New, Ongoing Faculty are Experts on Japanese Pedagogy, Costume Design, Immersive Media

2021 faculty This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 43 new faculty to campus of which 24 are ongoing members of the campus community. Fourteen are tenure-track, eight are professors of the practice, two are adjunct, and 19 are visiting (read about the new visiting faculty in this story). In addition, two new members of the Wesleyan faculty are graduates of Wesleyan.

Wesleyan’s new teacher-scholars bring diverse skills, passions, and research interests to the university including Indian sectarian violence, costume design, animal behavior and neurophysiology, Japanese pedagogy, post-structural semiotics, structural inequalities in education, digital media analysis, and more.

Bios of the new, ongoing faculty are below: Bios of the new visiting faculty appear here.

George Bajalia, assistant professor of anthropology, holds a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His research is concerned with borderlands, primarily in the Western Mediterranean region. His dissertation, “Waiting at the Border: Language, Labor, and Infrastructure in the Strait of Gibraltar,” dwells on the political, social, and cultural forms that emerge during time spent waiting among cross-border workers and West and Central African immigrants living and working around the Moroccan-Spanish borderlands surrounding Tangier and Ceuta. Bajalia has held research and dissertation fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, Fulbright-IIE, and the American Institute for Maghrib Studies. He is the co-founder and co-director of the Youmein Festival, a 48-hour contemporary art and performance festival and residency in Tangier, Morocco, and has published in The Review of Middle East Studies, The Journal of North African Studies, MIGRANT Journal, as well as numerous southern Mediterranean arts publications. Throughout his work, he is interested in questions of temporality, circulation, and exchange, post-structural semiotics, regional formations, and the practices and politics of boundary-marking, belonging, and difference. His courses at Wesleyan will explore the relationships between anthropology, performance, and curation; migration and borderlands; endurance and the otherwise; and theories of cultural and social change.

Pedro Bermudez, assistant professor of the practice in video and audio production, is a filmmaker working at the intersection of cinema, theater, and immersive media. Bermudez will be teaching courses in video and audio production, designed for students with an interest in capturing live performances. His documentary and narrative work has explored the relational dynamics of colonization and its cultural effects. Bermudez has produced documentary work for Connecticut Public Television and has collaborated closely with arts and cultural institutions in the Hartford region; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and The Center for Leadership and Justice among them. His most recent work, a filmed production of “The Sound Inside,” was featured in The New York Times. He received his MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute, where he was the recipient of the Petrie Award for excellence. Bermudez is the owner of Revisionist, a production company based in Hartford, and has worked with a range of commercial clients including Nike and international non-profit BuildOn.

Carycruz Bueno, assistant professor of economics, is an applied microeconomist who studies the effects of education policy on educational inequality. Her research interests, which stem from her experience as a special education teacher, encompass topics such as virtual schools, school choice, teacher labor markets, and student non-cognitive skills. She has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the American Society of Hispanic Economists, and the National Economics Association. In 2021, Bueno was named an Emerging Education Policy Scholar by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Prior to joining Wesleyan University, she was a Postdoctoral Researcher at Brown University. Bueno has been featured in The Atlantic, NPR’s Planet Money, Bloomberg, and Politico Nightly.

Christopher Chenier, assistant professor of the practice in integrative sciences and IDEAS, joins the Wesleyan faculty as a PoP after six years on staff managing the Digital Design Studio and teaching courses in the art and IDEAS programs here at Wesleyan. Prior to this, Chenier completed graduate work at the Hagley Library in Wilmington Delaware, taught digital art and design courses at Bennington College, and worked in art and advertising production in New York. Chenier’s research is focused on the ways people make and think about images and objects. His recent projects have employed custom software to process and remix images and generate sculptural forms. These were then carved in stone with the help of industrial robots and traditional stone carving techniques.  Alongside his work in the studio, Chenier’s ongoing historical research is focused on material culture and the history of design, technology, and American enterprise.

