New Visiting Faculty Bring Vast Academic Interests from High Altitude Ecosystems to Pharmacoengineering

Olivia DrakeSeptember 16, 202124min
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visiting faculty 2021
Several new visiting faculty and scholars attended New Faculty Orientation in August. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Nineteen visiting faculty, including fellows, scholars, and postdoctoral researchers, join Wesleyan for the 2021-22 academic year. Their academic interests include high altitude ecosystems, Muslim political masculinities, Indigenous cultural studies, epidemiology and public health, 20th-century continental philosophy, pharmacoengineering, social media’s effects on adolescent development, and more.

Their bios are below:

Alisha Butler, Provost Equity Fellow in the College of Education Studies, is a mixed-methods researcher whose work draws on interdisciplinary perspectives to interrogate the overlapping ecologies of schools, neighborhoods, and cities that shape students’ and families’ experiences in schools. This work includes studies of school-family and school-community partnerships. Her dissertation leveraged qualitative methods to investigate gentrification’s effects on urban schools, focusing on how middle-class families in gentrifying communities select secondary schools for their children, how administrators and educators respond to changing school demographics, and how gentrification shapes the politics of family engagement. She earned her BA at Yale University and an MA in education policy from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she also will complete her PhD in education policy. Butler will join Wesleyan during the spring 2022 semester.

Alton Byers, Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment, is a mountain geographer, conservationist, and mountaineer specializing in applied research, high altitude ecosystems, climate change, glacier hazards, and integrated conservation and development programs. He received both his BA  and PHD from the University of Colorado, the latter focusing on landscape change, soil erosion, and vegetation dynamics in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Nepal. He joined The Mountain Institute (TMI) in 1990 as an environmental advisor, and over the next 25 years worked as co-manager of the Makalu-Barun National Park (Nepal Programs), founder and director of Andean Programs, director of Appalachian programs, and director of science and exploration. In 2015 he joined the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder as a senior research scientist and faculty, and currently works on a range of research, writing, and teaching projects in the Himalayas, Andes, Appalachian, and Rocky Mountains. His work has been recognized by the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal from the Nepali NGO Mountain Legacy; David Brower Award for Conservation from the American Alpine Club; Distinguished Career Award from Association of American Geographers, Mountain Specialty Group; Ecosystem Stewardship Award from The Nature Conservancy; and Honorary Lifetime Member of the Nepal Geographical Society. In 2016 he received a Fulbright Specialist award to teach mountain geography at Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and has twice been shortlisted for the Rolex Award for Enterprise. Byers is co-editor of Mountain Geography: Human and Physical Dimensions (University of California Press at Berkeley, 2013). His most recent book is titled Khumbu Since 1950, a unique collection of historic photographs of the Mount Everest region that he has replicated over the years. In April 2021 he was awarded the 2021-2022 Fulbright Nepal Research Award for continued work in alpine conservation and restoration work.

Garen Chiloyan, visiting assistant professor of mathematics, completed his undergraduate work at Northeastern University. He achieved a coursework master’s degree from Boston College, and a PhD from the University of Connecticut in May 2021. His research is in arithmetic geometry; in particular, Galois representations attached to elliptic curves. His thesis introduces the term “isogeny-torsion graph.” He is more of an applied group theorist rather than a number theorist. Chiloyan was born in the Armenian neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria, and moved to Watertown, Mass. as a child. His personal hobbies are watching movies and practicing karate.

Lou Cornum,  Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Native American studies, is an enrolled citizen of the Navajo Nation,  born and raised in Arizona but based in Brooklyn for the last decade. They recently completed their doctorate in English at the City University of New York Graduate Center with a dissertation titled “Skin Worlds: Reading Blackness and Indigeneity Across Science Fiction, 1970- 2000.” Their work traverses Indigenous studies, Black studies and American studies with an emphasis on American literature and Indigenous cultural studies. They will be teaching Introduction to Native American Studies: Paradoxes of Indigenous Life this fall. Cornum also is a writer of cultural criticism and speculative fiction.

