Associate Professor

Sarah Nilsen teaches classes in the history of film and television, on issues of race, class and gender in the media, the theories of popular culture, and critical race theory. Her areas of interest include Walt Disney, the popular culture of the Cold War, and cultural diplomacy. She is currently working on a book which is a cultural history of the Disney princesses. She is also co-editing an anthology currently titled The Colorblind Screen: Television in Post-Racial America. And she working on a screenplay about Harry Harlow. 

Research and/or Creative Works

Monkey LoveScreenplay for a biographical feature length film about Dr. Harry Harlow, the father of attachment parenting.
ShelterScreenplay for a television pilot about an animal shelter in Vermont.




cover of The Myth of Colorblindness, edited by Sarah Turner and Sarah NilsenThe Myth of Colorblindness: Race and Ethnicity in American Cinema, eds. Sarah E. Turner and Sarah Nilsen, Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming November 2019
cover of The Colorblind Screen: Television in Post-Racial America edited by Sarah Nilsen and Sarah Turner

The Colorblind Screen: Television in Post-Racial America. eds. Sarah Nilsen and Sarah Turner (New York University Press, 2014).

cover of Projecting America: Film and Cultural Diplomacy at the Brussels World’s Fair of 1958 by Sarah NilsenProjecting America: Film and Cultural Diplomacy at the Brussels World’s Fair of 1958 (McFarland & Company, 2011).

Articles and Chapters

“Some People Just Hide in Plain Sight”: Historicizing Racism in Mad Men”The Colorblind Screen: Television in Post-Racial America. eds. Sarah Nilsen and Sarah Turner (New York University Press, 2014).
“All-American Girl?: Annette Funicello and Suburban Ethnicity in the Mickey Mouse Club”Mediated Girlhoods: New Explorations of Girls’ Media Culture ed. Mary Celeste Kearney (Peter Lang, 2011).
“America’s Salesman: Walt Disney’s USA in Circarama”Beyond the Mouse: Disney’s Documentaries and Docudramas, ed. A. Bowdoin Van Riper (McFarland, 2011). Recipient of the PCA/ACA Ray and Pat Browne Award for "Best Edited Collection in Popular and American Culture" for 2011.
“Be Sure You’re Right, Then Go Ahead”: The Davy Crockett Gun Craze”Red Feather: An International Journal of Children’s Visual Culture 1:1 (Spring 2010). (Reprint in A Walt
Disney Reader
, University Press of Mississippi)
“White Soul: The ‘Magical Negro’ in the Films of Stephen King,”The Films of Stephen King: From Carrie to Secret Window, ed. Tony Magistrale (New York: Palgrave, 2008): 129-140.


Awards and Recognition

University of Vermont, Small Grant Research Award, Summer 2017, for research at the Walt Disney Archive, Burbank, CA.
University of Vermont, Small Grant Research Award, Spring 2015, for research at The Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester, NY.
University of Vermont, Lattie Coors Research Assistantship Award, Spring 2013, for research on the Disney Princess franchise.
University of Vermont, Faculty Research Support Award, Fall and Spring 2011/12.
University of Vermont, Faculty Development Grant, Fall 2005, research on the plans by the U.S. State Department for the American Pavilion at the Brussels World’s Fair of 1958.
Fulbright Scholarship, 1998/9, The Canada-U.S. Fulbright Program, research on American pavilions at Canadian international expositions.
Vander Putten International Fund, Fall 2002, funding to meet with British media organizations and institutions in order to develop a summer media studies program.
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Faculty Development Grant, Summer 2001, research on the introduction of film technologies at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Faculty/Student Collaborative Grant, 2000 and 2001, research on Pare Lorentz’s Nuremberg Trial film and Vera Caspary’s filmic adaptation of Laura.
Bernard Kantor Scholarship, 1998/9, University of Southern California.
Cinema Circulus Scholarship, 1997/8, University of Southern California

Associations and Affiliations

External reviewer for the journals: American Studies; LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory; Societies
External reviewer for the following presses: Rowman & Littlefield
Guest lecturer at Burlington High School
Special evaluator for Community College of Vermont

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Walt Disney, the popular culture of the cold war, and cultural diplomacy 


  • Ph.D. Univerity of Southern California, 2000


Office Location:

315 Old Mill

Courses Taught

  • Development of  Motion Pictures I: Origin - 1930
  • Development of Motion Picture II: 1930 - 1960
  • Screenwriting I
  • Seminar in Film and Television: Disney and Pixar
  • History of Television
  • Intro Special Topics in Film and Television: Walt Disney and American Culture
  • Special Topics: Exploitation Cinema
  • Intermediate Special Topics: Advanced Screenwriting
  • Seminar: Animals in Film and Television
  • Seminar: Nature Documentaries
  • Seminar: Film and Television Celebrity Culture
  • Seminar: Popular Music and Film
  • Seminar: Critical Race Issues in TV
  • History of Television
  • Studies in Film/TV Genre: Teen Pics
  • Studies in Film/TV Genre: Hip Hop Cult in Film & TV
  • Film and Television Genre and Auteur
  • Race and Ethnic in Literary Studies: D1 Race and Television
  • Readings and Research
  • Independent Study