Benjamin Elling, assistant professor of chemistry, specializes in synthesizing and characterizing new environmentally sustainable polymers. He completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University, received his PhD from Stanford University, and has most recently been a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University. He has made fundamental contributions to understanding and utilizing Ring Opening Metathesis Polymerizations (ROMP) for sequence-specific polymers. His research program at Wesleyan is multifaceted and is focused on the design and synthesis of new polymers that are both soluble in water and can be broken down under controlled conditions. He will also be developing new cross-links that can reformed to provide new classes of fully recyclable materials, and his group will be exploring novel approaches to using carbon dioxide as a source of carbon for polymer syntheses. Elling has previously received a variety of teaching awards and will be offering new interdisciplinary courses in polymer chemistry.

Maryam Gooyabadi, assistant professor of the practice in quantitative analysis, customizes, develops, and utilizes appropriate computational and mathematical methodologies to study social conventions (e.g., shared linguistic meaning, belief systems, norms, culture, or ideologies). Examples include agent-based dynamic and evolutionary models, Bayesian non-parametric clustering, along with other machine learning techniques (e.g., reinforcement learning). Social conventions such as shared beliefs or ideologies influence group attitudes and behavior. Understanding how ideologies form, evolve, and influence groups can provide powerful insights into how such beliefs could be shaped through targeted social interventions. This can be particularly useful in identifying how extremist beliefs form and spread, changing attitudes towards marginalized groups, and increasing between-group cooperation, to name a few. Whereas the study of ideology and beliefs gets artificially divided into topics and studied by various departments separately, each with different departmental aims (e.g., political science, religious studies, sociology), her research studies them holistically. Her research has employed methodologies and collaborated with researchers from computer science, philosophy of science, social sciences (e.g., anthropology, economics), and mathematics.

Miyuki Hatano-Cohen, assistant professor of the practice in East Asian studies, was born and raised in Fukushima, Japan. She has been teaching Japanese at Wesleyan for seven years and was promoted to an assistant professor of the practice this year.  Before coming to Wesleyan, she taught Japanese in the Boston, Mass. area for several years. She is particularly interested in Japanese pedagogy. She enjoys working with students and seeing them gradually being able to express their interests. In her spare time, she loves music and taking care of feral cats.

Rachel Heng, assistant professor of English, was born and raised in Singapore.  She  received her MFA in Fiction and Playwriting from the Michener Center for Writers, University of Texas, Austin, and her B.A. in Comparative Literature & Society from Columbia University. Heng is the author of the novels The Great Reclamation (forthcoming from Riverhead in 2022) and Suicide Club (Henry Holt, 2018), which has been translated into ten languages worldwide and won the Gladstone Library Writer-In-Residence Award. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review, and has been recognized by anthologies including Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions and Best New Singaporean Short Stories.  Rachel was recently longlisted for the 2021 Sunday Times Short Story Award, “the world’s richest and most prestigious prize for a single short story.” Her non-fiction has been listed among Best American Essays’ Notable Essays and published in Al Jazeera, Guernica, BOMB Magazine, The Rumpus and elsewhere. She has received grants and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Fine Arts Work Center and the National Arts Council of Singapore.

April Hickman, assistant professor of the practice in theater, is a costume designer, stylist, and costume illustrator originally from Denver. She received a MA in costume design at Yale School of Drama in May 2020. Hickman previously lived in Chicago and Washington D.C., where she worked as the resident costume design assistant at the Goodman Theatre and was a costume fellow turned costume design assistant at Arena Stage. She has assisted several prominent costume designers, including Emily Rebholz, Jess Goldstein, Ilona Somogyi, Paul Tazewell, and Catherine Zuber.  Her most recent design credit was at Williamstown Theatre Festival; she has several design projects in the work.  She was awarded the William R. Kenan Jr. Costume Design Fellowship at the Kennedy Center in 2014 and the Leo Lerman Fellowship in 2020. April received her BFA in costume design from The University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Anuja Jain, assistant professor of film studies, was previously an assistant professor of film and media studies at University of St. Andrews. She earned her BA, MA, and M.Phil from University of Delhi and her PhD in cinema studies from New York University. Her dissertation, “Suffering and Spectatorship: Sectarian Violence in Indian Documentary Film and Media,” explores the development and redefinition of documentary that took place around coverage of Indian sectarian violence of the last 30 years. She has also studied Indian popular cinema more broadly, editing and contributing to the dossier on “Poetics of Indian Cinema” which appeared in Screen. Jain specializes in the aesthetics and spectatorship in Indian film. She teaches courses on South Asian cinema, global cinema, and film history.

