By Sasha Nyary
Mount Holyoke College welcomed 15 new faculty members this fall. Arriving in South Hadley from around the country and around the world, they bring innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship to the College’s thriving intellectual community.
“We’re excited to welcome a highly talented, productive, and creative new group of faculty to our scholarly and teaching community,” said Jon Western, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. “We welcome them to Mount Holyoke.”
Meet Mount Holyoke’s newest faculty:
Chassidy Bozeman, Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor, Mathematics and Statistics
Chassidy Bozeman is one of the first three African Americans to be awarded a doctorate in mathematics from Iowa State University, and the first in her family to receive a Ph.D. Bozeman can’t remember a time when she wasn’t drawn to math — in elementary school she loved to tag along when her mother went to her college algebra classes.
As a junior at Clark Atlanta University, Bozeman realized she wanted to go to graduate school for math when she completed an REU — Research Experience for Undergraduates, a national program sponsored by the National Science Foundation — at North Carolina State University. She worked on a math–biology project to help prevent the spread of dengue fever. She participates in the EDGE Program, funded primarily by the NSF, which supports women and minority students in completing graduate programs in the mathematical sciences. She has also been featured as a 2019 Mathematically Gifted and Black honoree by the Network of Minorities in Mathematical Sciences.
“My undergraduate degree is from a historically Black college and it wasn't until I went to graduate school that I realized that there aren't many mathematics professors who are like me,” said Bozeman. “I chose to come to Mount Holyoke because I feel that there are a lot of students here who rarely see people that look like them doing math. It’s important that they — and everyone else — do.”
Barbie Diewald, Assistant Professor, Dance
Barbie Diewald took her first dance class when her mother, concerned about her young daughter’s coordination, signed her up for ballet. Originally from Chicago, Diewald trained at the Chicago Festival Ballet, Midwest Ballet Theatre and Lou Conte Dance Center. Drawn to choreography, she lived in New York City for seven years, co-founding TrioDance Collective with Emily Jeffries. Dance Informa magazine called her “a consistent force in the vast scene of emerging choreographers in NYC.”
Today, Diewald, who holds a Master of Fine Arts in dance from Smith College, directs Barbie Diewald Choreography. Her current research explores how people’s lineages and histories are always present in their bodies, a project that grew out of a course she taught during her first semester at Mount Holyoke, when she asked her students to write a personal creative bibliography and cite their influences.
Diewald’s dances have been presented at both international and domestic venues, the latter of which include the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Movement Research at the Judson Church, the 92nd Street Y and Jacob’s Pillow. She has been named a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow in Choreography, a Bogliasco Foundation fellow, and a Bessie Schönberg Choreographer at New York Live Arts. Her latest project, “Pare,” was recently performed at the Academy of Music in nearby Northampton.
“Mount Holyoke students are unique because they are really willing to do a live inquiry,” Diewald said. “That is, instead of just learning what the steps are, they are willing to question why you're doing the steps, what else the steps might hold, what the context is. They want to know where things come from. They are constantly asking questions instead of trying to get answers.”
Adam Hilton, Assistant Professor, Politics
As a high school student in Acton, Massachusetts, Adam Hilton thought he might go into psychology. Then, at the start of his junior year, 9/11 happened and he watched it live on TV. A first-generation college student, Hilton started his first year at The Evergreen State College during the invasion of Iraq and the campus was a hotbed of activism and protest. He started asking questions about the role of the United States in the world and fell in love with foreign policy. Realizing he could never learn it all, he decided that becoming a professor would be the best way to be a student forever.
Today Hilton focuses on how and why American political parties change over time. He explores the persistence of the two-party system, unique among advanced democracies, and how the meaning of being a Democrat or a Republican has changed multiple times, in dramatic ways. His forthcoming book, from the University of Pennsylvania Press, is “From New Deal to Neoliberalism: The Transformation of the Democratic Party in the Age of Inequality.” It addresses the paradox of the Democratic Party ideology at this time of inequality, where progressive efforts at greater civic inclusion occur simultaneously with the downplaying of income redistribution policy. His writing has been published in professional and public venues including Polity, New Political Science, the Socialist Register, New Labor Forum, The Washington Post Magazine and Jacobin magazine.
