), who studied Political Science Government, and Political Philosophy at Columbia University, with a keen interest in the application of those studies in the modern world. The purpose of this academic opportunity is to advance scholarship in American history and geopolitics while fostering respectful dialogue of topics relevant to the evolution of our nation, the shaping of its democracy and place in the global arena. Inspired by Maggie’s own passion for intellectual discourse and boundless curiosity about our country’s history and political landscape, the fellowship allows an undergraduate or graduate student at Columbia University to use the JHC campus, archives and advisors as resources and includes a stipend for an immersive summer experience. The selected fellow is invited to present their final research to the public in a fall program.

We are delighted to introduce our two O’Neill Fellows for 2024.

Wena Teng is a proud first-generation student, studying Race & Ethnicity Studies and History at Columbia with a specialization in political economy. Born in Queens to immigrants and then living several years in Asia, Wena is interested in tracing immigration movements and connecting them to larger geopolitical themes of economy, labor, and politics. She will examine John Jay’s belief in propelling commerce with China to bolster both independence and economic prosperity with his other political stances including abolition efforts.  Wena will look at how China and Asia were instrumental as vessels for not just economic development, but part of the political projects to building and rebuilding America after the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. At Columbia, she serves as a University Senator and a Laidlaw Scholar. She has also worked with the Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project on policies to accommodate licenses and legal resources for vendors. Her experiences include an internship at the White House and positions as Columbia Law Review DEI director. A 2024 New York Truman Scholar, Wena intends to pursue a JD/PhD to reconcile gaps in labor law and policy that have historically excluded protections for migrant workers. In her free time, she enjoys writing prose, practicing the Chinese harp, and building intergenerational friendships with street vendors on food crawls around NYC.

Zachary Vanderslice is a rising senior at Columbia University majoring in history and applied math. As an O’Neill Fellow, his research will focus on early free Black community formation in New York during the gradual emancipation era (1799-1827) following John Jay’s signing of the Gradual Emancipation Act into law. Zachary will explore how the actions of the New York Manumission Society, the African Free School and the Free African Society for Mutual Relief, contributed to the establishment of vibrant Black churches and Black neighborhoods some of which are still extant today. His research will demonstrate how these civic organizations were not solely vehicles for political expression of advocacy and abolitionism – they helped Black New Yorkers articulate and enact their newfound freedom by providing aid, legal defense, education, and spiritual and social support. This summer, Zachary is also conducting research at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory on extreme heat in the Midwest. He is helping to evaluate the risks of extreme climate on a variety of sectors, including public health, energy and agriculture, with an underlying focus on climate justice. In addition, he is the Chief Engineer and previous Director of Operations for WKCR-FM NY (89.9 FM, There he hosts a weekly jazz radio show (Wed. 6-9pm) where he profiles a single bop or hard-bop musician, based on personal research.