Roseann Liu, assistant professor of education studies, draws from critical race and abolitionist frameworks in her teaching and research on structural inequalities in education, including their effects on communities of color and the organizing strategies used to enact change. She writes about the pitfalls and possibilities of progressive pedagogy, multiracial coalitions, and liberal teleologies. These interests are informed by her experiences as a student and teacher in New York City public schools. Her research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the American Educational Research Association. Her scholarship has appeared in Radical History Review,  Anthropology & Education Quarterly, and Ethnography, among other journals. She engages broad audiences through producing short films and writing op-eds that have been featured in  Colorlines,  The Philadelphia Inquirer, and  Hechinger Report. Liu received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, earning a joint degree in education and anthropology.

Antonio Machado-Allison, University Professor of COE, holds a Licentiate degree in biology from the Central University of Venezuela and a PhD from George Washington University-Smithsonian Institution. He is professor emeritus at the Central University of Venezuela and is linked to the Institute of Zoology and Tropical Ecology and the Museum of Biology of the UCV. For his extensive and far-reaching scholarship and his service to scientific and humanitarian programs, Machado-Allison was elected to the Venezuelan Academy of Physics, Mathematics and Natural Sciences and the Latin American Academy of Sciences. He served as the president of the Foundation for the Development of Physics, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences (FUDECI), and was the director of the Research Institutes of the Central University Academic Vice-rectorate, Venezuela. Professor Machado-Allison studies the systematics, evolution, and ecology of fish. He is dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity in neotropical aquatic environments. He has published several books on the diversity of South American fishes, including Venomous and Poisonous Animals of Venezuela, Caribe Fishes of Venezuela, The Cichlids of Venezuela, Fishes of the Plains of Venezuela, Biodiversity of the Orinoco, and Bases for Conservation and Sustainable Development Vols. I and II, Principles of Evolution, and he is now editing a book on the fishes of the Caura River co-authored with Professor Barry Chernoff. Machado-Allison has published more than 40 book chapters and over 100 scientific papers in national and international journals. He has served on the editorial management boards of several national and international scientific journals. He has participated in numerous national commissions on wildlife, oceanology, fisheries, and aquaculture. He was a member of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONICIT) of Venezuela and is the coordinator of the Council of Scientific and Humanistic Development of the UCV. Internationally, he has been a Research Associate at the Field Museum of Chicago, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Institution. Professor Machado-Allison was a founding member of the AquaRAP Program.

Leo Mayo, adjunct associate professor of physical education, is Wesleyan’s new head cross country coach. Mayo was hired as the first-ever head coach of the American International College (AIC) men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams in August 2006 and has served in that role for 14 seasons. During his time at AIC, Mayo led the cross-country programs to four Northeast-10 (NE-10) Conference titles, two NE-10 indoor track and field championships, and two NE-10 outdoor track and field crowns. He also coached four national champions; one Division II Cross Country National Athlete of the Year; 10 NE-10 Cross Country Male Athletes of the Year; four NE-10 Cross Country Female Athletes of the Year; and a total of 120 Division II All-Americans. Additionally, Mayo has been named the NE-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year four times; the USTFCCCA East Region Cross Country Coach of the Year twice; the NE-10 Indoor Track Coach of the Year three times; the USTFCCCA East Region Indoor Coach of the Year three times; the NE-10 Outdoor Track Coach of the Year once; and the USTFCCCA East Region Outdoor Track Coach of the Year twice. Mayo was an excellent athlete as well and competed on the cross country and track and field teams at Central Connecticut State University from 1997 to 2002. He was a two-time Northeast Conference All-Conference Team selection and was named All-IC4A Country in 2001. Mayo received his BS in education at Central Connecticut State University in 2002 and a MA in education at AIC in 2011.