“What I love about teaching is the challenge and the opportunity to do for students what teachers did for me,” Hilton said. “The scales fell from my eyes and I saw the world in a different way. I remember being an undergrad and feeling inspired and motivated. Coming from my background, I’ve been fortunate to have great professors who were able to help me along the way.”
Andrea Lawlor’s debut novel, “Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl,” was published in 2017 to outstanding reviews. The Guardian called it “evocative and urgent” and “very funny.” The New Yorker said, “Lawlor successfully mixes pop culture, gender theory, and smut, but the great achievement here is that Paul is no mere symbol but a vibrantly yearning being, ‘like everybody else, only more so.’” In 2019 the book was picked up for reprinting in the United States and Britain.
Lawlor has spent their life in and around books, writing and publications. But it was teaching — first while getting a master’s degree at Temple University and then in an M.F.A. program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst — where Lawlor landed on their true professional and artistic path. They found they loved teaching writing and that it energized them to do their own creative work. Lawlor’s fiction and poetry has been published in outlets including Ploughshares and the Brooklyn Rail, and they are a Fence magazine fiction editor. After originally coming to Mount Holyoke to teach creative writing for multilingual speakers, Lawlor now also teaches writing courses focused on fiction, poetry, queer/trans writing, fabulist writing and utopian writing.
“Mount Holyoke students are great to teach because they’re really politically engaged, critical thinkers,” Lawlor said. “They’re earnest and hardworking and they care about books. It’s exciting to work with emerging writers coming from all different cultural contexts. It feels like a great way to be involved in creating the future literary culture.”
Growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey, Jen Matos gained her love of school from her mother, a Puerto Rican single parent who worked three jobs and was “madly in love with education even though she didn’t have a formal education.” Her love of learning was further sparked by superb teachers with high standards and high expectations.
Education was a path out of poverty, Matos learned, and she was the first in her family to go to college. Going to Smith College for undergraduate and master’s degrees, she found similar stories of a deep commitment to education among her fellow Latinx students. But Matos knew the national story is often that Latinx families do not value schooling. So when she got to the University of Massachusetts Amherst for a doctorate in education, she decided to study Latinx parental engagement.
Matos’ research shows that just because parental involvement might not be visible to the school, it doesn’t mean that such involvement is not happening. In her own family, “education is the family business,” with her sister earning a doctorate in health sciences and both nieces holding master’s degrees. Today her research projects include examining longitudinal effects on students and families of a STEM program for girls in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and looking at Puerto Rican parental academic engagement in San Juan and in Holyoke, Massachusetts. She works with undergraduates in both projects. Her forthcoming book is titled “La Familia and Other Secret Ingredients to Latinx Student Success.”
“The best part about Mount Holyoke is the students and how much they want to participate in the social justice dialogue, how genuine they are on their questions about race,” Matos said. “They want to have authentic dialogues with each other across race and across difference. I love it when students keep in touch and become my colleagues. I like being able to grow together with my students beyond graduation.”
A historian of modern South Asia, Abhilash Medhi came to his subject with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology in India. That led to a master’s degree in development studies from the London School of Economics. Subsequent field work at an independent research organization in Afghanistan got him interested in comparing the parallels between the northeast India of his childhood and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
A self-described social historian with a second master’s and a doctorate from Brown University, Medhi brings political economic and anthropological analyses to his explorations of the colonial period of the 1840s to the 1930s. His interest in borders and borderlands, combined with Indigenous histories and spatial theory, gives his work a contemporary focus as well.
“I enjoy teaching and I really like Mount Holyoke’s small class sizes,” said Medhi. “Pedagogy becomes more important. Here I can get to know students. And it helps my research when I’m pushed to think about trajectories that I may not have before.”
Lidia Mrad uses mathematics to research and solve materials science problems, from liquid crystals in optical displays to biological applications such as DNA packing and public health issues. Growing up in a tiny Lebanese village two hours east of Beirut, Mrad was both exposed to a high level of mathematics in high school and, as a woman, discouraged from going to college. Resisting that pressure, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the Lebanese University and a master’s degree from the American University of Beirut. After teaching high school for a few years, Mrad moved to the United States to attend Purdue University, where she received a doctorate in mathematics.
