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CLASS’ national reputation grows with 2015 new faculty appointments

New faculty include nine tenured professors, including three endowed chair professors, two center directors and one department chair, and 16 tenure-track professors

The new tenured and tenure-track faculty members joining the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences this academic year bring with them cutting-edge research, broad teaching experience and impeccable professional credentials.

Among them are Dr. R. Alexander Bentley, Professor and Chair of the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies; Dr. Elena L. Grigorenko, a Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Psychology; Marc Thomas Hamilton, Professor and Director of the Texas Obesity Research Center; Pamela Quiroz, Professor and Center Director of the Center for Mexican American Studies; Dr. Abdel Razzaq Takriti, Arab-American Educational Foundation Associate Professor of History; and Dr. Kei-Mu Yi, M.D. Anderson Professor of Economics.

These scholars’ expertise expands the College's research capabilities throughout the humanities, social and health sciences and arts. These new faculty members are integral to the College's efforts to expand its Tier One academic offerings and scholarship and shine a national spotlight on its faculty’s research and expertise.

School of Art

Natilee Harren

Natilee Harren, Assistant Professor

After completing her undergraduate degree in in Art History at Rice University, Dr. Natilee Harren went to University of California, Los Angeles for graduate school. She completed her doctorate in Art History in 2013, and after spending two years working as a lecturer at UCLA, Dr. Harren is returning to Houston to join the faculty at CLASS’s School of Art. Her book manuscript, Objects Without Object: Fluxus and the Notational Neo-Avant-Garde, is currently under advance review with the University of Chicago Press.

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Anny Castilla-Earls

Anny Castilla-Earls, Associate Professor

Dr. Anny Castilla-Earls has been an assistant professor at SUNY Fredonia since August 2009 where she directed the Child Language Laboratory, a facility that studied the assessment of language skills in monolingual and bilingual children. She earned her PhD in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Toronto in Canada in 2008. Her Masters in Bilingual Education was earned at Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia. Last year, she was awarded an NIH grant from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Department of Comparative Cultural Studies

R. Alexander Bentley

R. Alexander Bentley, Professor and Department Chair

As professor and chair of the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol University, UK, Dr. R. Alexander Bentley brings experience as a department chair, and a record of interdisciplinary cross-cultural research that includes anthropology, liberal arts and religious studies to his new position. Dr. Bentley earned both an MS in Geology and an MA in Archaeology from Cornell University. He earned his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin. His research focuses on modelling and understanding collective behavior in society, and testing these models against real-world phenomena. He is the author of the book, I’ll Have What She’s Having: Mapping Social Behavior, in addition to numerous other articles.

Elizabeth Farfán-Santos

Elizabeth Farfán-Santos, Assistant Professor

Dr. Elizabeth Farfán-Santos, a medical anthropologist, has served as a visiting scholar with the Center for Mexican American Studies for the past year. In that time, she conducted ethnographic fieldwork on the sociocultural and individual impact of the exclusion of undocumented Mexican immigrants in recent U.S. healthcare reforms. She earned her PhD in 2011 at the University of California, Berkeley and served as a visiting professor at Trinity University in San Antonia in 2011. She was a post-doctoral fellow at Rice University from 2012 to 2014. Her book, Black Bodies, Black Rights: Quilombola Identity and Blackness in Brazil, is forthcoming in 2016.

Rachel Afi Quinn

Rachel Afi Quinn, Assistant Professor

Dr. Rachel Afi Quinn earned her PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 2012. Since then, she has served as postdoctoral fellow and visiting faculty fellow in CLASS’s Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies program. Her scholarship focuses on race, mixed race identities, gender, and sexuality in the African diaspora and employs tools of transnational feminist theory, including ethnography and visual culture. Before graduate study, Dr. Quinn worked with California Newsreel in distributing documentary films on African American life and history and African feature films. She has also led service learning trips abroad to Ghana, Ukraine, and El Salvador.

Department of Economics

Fan Wang, Assistant Professor

Dr. Fan Wang completed his PhD in Economics in May 2015 at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned his undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Chicago in 2008. His teaching and research areas of expertise are development economics and applied microeconomics. His current research includes a paper that estimates the importance of access to credit in the accumulation of human capital of children in the context of small village economies.