Chelsie McPhilimy, assistant professor of the practice in dance, is a lighting and media designer, crafting imaginative environments with vivid color and texture for the stage. She received her BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and MFA from the Ohio State University. McPhilimy’s work has been seen from Toronto to Abu Dhabi as she has been privileged to work with esteemed establishments such as NYUAD, New Victory Theater (NYC), Bates Dance Festival, Adirondack Theatre Festival, Flint Repertory Theatre, and the Santa Fe Opera. Her work on Rush (Paradise Factory, NYC) earned her a New York Innovative Theater Award nomination and her lighting design for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Flint Repertory earned a regional Wilde Award. Her primary research focus centers around collaboration with other artists to create important, relevant, and thought-provoking work that inspires and challenges today’s audiences. This year, she will be teaching a course in dance production as well as a lighting-based production laboratory for the department of theater.

Jennifer Mitchel, assistant professor of biology, obtained her PhD in biomedical engineering from Brown University after receiving her SB degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in mechanical engineering. In her graduate research, she used lithography techniques to examine nerve tissue growth. She went on to do post-doctoral research at Harvard University studying mechanisms of collective cell migration, with a focus on a process called the “unjamming transition” in which cells transition from a solid-like behavior to a fluid-like migratory regime. Mitchel has co-authored more than 20 research articles and reviews, and is a co-organizer of an online seminar series on cell migration that attracts 100-300 attendees each week. She will contribute to Wesleyan’s interdisciplinary teaching in biology including new courses with an emphasis on quantitative biology.

Jesse Nasta ’07, assistant professor of the practice in African American studies, recently completed a four-year term as a visiting assistant professor of African American studies. Nasta specializes in the African American community in 19th-century Middletown, and his book project is on the Beman family. Nasta not only studies local history but is in fact one of our preeminent connections to it. He is concurrently the excutive director of the Middlesex County Historical Society, while also serving as a committee member of the Connecticut Freedom Trail, the Middletown Middle Passage Port Marker Project, and the Connecticut River Museum’s Committee on Connecticut Slavery and Public Education. He has made several presentations on Middletown’s Black past, and has taught highly-praised courses on local history for the past four years.

Andrea Negrete, assistant professor of psychology, received a MA and PhD in community psychology from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. She received a BA in psychology and M.Ed in educational leadership from the University of Washington, Seattle. Negrete’s research examines the consequences of structural inequality and other contextual factors (e.g., immigration policy) on racial/ethnic identity and development among understudied populations, specifically Latinx and Black youth. She employs multiple methods, including longitudinal and interview studies. Negrete’s courses this year include a survey course on cultural psychology, qualitative research methods, and an advanced research seminar.

Kristin Oberiano, assistant professor of history, is a historian of United States empire in the Pacific. Oberiano’s research project, tentatively titled “Territorial Discontent: Chamorros, Filipinos, and the Making of the United States Empire on Guam,” examines the evolution of the political, social, and cultural relations between the Indigenous Chamorro people and Filipino migrants/immigrants under the United States military empire on Guam over the 20th century. The project engages in frameworks of race, settler colonialism, militarism, and migration within empire. Oberiano earned a PhD in history from Harvard University, and a BA in history and American studies from Occidental College. Her work has been supported by the Fulbright Program in the Philippines, the Harvard Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Harvard Center for American Political Studies, among others. At Wesleyan, she will teach courses in 20th century U.S. history, the history of U.S. in the World, U.S. imperialism, and Asian American and Pacific Islander history. In addition to her academic roles, Oberiano is the secretary of Guåhan Sustainable Culture 501(c)(3), a non-profit organization dedicated to food sovereignty in Guam. An islander living on the East Coast, she was born to and raised by Filipino immigrant families in Guam.

Pavel Oleinikov, assistant professor of the practice in quantitative analysis, holds a MA and a PhD in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He also holds a BS and MS in computer systems and networks from the Moscow Physical Engineering Institute. Prior to this appointment, he has been working as an associate director of the Quantitative Analysis Center since 2014. His work at Wesleyan focuses on quantification and analysis of digital media, texts, and imagery. His past employment at a Russian nuclear city serves as a motivation for his interests in remote sensing and history of the Cold War. His publications include co-authored papers on analysis of online political ads, use of remote sensing data to measure impact of natural disasters, and a paper documenting the history of German scientists in the Soviet atomic program after World War II.

