Our Guides

We are not your traditional tour guides.

Big Onion has the finest group of tour guides in the city. Most of us are full-time graduate students researching and writing doctoral dissertations in history or a related field. Big Onion guides have high school or college teaching experience and are quite often researching topics relevant to the tours they are leading.

All our guides work exclusively for Big Onion and have completed our rigorous in-house training program and are licensed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. Our guides are passionate about the history, architecture and people of New York. We have been called “brilliant”, “hilarious”, “outstanding”, and “irreverent”. Most of our guides, upon completion of studies, move on to successful teaching careers.

Seth Kamil

President & co-founder of Big Onion Walking Tours and Director of Big Onion Historical Consulting. A former “ABD” graduate student, he returned to Columbia University in 2023 to write his dissertation, entitled “New York and Barbados 1650-1775: Colonial Interdependence and Contemporary Linkages.” He holds advanced degrees in American History from Columbia University and a BA in Social Thought & Political Economy from University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Seth is proud to be a Fellow of the New York Academy of History. He has been a consultant on a variety of historical tourism projects including Governors Island, The Presidio, Atlantic City, The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and ethnic New Orleans. Seth has appeared on numerous television networks, including BBC, PBS, History Channel, Travel Channel, Arte Television, CBS, and ABC.  Former on-camera Historian on, and a Producer of, the Emmy Award winning (13 nominations & one win) series “Toni On! New York”. When not walking the city he can be found walking in the Catskills woods where cell phones don’t work. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Traci & black Labs Genevieve and Tokaji.

Adam Kocurek

Adam Kocurek is a Ph.D. candidate in History at The CUNY Graduate Center. His research lies at the intersections of LGBT history, labor history, and the history of higher education. He works as an adjunct lecturer at Hunter College and has been an employee with Big Onion since 2018.

Alice Walkiewicz

Alice is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She specializes in 19th-century art from the United States and Europe, and her dissertation explores the intersection of gender, labor, and art in the late 19th century through a comparison of the visual depiction of exploited female garment workers in Britain, France, and the United States. She holds a B.A. in English and Art History from the University of Kansas (Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!) and a M.Phil. in Art History from the Graduate Center, CUNY. Originally from Oklahoma, she has happily called New York home since 2008, and has lived in three out of the five boroughs of the city. She currently resides in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Caroline Gillaspie

Caroline is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where she studies nineteenth-century art of the U.S. and Latin America. She received her B.A. in History and Art History from Mount Holyoke College in 2008. Proud to call herself a native New Yorker, Caroline grew up in both New York City and the Hudson Valley and currently resides in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea. In addition to leading tours with Big Onion, she also teaches art history courses at York College (Queens) and City Tech (Brooklyn).

Christine Kelly

Christine teaches American History courses at Fordham University where she completed her PhD in History in 2019 and is also a staff member at The Ursuline School in New Rochelle, New York. She specializes in race, gender, and culture in American life amid the social transformations of the 1960s era, including the role that the American folk music revival played in buttressing second wave feminist activism. She previously served in student support offices at Fordham University and Johns Hopkins University.

Drew Fedorka

Drew received his Ph.D. in European History from New York University. Using concepts of youth and generational difference as an interpretive frame, his dissertation explored France’s social and economic transformation and its sometimes-fraught encounters with American cultural and business influence during the Cold War. He previously attended the University of Central Florida, earning both a B.A. with honors distinction and an M.A. in History. At the college level, he has taught upper-level courses on urban history (including a comparative history of New York and Paris) as well as postwar youth culture. He has also taught survey courses on World and American history. A New Englander by birth and Francophile by inclination, Drew nevertheless believes there’s no place quite like New York City. He currently lives in South Slope, Brooklyn.

Jim Baker

Born and raised in Flushing, Jim received his Ph.D. in Geography from University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Jim takes a broadly cross-disciplinary view of critical human geography, examining the social lives of place, space, and geopolitics through spatial ethnography and visual methods. Jim has published articles on the role of visual storytelling in craft beer branding, the social-material production of the contemporary skyline of London, and the right to the city in Thessaloniki, Greece. Jim is an alumnus of two Critical Language Scholarship programs and has studied abroad in Baku, Azerbaijan and Kharkiv, Ukraine. Jim works as a developmental editor with Epilogue Editing and has worked extensively with international students and scholars as an ESL instructor, immigration advisor, and naturalization test instructor; he has also taught undergraduate courses on World Regional Geography and European Cultures and Landscapes. Having lived in Florida, Boston, and Nebraska, Jim now calls Bensonhurst home – an ideal launchpad for exploring the myriad cuisines of South Brooklyn!