Kei-Mu Yi

Kei-Mu Yi, M.D. Anderson Professor of Economics

Since 2010, Dr. Kei-Mu Yi worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, first as Senior Vice President and Director of Research and later as Special Policy Advisor to the President. Before joining the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Dr. Yi was Vice President and Head of Monetary and Macroeconomic Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Dr. Yi joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in 2004, following seven years of service at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he was a research officer in the Bank’s International Research unit. Prior to joining the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, he was an assistant professor of economics at Rice University. Over the years, Dr. Yi has also taught at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as at Columbia University, New York University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Iowa. Yi’s research currently focuses on issues relating to international trade and long-run growth; structural change in an open economy; the gains from international trade, and vertical specialization/fragmentation of production. He received an M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago.

Department of English

Lauren Brozovich

Lauren Brozovich, Assistant Professor

All of Dr. Lauren Brozovich’s higher education was completed at Harvard University – she earned an AB in 2001, and AM in 2004, and a PhD in English Literature and Language in 2013. Her book manuscript, Environmental Spiral: Scientific Mediation in Twentieth-Century American Poetry, is currently in progress and traces the literary, artistic, and scientific developments that took place from 1912 until 2012, as they provided possibilities for the reimagination of environmental representation. Her areas of interest include American literature after 1900, literature and environment, and modern and contemporary American poetry.

Audrey Colombe

Audrey Colombe, Associate Professor

For the past year, Dr. Audrey A. Colombe has been a visiting associate professor with the UH department of English. As part of her role, she served as faculty advisor to Glass Mountain, CLASS’s undergraduate literary magazine, as well as Teaching Assistant Supervisor for the Creative Writing Program. In addition to being a CLASS faculty member, Dr. Colombe is also an alumus, earning her PhD in literature and writing from CLASS in 1999. Previously, Dr. Colombe had been an associate professor with the University of Tampa’s department of English and Writing. Her current projects include the novel, Visitors, and Straighter, Darker Trees, a short story collection. In addition, she recently had the chance to work on a documentary, Veins in the Gulf. Her research interests include narrative (form, structure, and theory) as well as pedagogy.

Department of Health and Human Performance

Marc Thomas Hamilton

Marc Thomas Hamilton, Professor and Director of the Texas Obesity Research Center

Since 2009, Dr. Marc Thomas Hamilton has served as Director of the Inactivity Laboratory at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, part of the Louisiana State University system. His most recently awarded grant was funded by the American Diabetes Association to examine adaptive effects of reducing daily sedentary time in adults. He currently is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Lipid Association and is a member of the editorial board for two industry journals. He earned his PhD in Exercise Science from the University of South Carolina, Columbia and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas School of Medicine in Houston.

Craig Johnston

Craig Johnston, Assistant Professor

Dr. Craig Johnston joins CLASS from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston where for the past five years he has served as assistant professor in the department of pediatrics-nutrition. Prior to that post, he was completing his internship in pediatric psychology at Baylor College of Medicine. He earned his doctorate from the University of Kansas in 2004 where his area of emphasis was clinical child psychology. His current research projects include a grant from the US Department of Agriculture to study the minimum dose of prevention required to significantly slow the rate of weight gain in Mexican-American middle school students aged 11-14 years and examine the impact of dosage level on changes in health behaviors.

Emily Lavoy

Emily Lavoy, Assistant Professor

After completing her PhD in Kinesiology here at CLASS in May 2014, Dr. Emily Lavoy served as a post-doctoral research fellow with CLASS’s Laboratory of Integrated Physiology. In that position she focused on the role of acute exercise in ameliorating the effects of age and latent viral infection on the immune system, and in enhancing the expansion of antigen-specific cells. Her most recent funded research examines the effects of exercise on the generation of multi-virus specific T-cells for adoptive transfer immunotherapy.

Pranav Parikh

Pranav Parikh, Assistant Professor

Dr. Pranav Parikh obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery (M.B.B.S.) from the M.S. University of Baroda, India in 2006.  He went on to earn his M.S. in Biomedical Engineering/Biomechanics from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, MA in 2008.  In 2012, he graduated with his doctoral degree in Human Motor Control/Neuroscience from the University of Iowa, Iowa City. Most recently, Dr. Parikh has worked as a research trainee at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ and as a postdoctoral fellow in Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience at Arizona State University. His research interests include studying the neural mechanisms underlying motor behaviors in healthy and patient populations that mimic activities of daily living using complementary and multidisciplinary research approaches such as biomechanics, neurophysiology, and psychophysics.