Carla Coste Sanchez, visiting assistant professor of chemistry, earned her BS degree in chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras and her PhD in pharmacoengineering and molecular pharmaceutics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research has focused on metallo-pharmaceuticals, and she has characterized the solid-state structures of metal-binding small molecules as well as investigated strategies for binding and removing excess metal ions from living systems. Her published research also includes contributions to the science education literature. This year, Coste Sanchez will teach Intermediate Chemistry Laboratory and the Organic Chemistry Laboratory.

Don Deere, visiting assistant professor of philosophy, received his BA in philosophy and government from Cornell University and his PhD in philosophy with distinction from DePaul University. He previously taught as visiting assistant professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and he also is the recipient of a Mellon Career Enhancement Faculty Fellowship. His work focuses on Latinx and Latin American philosophy, critical philosophy of race, decolonial philosophy, and 20th-century continental philosophy. He has recently completed his manuscript, “The Invention of Order: On the Coloniality of Space,”  where he examines the question of modernity through the ordering, destruction, and racialization of space in the Americas in the wake of colonization. Deere’s work has appeared in The Journal of World Philosophies, Inter-American Journal of Philosophy, Decolonizing Ethics: The Critical Theory of Enrique Dussel and Oxford Bibliographies in Latino Studies. He is also the co-translator of Santiago Castro-Gómez’s Zero-Point Hubris: Science, Race, and Enlightenment in 18th Century Latin America, forthcoming with Rowman & Littlefield International, Fall 2021.

Ilana Harris-Babou, Luther Gregg Sullivan Fellow in art, received her BA in art from Yale University in 2013 and her MFA in new genres from Columbia University in 2016. Harris-Babou’s practice is interdisciplinary—spanning sculpture and installation, and grounded in video. Her work wrestles with and articulates ways Black female labor in particular has been romanticized, reviled and ignored within American society. She employs humor to present alternate possibilities. Her positions her work in non-traditional making spaces to disrupt the notion of the solitary genius in the studio making masterpieces. She asks her audiences to consider how the artist’s studio might be analogous to other spaces of creation and invites them to consider why some creative labor is revered and some overlooked. Harris-Babou’s work has been featured in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, the National Academy, the de Young Museum, the Studio Museum, the Istanbul Design Biennial, the Queens Museum, and numerous other galleries and museums throughout the world. Her work is included in many prestigious public collections and has been written about in Art in America, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Sculpture Magazine, and Artforum. Harris-Babou is represented by Hesse Flatow Gallery in New York and has taught at Williams College, Bennington College, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the School of Visual Arts.

Boram Lee, visiting assistant professor of government, earned her PhD in government from Harvard University, and her MA in political science and BA in French literature from Korea University in South Korea. Before joining Wesleyan, she spent a year at the University of Pennsylvania’s Browne Center for International Politics as a postdoctoral fellow. Lee’s research explores how international institutions shape unlikely coalitions between businesses and activists in industrialized democracies, especially the U.S. and Europe. Her paper on how an environmental side deal changes U.S. legislators’ attitudes on trade has been published in Review of International Political Economy. Recently, she has been working on projects on the following topics: how the U.S. and the EU recognize certain environmental treaties to gain pro-trade support from activists during trade negotiations; how OECD governments strategically shame some multinational companies for violations of global norms during election times; how climate change transforms inter-government interactions within international organizations in trade and finance. This semester, Lee is teaching Global Environmental Politics and Topics in International Law.

Rachel Besharat Mann, visiting assistant professor of education studies, has a background in the New York City public education system and an academic focus in educational and developmental psychology, bringing an interdisciplinary background to the College of Education Studies. Mann previously served as a professor of educational psychology and curriculum and teaching at Fordham University in New York. She currently serves as a research consultant for Digital Promise, a non-profit educational company seeking to improve education access and opportunity through research. Her focus at Digital Promise is on lifelong literacy development and what the learning sciences show about the impacts of various academic, cognitive, demographic, and social/emotional factors on outcomes. Mann’s research interests lie in media, literacy, and adolescent development. Her research seeks to understand how adolescents consume media, specifically social media, and how this may impact their development of self-concept, both in and out of the classroom. Within her focus on media, she also explores the need for media literacy and the skills adolescents need to navigate online spaces efficiently and safely. This research helps to define the role of educators and other adult mentors more clearly in helping to develop these wide-ranging skills. Mann also holds expertise in traditional literacy development, which she has comparatively studied alongside media and new literacies.