Justin Greenman

Justin is a New Jersey native pursuing a PhD in political science. He previously graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in history and political science and from New York University with an MA in history. He specializes in American political development and institutions. Specifically, Justin is fascinated by the Civil War and how the political landscape constantly evolved in the years leading up to, during, and after the conflict, and how this impacted elected officials, political leaders, and regular citizens alike.  When he is not studying or leading tours, Justin is a constantly depressed New York Jets and Mets fan, a curse he assuages with classic television shows like Taxi, MASH, and Boy Meets World.

Justine Lyons

Justine (she/her) is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center, and also holds a Doctoral Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies, a Master’s of International Human Rights from the University of Denver, and a B.A. in Political Science and Human Rights from Barnard College. She teaches undergraduate courses in sociology at Queens College, is an occasional election day worker, has worked and volunteered in various roles in the nonprofit world, and is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. In addition to fielding history questions on her tours, Justine is always happy to recommend used bookstores and vegan snacks around NYC. When not at work, she can be found in one of the city’s live music venues, or at home with her cat.

Keith Doherty

Keith Doherty is a former professor of art history at Boston University and a New York native. He currently evaluates historically significant structures in the greater New York City area for a private company. He is in the process of researching a book on Black-owned farms in the Hudson Valley in the era of Gradual Emancipation (1799-1827).

Kelly Hacker Jones

Kelly Hacker Jones teaches U.S. History at an independent high school on the Upper East Side. She holds a PhD in History from Stony Brook University.

Melanie Rush

Melanie is a History Ph.D. student at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her research interests lie at the intersections of race, gender, and law in early nineteenth-century New York, with a focus on gradual emancipation. She received her B.A. in History and Politics with a minor in Legal Studies from Brandeis University, and is currently teaching American History at Lehman College.

Big Onion alumni guides include:
Adam Rothman, Professor of History, Georgetown University
Anna Seastrand, Professor of Art History, University of Chicago
Annie Polland, President, Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Beverly Gage, Professor of History, Yale University
Brian McCabe, Professor of Sociology, Georgetown University
Cecelia Walsh Russo, Copenhagen University
Cindy Lobel, Professor of History, CUNY/Lehman College
David Kinkela, Professor of History, SUNY Fredonia
David Madden, Professor of Sociology, Bard College
Edward O’Donnell, Professor of History, The College of Holy Cross
Eliza Byard, Executive Director, GLSEN
Elizabeth Pillsbury, History Educator, Maybeck High School, Berkeley, CA
Eric Wakin, Research Fellow and Director of Library & Archives, Hoover Institute, Stanford University
Erik Goldner, Professor of History, California State University-Northridge
Jana Lipman, Professor of History, Tulane University, New Orleans
Jennifer Fronc, Professor of History, University of Massachusetts/Amherst
Jennifer Nugent Duffy, Professor of History at Western Connecticut State University
Jeffrey Trask, Professor of History, University of Massachusetts/Amherst
Jill Jarvis, Professor of French & DGS, Yale University
Josh Wolff, Consultant, McKinsey & Company
Julia Guarneri, Professor of History, Colgate University
Julie Golia, Curator of History, Social Sciences, and Government Information at the New York Public Library
Leonard Benardo, Regional Director, Open Society Institute
Mark Elliott, Professor of History, Wagner College, Staten Island NY
Max Page, Professor of Architecture and History, Univ. Massachusetts/Amherst
Megan Doherty, Program Officer, German Marshall Fund of the United States
Michael Benediksson, Professor of Sociology, Hunter College
Nancy Banks, History Teacher, The Fieldston School, Bronx NY
Nick Juravich, Professor of History, University of Massachusetts/Boston
Pam Epstein, Assistant Director, Community Arts Development Program, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
Pavel Schlossberg, Professor of Communications, University of Virginia
Philip Napoli, Professor of History, Brooklyn College
Reiko Hillyer, Professor of History, Lewis & Clark College
Sam Haselby, Senior Editor, Aeon
Sara Fanning, Professor of History, University of Texas
Stephanie O’Rourke, Professor of Art History, St Andrew’s College, Scotland
Suzanne Kahn, Research Analyst, SEIU 32BJ, New York City
Tina Rivers, Curator, Buffalo AKG Art Museum
Thorin Tritter, Research Fellow, School of Advanced Study, University of London
Tim White, Assistant Professor of History, the New Jersey City University
Vincent Cannato, Professor of History, Univ. Massachusetts/Boston
Last updated: 2024