Following these years of theoretical training, she was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Arizona, where she immersed herself in computational mathematics. There, she increased her versatility by modeling mosquito flight in order to arrest the spread of disease. This was the first time she’d worked with large amounts of data and it reinforced her vision of applying mathematics to a wide variety of questions.
“Education changes lives,” Mrad said. “My life is an example of that. Women are still underrepresented in my area of mathematics. I can serve this population because I am one of them. I want to be able to help students achieve what I was able to.”
Marie Ozanne ’12 works with epidemiologists and medical professionals to develop statistical methods that are tailored to complex public health concerns, including infectious diseases and homelessness. Her interest in statistics began before college and deepened when she was an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College. A chemistry major, she added statistics as a double major after participating in the Summer Institute in Biostatistics, a national program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, at the University of Iowa.
She later received her doctorate from the university and continues to work closely with her former colleagues on leishmaniasis — a serious, neglected tropical disease that places approximately one billion people at risk globally. This research has taken her to the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte in Natal, Brazil.
Having done her senior thesis in astronomy professor Darby Dyar’s lab — “she’s amazing at getting undergraduates involved in research” — Ozanne looks forward to passing that experience on to her own students.
“I use an application-driven approach to developing methodology,” Ozanne said. “I like it when somebody comes to me with a problem and I can figure out how to use statistics to solve it. The great thing about statistics is that if I want to shake things up, I can just switch applications.”
Growing up Montevideo, Uruguay, in a working-class family with parents who worked long hours, Adriana Pitetta spent a lot of time reading at her local public library. The first in her family to go to college, Pitetta explored Latin American literature, film and culture as an undergraduate at the Universidad de la República. At the same time she was also becoming increasingly politically active, so she took courses in history, critical race theory and gender studies. Those myriad cross-disciplinary interests took Pitetta to the University of Pittsburgh for a doctorate, where she was able to combine her political engagement with her academic interests.
Inspired by these experiences, Pitetta teaches topics that include the relationship between social movements and history, gender, literature and film. Pitetta’s dissertation explored how events in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay during the 1960s and ’70s — left-wing politics, guerrilla warfare and state terrorism — are expressed in films, blogs, novels and testimonies. She is also interested in how the effects of that post-dictatorship cultural production reshapes activism today.
“When it comes to teaching, I like the unexpected,” Pitetta said. “Like when students bring connections that I was not necessarily expecting or planning. Those moments are amazing to me. I also really like their solidarity. They stand up for each other. They take positions. They are committed to their communities and they are committed to the community of the College.”
Marta Sabariego has been drawn to science since she received a microscope for Christmas as a child. She earned a doctorate in psychology from Spain’s University of Jaén, not far from where she grew up. Her explorations of the neural circuits of emotion and memory have taken her around the world, including study at the University of Cagliari in Italy and at the University of California San Diego.
The recipient of a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Sabariego has had her work published in journals including Neuron and Nature Communications. As part of her commitment to diversity, she is a member of BRAINS — Broadening the Representation of Academic Investigators in NeuroScience. This organization aims to advance early-career neuroscientists from underrepresented groups.
“What drew me to this area of study is my curiosity about how everything that we love and cherish, fear and dread, laugh at or cry about — our very personalities — is a result of our ability to form memories,” said Sabariego. “These memories have slowly been shaping right from the instant of our birth and are resolutely forming even as you read these very words.”
Noah Tuleja, Assistant Professor, Theatre Arts; Director of the Rooke Theatre
Noah Tuleja first got involved at Mount Holyoke as a high school student in the 1980s. He was living in nearby Belchertown and a friend suggested that working at a summer theater run by the College would be a great way to get away from parental supervision. The byproduct of that experience was a lifelong love of theater.
Certified as a fight choreographer in both the United States and the United Kingdom, Tuleja was first exposed to this particular field while earning his bachelor’s degree in acting at New York University. He continued to study fight choreography while training at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art and went on to teach it there and at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Actors Studio and conservatories around Britain.
Deciding that he wanted to focus more on teaching than professional acting, Tuleja earned a Master of Fine Arts in directing from Indiana University. After working at various American universities, he began acting again — “I realized I was teaching this and I should probably remember how hard it is” — and continues to work professionally as an actor, director and fight choreographer. Companies he has worked at include Long Wharf Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Trinity Rep, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Theatre Royal Plymouth, CBS Television Studios, and Bread and Puppet Theater.