Henry Meriki, visiting assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, obtained his PhD in microbiology and MA in public health from the University of Buea Medical School in Cameroon where he is currently an assistant professor of microbiology and head of their Infectious Disease Laboratory. He holds a full-time teaching and research position in the Department of Microbiology and Parasitology at the University of Buea Medical School where he teaches undergraduate and graduate-level courses in microbiology, epidemiology, and public health, and also supervises master degree theses. Meriki has published more than two dozen articles in international, peer-reviewed journals and presented his work in both international and Cameroonian scientific conferences. His research specialty includes the study of HIV coinfections with tuberculosis and viral hepatitis, drug-resistant HIV and tuberculosis strains, microbiome detection of various cancers, and the socio-economic factors that impact the spread of disease. His work is aided by also being the county health manager and site principal investigator for BioCollections Worldwide, Inc. Meriki will be teaching courses on infectious disease microbiology, epidemiology, and public health. He is a recipient of a fellowship from the Institute of International Educator’s Scholar Rescue Fund, co-sponsored by Wesleyan, given the political unrest and violence in his home region of Cameroon.

Andrea Pauw, visiting assistant professor of Spanish, holds a BA in Hispanic studies with a minor in music from Davidson College and a PhD in Spanish from the University of Virginia, completed in 2020 with the support of a Mellon/ACLS Fellowship. Pauw is a scholar of 15th-, 16th-, and 17th-century Mudéjar and Morisco communities in Spain, the latter who were Muslims forced to convert to Christianity. She focuses on the poetry produced by these communities in Aljamiado, Romance transliterated with the Arabic script, finding in that poetry cultural resistance and thus challenging scholars who see only loss. Her published work includes a 2019 article in the Hispanic Review on a 1635 text about the expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain and a book chapter in Companion to Medieval Iberia: Unity in Diversity, brought out at Routledge in 2021. At Wesleyan, Pauw will teach “Introduction to Hispanic Literatures,” “Classic Spanish Plays: Love, Violence, and (Poetic) Justice on the Early Modern Stage,” and “Rebels and Rebellions in Early Modern Spain.”

Krista Perks ’06, MA ’07, visiting assistant professor of biology, received her BA and MA in neuroscience and behavior from Wesleyan, and her PhD in neurosciences from the University of California, San Diego. For her PhD, she examined population dynamics of membrane potentials in the auditory cortex of songbirds. She went on to do post-doctoral research with Nathaniel Sawtell at Columbia University where she continued her studies of electrosensory perception. At Wesleyan, she is teaching courses in animal behavior and neurophysiology.

Avner Shavit, Silverberg Scholar in Residence, holds a PhD in arts and media from the New Sorbonne University in France and an MA in film and television from Tel Aviv University in Israel. Shavit lectured for four years at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Film Studies. He taught at the University of Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis for a semester before returning to Tel Aviv to teach at the Minshar School of Art. From 2017 to 2019, he lectured in the Department of French Studies at Tel Aviv University and later joined the University of Haifa’s Department of Film Studies for three years. Last semester he taught two courses for the Center for Jewish Studies at Wesleyan and this year he is returning as a full-time visitor. Shavit is a member of the research team with IRCAV, the Cinema and Audiovisual Studies Research Institute in Paris. He has given several invited talks around Israel, the United States, and Europe.

Zaira Simone, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in African American studies, defended her dissertation, “Discursive Spatialities of Repair: Examining Reparatory Claims in the Caribbean,” this past Spring at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she also was awarded several prestigious doctoral fellowships. Her research focuses on reparations claims and discourses in the Caribbean and has manifold and deep implications for how we understand what particular pasts can mean when they are understood in light of performed harm and potential repair. Her dissertation shows the geographical imagination in which what are physically small nations make claims against large spatial categories, like England or Europe.