Michael Perez, assistant professor of psychology, received an MA in psychology from the University of Texas, Arlington, and a PhD in social-personality psychology from Texas A&M University where he also received Graduate Certificates in Africana studies and applied statistics. His research program brings together critical race theory and cultural-psychological approaches to racism. It entails analysis of intergroup conflict related to racism, accounting for structural racial inequalities. Recent projects include multi-methodical studies of racial apologies and studies of protests and peace, specifically how racism influences perceptions of protest and peace. This year, Perez is teaching a survey course on cultural psychology, qualitative research methods, and a seminar on conflict resolution.

Hari Ramesh, assistant professor of government, earned his BA in political science and English at Williams College and his PhD in political science at Yale University. He is a political theorist with research interests in democratic theory, histories and theories of social oppression, the intersections of South Asian, Afro-modern, and American political thought, and the relationship between empirical social science and political theory. His book project, based on his dissertation research, draws insights from John Dewey, B.R. Ambedkar, and Brown v. Board of Education in order to offer an original account of the compatibility of coercive state action with a radical vision of democracy. Ramesh has published peer-reviewed articles in Modern Intellectual History and History of the Present as well as review essays in Boston Review and Dissent. Prior to arriving at Wesleyan, Ramesh was a College Fellow in Social Studies at Harvard University. In the 2021-22 academic year, he will be teaching introductory courses in political theory, a seminar on contemporary political theory, and a seminar exploring the conceptual and practical entanglements of caste in India and race in the United States.

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, assistant professor in the College of Social Studies, is a historian of modern political and intellectual thought with a specific focus on Europe and the world from the Cold War to the present. He primarily concentrates on such topics as liberalism, conservatism, populism, secularism, religion, and the Global Cold War. He runs a regular interview series at The Nation. He is the former managing editor of Modern Intellectual History and The Immanent Framer Steinmetz-Jenkins has been a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of History at Dartmouth College since January 2020. Prior to that, he was a lecturer at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University and a visiting assistant professor in the Religion Department at Yale. Steinmetz-Jenkins earned his PhD in history at Columbia University. He has an MA in history from Columbia University, an MA in liberal studies from Reed College, and a BA in history from Concordia University. Steinmetz-Jenkins is writing a book titled “Impossible Peace, Improbable War: Raymond Aron and World Order” to be published by Columbia University Press. His second book is under advanced contract with Yale University Press and is tentatively titled “Populism and the Rise and Fall of Global Secularism.” His public commentary has appeared in The Nation, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Times Literary Supplement, Dissent Magazine, Foreign Affairs and elsewhere. He has published articles in Modern Intellectual History, Journal of the History of Ideas, Global Intellectual History and elsewhere.

Tracy Heather Strain, associate professor of film studies, has been with Wesleyan since 2019 as professor of practice of film studies. Previously, she was professor of the practice in the College of the Arts, Media, and Design at Northeastern University. She is an award-winning director, producer, and writer committed to using film, video, and interactive technology to reveal the ways that race, ethnicity, gender, and classwork to shape lives. Her film about Lorraine Hansberry—Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart—earned the American Historical Association Film Award, the Peabody Award, and the NAACP Image Award. Strain co-founded with Wesleyan’s Randall MacLowry THE FILM POSSE, a production company that they relocated from Boston to Middletown. Strain earned her AB from Wellesley College and her Ed.M. from Harvard. She teaches courses in documentary studies and production, co-directs the Wesleyan Documentary Project, and is associate director of the College of Film and the Moving Image.

Jorge Vásquez, assistant professor of economics, holds a professional degree in industrial engineering and a MA in economics from the University of Chile and received a PhD in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before joining Wesleyan, Vásquez worked at the Bank of Canada as a senior economist, and later at Smith College as a visiting assistant professor. Vásquez is a microeconomist with research interests in behavioral economics and law and economics. His research has focused on the role of empathy and beliefs in understanding market phenomena, the effects of vigilance on crime rates, and the design of regulatory mechanisms to control market power. During this academic year, Vásquez will be teaching courses in microeconomics and behavioral economics.