Department of History

Cihan Yuksel Muslu

Cihan Yüksel Muslu, Associate Professor

Since 2008, Dr. Cihan Yüksel Muslu has been on the faculty of the University of Texas at Dallas. She served as a senior fellow at the Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations at Koç University, İstanbul, Turkey from 2009-2010 which is the same university where she earned her BA in history in 1999. She came to the U.S. and earned her PhD in History and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University in 2007. Her book, The Ottomans and the Mamluks: Imperial Diplomacy and Warfare in the Islamic World, was published last year.

Kristina Neumann

Kristina Neumann, Assistant Professor

One of Dr. Kristina Neumann’s research interests is with digital humanities – especially mapping. Her dissertation, “Mapping the Transformation of Roman Antioch: The Coin Evidence,” was completed earlier this year at the University of Cincinnati where she earned her doctorate in the Department of Classics. Her other research interests include Greek and Roman history, Roman archeology (especially pottery and coins) and ancient concepts of the past. From 2008 to 2014 she served as an instructor and teaching assistant at the University of Cincinnati Department of Classics.

Abdel Razzaq Takriti

Abdel Razzaq Takriti, Arab-American Educational Foundation Associate Professor of History

Dr. Abdel Razzaq Takriti joins CLASS from the University of Sheffield in the UK where he has worked as a lecturer in International History since September 2012. Prior to that post, he held a Junior Research Fellowship in Political History at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. He received his PhD in Modern History from St Antony’s College, Oxford. His dissertation earned him the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) 2011 Malcolm Kerr Award for Best Dissertation in the Humanities as well as the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) 2011 Leigh Douglas Memorial Prize for Best PhD Dissertation. Dr. Takriti’s book, Monsoon Revolution: Republicans, Sultans, and Empires in Oman, 1965-76, was a finalist for the 2013 Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize and was awarded an Honorable Mention from the University of Cambridge’s 2014 British-Kuwait Friendship Society Book Prize. He is currently co-authoring a book on the Palestinian revolution (1949-1992).

Leandra Zarnow

Leandra Zarnow, Assistant Professor

Before coming to CLASS as a visiting assistant professor in Spring 2015, Dr. Leandra Zarnow held a visiting appointment with the University of Toronto’s Center for Study of the United States. She also served as an American Council of Learned Societies New Faculty Fellow at Stanford University, and held a postdoctoral fellowship with the Center for the United States and the Cold War at New York University. She earned a BA in American Studies and Government from Smith College, and MA and PhD in US History and Doctoral Emphasis Certification in Feminist Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. This summer she was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanitites (NEH) Summer Stipend for 2015 to complete research and writing for her book manuscript, entitled Passionate Politics: Bella Abzug and the Promise and Peril of the American Left.

Center for Mexican American Studies

Pamela Anne Quiroz

Pamela Quiroz, Professor and Center Director

Dr. Pamela Anne Quiroz completed her PhD in Sociology at the University of Chicago and has been on faculty at the University of Illinois-Chicago since 1999, most recently serving as a professor of Sociology & Educational Policy Studies. In 2013, she was a visiting research associate at Autonomous University of Barcelona. Her current book, Marketing Diversity and the ‘New’ Politics of Desegregation: An Urban Education Ethnography, is currently under contract with Cambridge University Press. Dr. Quiroz’s research interests focus on identity development as it occurs in different social contexts: the impact of school organization on the development of student identities; how English speaking Latinos navigate ethnic identity and ethnic authenticity; the intersecting identities of people who engage in personal advertising; and the identity development of transracially adopted children.

Department of Political Science

Naomi Choi

Naomi Choi, Assistant Professor

Since 2010, Dr. Naomi Choi has served as assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama. Prior to that, she served as a postdoctoral fellow at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. She earned her PhD in Political Science in 2010 from University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Choi’s research and teaching interests include history of political theory, contemporary political theory and moral philosophy and ethics.