“Mount Holyoke has really smart, engaged students, which I love,” Tuleja said. “They come to work. In a liberal arts college they have a different expectation of themselves, they expect to be deeper thinkers, more than you might have at an acting conservatory. I love that part of it. They might leave here and decide they want to go into a graduate program. And they can, and they'll have a base that many, many students won’t have.”
Also joining the faculty
When Jinhwa Chang studied silk agriculture as an undergraduate in South Korea, she studied Japanese, the language of many of the textbooks. That was when she realized that for her, communicating in another language was the more rewarding — and challenging — task. So after earning a degree at Kyungpook National University, she moved to Tokyo for a doctoral program in Japanese language pedagogy and applied linguistics at Waseda University.
Chang first came to the United States as part of an instructor exchange program between Waseda and Grinnell College. She went on to teach at Williams College for six years.
“My thesis starts from the question, how does oral communication improve student writing and build community?” said Chang. “The classroom and the activities I design are the fields of my research. I like to contribute to students’ lifelong ability to communicate. It’s really rewarding to be part of the progress and open their minds to a new language and culture.”
When Karen Harrington was a high school student considering her future, her school counselor tried to dissuade her from going to college by telling her that, with her strong typing skills, she should be a secretary. She went anyway — the first in her family to go to college — and became a school counselor. Increasingly interested in social and emotional learning, she turned toward educational research and evaluation. Today Harrington is a national expert on career development and curriculum design for marginalized youth, such as those who are involved with gangs, have dropped out of high-school or are incarcerated. The Mount Holyoke course she designed on social and emotional factors in academic achievement is one of only a couple of courses on the topic in the country. Harrington is a senior research fellow and assistant director at the Center for Youth Engagement at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“Mount Holyoke is at the forefront by offering a course for teachers that builds their capacity to teach students the social and emotional skills they need to be successful in school, in the workplace and in relationships,” Harrington said. “This is a whole approach to learning. It’s essential, when you talk about school climate and culture, that students feel safe and feel connected to teachers and to one another.”
Shakia Johnson came to dance relatively late, taking her first classes in ballet, modern dance and jazz when she was a junior at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School in South Hadley, Massachusetts. But she knew right away that she had found what she wanted to do with her life. She had always danced and choreographed with her friends. And with three older brothers as role models — one is a hip-hop DJ, one is a graffiti artist and one is a street dancer — the art form came naturally to her.
After high school, Johnson performed widely in the United States and abroad, touring with Face Da Phlave Entertainment and Illstyle & Peace Productions. Then, working with a community dance enrichment program for youth, she found she was drawn to teaching. So she earned a certificate at National Dance Institute in New York City, which allowed her to teach in public schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in movement science from Westfield State University and is completing a master’s degree in choreography and dance from Wilson College, where her research links hip-hop culture with Black feminist theory. Her technique classes include a broad understanding of the culture and history of the subject as a way to help her students put the dance into context.
“The students are super eager to learn more, and to bring what they’re learning in dance class into their other classes,” Johnson said. “They really go deep into it. They’re really invested. They will make their own music tracks! Like for a choreography test, they'll make up the whole entire song. That’s impressive.”
Growing up as an athlete in a family of athletes and the daughter of a coach — her father restarted the women’s basketball team at Lawrence Technological University — Erica Lemm earned her black belt in karate and was a competitive fighter, ran track and cross-country, and played soccer, volleyball and hockey. But after three torn ACLs — two while still in high school — she played club soccer and turned to managing club and varsity teams in college, where she was delighted to learn she could major in sport management.
Lemm holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts degree and a Master of Arts degree from Central Michigan University. Her accomplishments include creating a process at Earlham College designed to return concussed student athletes to the classroom, and involvement with Women Leaders in College Sports and several NCAA initiatives. She currently serves on the NCAA Division III membership committee. As associate director of athletics for programming and a senior lecturer, she is focusing on helping student-athletes reach their leadership potential.
“Mount Holyoke is a social, driven, personable community and the people here are very passionate,” Lemm said. “I like working closely with student-athletes on a campus that empowers women and others. This is a great place to do exactly that.”