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College of Arts and Sciences

The College Welcomes New Faculty

This year, twenty-three new faculty members join the College of Arts & Sciences, enhancing the College’s strengths in areas like media studies, behavioral economics, moral psychology, African American literature and more.

Cornell’s interdisciplinary expertise in media studies expands with the addition of two new faculty members. Erik Born, German studies, is working on a manuscript on the emergence of wireless media in Germany around 1900 and starting a new project on premodern cultural techniques. He will be teaching Thinking Media, the first in a two-semester sequence of foundational media study courses that explore the history, contemporaneity, and materiality of media forms. Andrew Campana, Asian studies, focuses on Japanese literature and media, game studies and disability studies. He’s working on a book manuscript, "Expanding Verse: Poetry Across Media in Japan” and a second project on disability and digital media.

Digital humanities is one focus of interest for Irina Troconis, Romance studies, along with media theory, memory studies, performance and politics in contemporary Latin America and critical literary theory. She is working on a book, “Spectral Remains: Memory, Magic, and the State in the Afterglow of Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution,” as well as articles on two contemporary Venezuelan performance artists, Deborah Castillo and Violette Bule.

The Department of English continues to expand its leadership in the field of African American literature with the addition of two new specialists: Derrick Spires and Nafissa Thompson-Spires. Spires’ current project is tentatively titled “Serial Blackness: Periodical Literature and African American Literary History.” He’s most looking forward to teaching a graduate seminar on black aesthetics in the long nineteenth century and “any course that allows me to introduce undergraduates to William J. Wilson, aka ‘Ethiop.’” Thompson-Spires specializes in television studies and fiction; her last novel, “Heads of the Colored People,” was long-listed for the National Book Award and won the PEN Open Book Award. The aspect of Cornell that most excites her, she says, is “the long history of critical engagement with the humanities and the legacy of major writers like Toni Morrison.” Emily Fridlund also specializes in fiction and creative writing. She is working on her second novel, “In Glass”; her first novel, “History of Wolves,” was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Fridlund says she is excited about “working together with writers, both students and colleagues, who are also trying to use sentences to find their way.”

Tao Leigh Goffe has a joint appointment in Africana studies and feminist, gender and sexuality studies. She is working on two books: the first exploring the poetics and entanglements of African and Asian diasporas in the Caribbean, and the second a “manifesto” on black feminist praxis, technology, and nightclub culture. She sees the DJ’ing she teaches about -- and engages in herself -- as a form of writing and an important means of expression that she encourages her students to also explore.

Geneticist Franklin Pugh ‘83 will join the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics during the spring semester. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, his research aims to understand how all genes are regulated in human and yeast model systems and to apply this knowledge towards better diagnosis and management of human diseases. He says he is especially looking forward to working with “the talented and motivated students” at Cornell.

The Department of Philosophy welcomes three new faculty members this fall. Shaun Nichols adds to the College’s strength in the area of moral psychology and is looking forward to collaborating on related topics with faculty and students. He’s currently working on developing an account of how people acquire moral rules, based on principles of statistical learning. Karolina Hübner’s specialty is the history of philosophy, especially various theories of the nature of reality. She’s working on a book on the theory of mind developed by Baruch Spinoza, who she describes as “a radical and idiosyncratic” 17th century Jewish philosopher. Carlotta Pavese is also interested in the philosophy of mind, as well as epistemology, action theory, and philosophy of language. She’s working on defining what a skill is and how having a skill involves “a distinctively practical way of representing the world that surrounds us.”

Filmmaker Jeffery Palmer, performing & media arts, will be teaching Introduction to Visual Storytelling and Advanced Film Production. His feature-length documentary about Pulitzer Prize-winning Native American author N. Scott Momaday, “N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear,” debuted at the 2019 Sundance Festival and will air on PBS’ American Masters this fall.

Three new faculty members in government contribute to the department’s global breadth. Rachel Beatty Riedl, whose current research project examines urban-rural linkages and politics in sub-Saharan Africa, is also a specialist on democracy and authoritarianism.  Her forthcoming book "From Pews to Politics: Religious Sermons and Political Participation in Africa" examines the diversity of religious influences across the continent and analyzes their political impact. She will also serve as the director of the Einaudi Center for International Studies. Bryn Rosenfeld specializes in democratization, public opinion and political behavior, and post-Communist politics, and is finishing a book -- “A Loyal Middle Class” -- on how state economic engagement affects middle class support for democratization. She says she’s looking forward to “living in a small town with a sense of responsibility and purpose.” Begüm Adalet focuses on contemporary political theory, colonialism and development, and the U.S.-Middle East relationship. Her current research project is on “Narratives of Land Reform in Turkey and the United States.”

In history, Christina Florea’s research is also global in reach. Her current project is a history of the contested region of Bukovina, an East European borderland divided between Ukraine, Romania, and Moldova, titled “Land of Longing: Bukovina at the Crossroads of Empires.” The classes she’s looking forward to teaching include Empires and Nations: Eastern Europe in the Modern Age and The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Empire.

As director of the Public History Initiative, Stephen Vider, history, is looking forward to developing a new interdisciplinary undergraduate minor and graduate certificate in public history and teaching courses in queer history and history of mental health and mental illness. He is currently completing a book, “The Queerness of Home,” which examines how LGBT people created new forms of home, family, and caregiving in the decades after World War II.

Cornell’s long-standing strength in behavioral economics (Cornell is often cited as the field’s birthplace) will be enhanced by economist Alex Rees-Jones '08, Ph.D. '13, whose academic focus is on integrating psychology into economic policy analysis. His research seeks to understand how people think about and make decisions regarding their taxes.

Computational linguist Marten van Schijndel uses psycholinguistic methods and computational modeling to study how humans and neural networks learn, process, and adapt to new language. He’s currently studying how neural networks process temporarily ambiguous sentences (“Even though the woman phoned the lawyer was upset”) and using those findings to inform theories of how humans process those kinds of ambiguities.

Neuroscientist Katherine Tschida is also interested in vocal communication; she studies the neural circuits that underlie the production of animal vocalizations. She is currently researching how and when mice produce their ultrasonic courtship vocalizations -- “I study mouse love songs,” she says. She will begin at Cornell on Jan. 1, 2020.

Chemist Andrew Musser studies light-matter interactions and organic photophysics/ photochemistry; he is currently using light to augment the properties of organic semiconductors for solar energy, lighting, lasers and quantum technologies. He says Cornell is “one of the friendliest and most collaborative universities I've come across” and that he expects it will “be easy to explore exciting new ideas that cross between disciplines.”

Mathematician Kathryn Mann specializes in geometric topology with an interest in examples of dynamical rigidity -- systems that are stable under small perturbation. She’s currently exploring whether rigidity in certain mathematical examples comes from extra hidden symmetry or geometric structure and is a recent recipient of a Sloan Fellowship and an NSF CAREER award.

Physicist Debanjan Chowdhury specializes in theoretical condensed matter physics and quantum matter. He is currently trying to develop new theoretical approaches for studying properties of quantum materials where topology and strong interactions play a key role. He will begin at Cornell on Jan. 1, 2020.