Grace Sullivan, visiting assistant professor of psychology, received a BS in psychology from Bueno Vista University, and an MA and PhD in psychology from the University of Lincoln-Nebraska where she studied in the neuroscience and behavior program. Her research program explores the influence of genetics, environmental conditions, and experiences on well-being. Sullivan brings her considerable teaching experiences to Wesleyan to teach a survey on learning and motivation theories, psychological statistics, and a seminar on behavior genetics.

Damon Tomlin, visiting assistant professor of psychology, received his BE in biomedical engineering from Vanderbilt University and his PhD in neuroscience from the Baylor College of Medicine, following which he was a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University. His research program examines neuro, cognitive and social dimensions of decision-making. He has taught at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, and Sacred Heart University, and this year will be teaching multiple sections of introductory psychology and seminars on decision-making and neuroscience.

Michael Weinstein-Reiman, visiting assistant professor of music, received a PhD in music theory from Columbia University in June 2021. He holds a MA in music theory from the University of Oregon, a M.Mus. in composition from Mannes College, and a BA in music from Brandeis University. He is currently working on two book projects. The first, “Touch and Modernity in French Keyboard Pedagogy,” examines how 18th- and 19th-century music educators utilized the idea of musical “touch” to delineate a modern understanding of being in the world. The second, “Encounters with the Piano: Instrumental Music and Empire-Building in French Indochina,” focuses on music education as a tool for French cultural indoctrination and control in overseas territories between 1887 and World War II. Other scholarly interests include music pedagogy, the history of science and technology, queer theory, and posthuman studies. He has written and presented on a variety of topics, including 18-century musical automata, improvisation and blindness in the late Middle Ages, piano pedagogy of the French Revolution, Clara Wieck-Schumann, and the hip hop artist Nicki Minaj. His writing has been published in American Music Review, Theory and Practice, and Nineteenth-Century Music Review. He has taught literature, music history, and theory at Columbia University, theory and musicianship at Mannes College, and an undergraduate seminar in American musical theatre at the University of Oregon.

Susan Youssef, visiting assistant professor of film studies, is the writer/director of two dramatic features, a documentary, and seven shorts that have been official selections of film festivals such as Venice, Toronto International, and Sundance, as well as have been programmed in museums including Tate Modern, New Museum, and Museum of Modern Art in New York. VARIETY observed that her latest feature, “Marjoun and the Flying Headscarf” has “enough dramatic energy to power a small village.” She has been a Fulbright Fellow, Princess Grace Award Winner, Poynter Fellow, and 21st Century Fox Director Fellow. She earned her MFA from University of Texas at Austin. Prior to filmmaking, she was a schoolteacher and journalist in Beirut. She will teach advanced filmmaking and screenwriting courses.

Afiya Zia, Frank B. Weeks Visiting Assistant Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, holds a PhD in women and gender studies from the University of Toronto and a MA in women studies from the University of York in the U.K.  She carries  20 years of experience in research, teaching and activism. She has taught at the University of Toronto, Canada, and Habib University in Pakistan. She is the author of three books—Faith and Feminism in Pakistan: Religious Agency or Secular Autonomy? (2018, Brighton; Sussex Academic Press). Zia has edited a series of books and authored over a dozen peer-reviewed essays in scholarly publications, such as, Signs (2018), International Feminist Journal of Politics (August 2016) and in Feminist Review (2009). She has authored chapters for over 10 edited volumes, including an award winning Routledge publication on Human Rights. Zia is regularly invited as a guest lecturer at universities in the United States and U.K. She has conducted over two dozen research studies for development agencies and drafted policies and prepared gender analysis for the Government of Pakistan toward improving women’s shelters, post-conflict services, electoral participation of women, special education, and the merger of former tribal areas of Pakistan. Zia is an active member of the Women’s Action Forum, serves as a board member of the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability, South Asian Feminist collective in Canada and, is an advisory member of the Centre for Secular Space, U.K. Her current research is on Muslim political masculinities and the #MeToo movements in South Asia.