Department of Psychology

Rodica Damian

Rodica Damian, Assistant Professor

Dr. Rodica Damian’s current research examines the role of diversifying experiences, life events, and personality by social context interactions on personality development, and downstream consequences for creativity, status attainment, and well-being. Prior to joining CLASS, Dr. Damian worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received her PhD in Social-Personality Psychology from the University of California, Davis in 2013. To date, she has published more than 20 scientific papers and chapters, including several research articles in international peer reviewed journals.

Jaye L. Derrick

Jaye Derrick, Assistant Professor

Dr. Jaye Derrick joins CLASS from the University at Buffalo, SUNY where she was a research assistant professor. Her research interests are the influence of close relationships (and faux relationships) on self-regulation, well-being, health, health behaviors, and addictive behaviors; the influence of substance use on close relationship functioning and intimate partner aggression; and daily diary and EMA research methods. She earned her MA in psychology and her PhD in social-personality psychology from University at Buffalo, SUNY.

Matthew W. Gallagher, Ph.D.

Matthew Gallagher, Assistant Professor

Dr. Matthew Gallagher completed his doctorate in Clinical and Quantitative Psychology from the University of Kansas and completed a predoctoral internship at the Behavioral Sciences Division of the National Center for PTSD at the Boston VA. He joins CLASS from the VA Boston Healthcare System where he served as a staff research psychologist as well as an assistant professor of psychology at Boston University School of Medicine. His research focuses on how positive thinking promotes well-being and provides resilience for PTSD and other anxiety disorders.

Elena Grigorenko

Elena L. Grigorenko, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of Psychology

Dr. Elena L. Grigorenko received her PhD in general psychology from Moscow State University, Russia, in 1990, and her PhD in developmental psychology and genetics from Yale University in 1996. She joins CLASS from the Yale School of Medicine where she has served as an Emily Fraser Beede Professor in the Child Study Center and Professor of Epidemiology (Chronic Diseases) and of Psychology since 2012. Throughout her career, Dr. Grigorenko has published more than 350 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and books. She has received awards for her work from five different divisions of the American Psychological Association and she also won the APA Distinguished Award for Early Career Contribution to Developmental Psychology and the AERA Sylvia Scribner Award for research representing significant advancement in the understanding of learning and instruction. Dr. Grigorenko has worked with children and their families in the United States as well as in Africa, India, Saudi Arabia, and Russia. Her research has been funded by the NIH, NSF, NIJ, DOE, and other federal and private sponsoring organizations.

Andres G. Viana

Andres Viana, Assistant Professor

The overarching goal of Dr. Andres Viana's research is to study treatment and prevention efforts targeting childhood anxiety and its disorders. For the past three years he has been conducting his research at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he served as Director of Child Anxiety Disorders Research as well as Director of the Childhood Anxiety Disorders Clinic. He earned his PhD in Child Clinical Psychology at Pennsylvania State University and completed his psychological residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Dr. Viana currently has two active research grants, one from the National Institute of Mental Health and the second from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration.

Department of Sociology

Scott Savage

Scott Savage, Assistant Professor

Dr. Scott Savage is a micro-theorist who specializes in exchange, identity, and status-organizing processes. Prior to coming to UH, he received his doctorate from the University of Arizona and was an assistant professor of Sociology at the University of California, Riverside. Dr.  Savage’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and can be found in a number of scholarly outlets, including Social Forces, Sociological Inquiry, Social Science Research, Teaching Sociology, and Advances in Group Processes.

School of Theatre & Dance

John Beasant

John Beasant III, Assistant Professor

Joah Beasant III holds an MFA degree in dance from the University of Utah. This May and June, he taught master classes and created new work for the Escuela de Danza Universidad Nacional, in Costa Rica. Prior to that, he was a faculty member at San José State University’s School of Music and Dance. He also previously served as a lecturer at California State University, Long Beach. As a dance artist, he spent over 18 years as a professional performer working with notable companies such as the José Limon Dance Company, Doug Varone and Dancers, Shapiro and Smith Dance, and The Metropolitan Opera. As a choreographer, Mr. Beasant has created numerous small and large ensemble works for a variety of regional and national dance institutions and companies.