Kelly entered the PhD program in 2015 and studies the 1848 abolition of slavery in the French Empire, specifically how labor relations changed as the French colonies transitioned from slave to free labor. She is particularly interested in how the introduction of indentured laborers taken from Africa, India, China, and Indochina impacted the social landscape of French colonies and how these populations interacted with former slaves. Originally from New Orleans, Kelly holds a B.A. from Millsaps College in Jackson, MS, where she graduated summa cum laude with Honors. She earned her M.A. in History in 2014 at Vanderbilt University. She has presented her research at the Southern Historical Association and the Consortium on the Revolutionary Era.