To ensure the highest-quality liberal arts education in an ever-changing world, Barnard regularly recruits new faculty and creates new courses and departments. With nearly 50 fields of study and the guidance of award-winning professors, students develop the intellectual resources necessary to take risks and break boundaries so that they can succeed beyond the College’s gates. Here’s a snapshot of what’s new in academics at the College this fall.
This year, Barnard has launched 28 new courses — four in English, four in psychology, four in education, two in computer science, and two in physical education, as well as new courses in political science, Spanish, art history, neuroscience and behavior, Slavic cultures, architecture, comparative literature, religion, science and public policy, sociology, the Scholars of Distinction Program, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.
New courses range in subject from gun politics in America, taught by Matthew Lacombe, to the vampire in myth, literature, and film, taught by Holly Myers.
“These courses reflect the dynamic nature of the curriculum at Barnard and the rigor of our processes for new course approval,” said Linda Bell, provost and dean of the faculty. To create a new course, faculty members first submit proposals to the department’s chair and then to the Committee on Instruction for evaluation, before circling back to the department chair and full faculty for final approval.
Beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, Barnard elevated its American Studies and Neuroscience and Behavior programs to established departments. Although it was previously possible to major in both of these subjects, the creation of official departments gives chairs greater autonomy when hiring and helps to foster community among majors. According to Provost Bell, Barnard is one of the few colleges in the country to have a Department of Neuroscience and Behavior.
The department “will build on the enormous success of the Neuroscience and Behavior program in providing our students with an even broader and more comprehensive curriculum focused on important study of the brain and its complex web of associated behaviors,” Bell said. Similarly, “the new Department of American Studies has been created in response to strong departmental faculty, an unprecedented growth in student interest, and a collaborative network of faculty colleagues from across the College who contribute to the rigorous curriculum of the department,” she continued.
This fall, Barnard welcomed 34 faculty members across almost as many disciplines, either for the first time or in new roles.
Ati Akbari, Term Assistant Professor, English
Ati Akbari specializes in postcolonial literature with a comparatist focus. Her teaching and research interests include 20th-century Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean literature, 20th-century Iranian literature (until the 1979 Revolution) and film, graphic novels, world literature, and translation studies. Akbari’s current book project is a cross-cultural comparison of Iranian and Caribbean fiction and poetry from the 1960s through the 1980s. Akbari completed her graduate work at Columbia University (Ph.D.; M.Phil.; M.A.) and at the University of Tehran (M.A.) and her undergraduate work at the University of Tehran.
Meredith Benjamin, Lecturer, First-Year Writing
Meredith Benjamin is a lecturer in First-Year Writing whose research interests include feminist literature, archives, feminist and queer theory, life writing, and 20th- and 21st-century American literature. Her book project, Writing Feminism: Archives and Community Formation in U.S. Feminist Literature, is currently under contract with Northwestern University Press. Benjamin previously taught at Baruch College, CUNY, and received a Ph.D. from the English department at the Graduate Center, CUNY, with a certificate in women’s and gender studies. She was previously a postdoctoral fellow at Barnard.
Logan Brenner, Assistant Professor, Environmental Science
Logan Brenner is a paleoclimatologist interested in reconstructing oceanic conditions using the geochemistry of stony corals. Brenner graduated from Skidmore College in 2012 with a B.A. in geosciences, where she studied stalagmites to develop a history of precipitation in Yucatán, Mexico. Brenner received a Ph.D. in earth and environmental science in 2017 from Columbia University and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Brenner’s research interests lie at the intersection of climate and environmental science; she is currently investigating the hydroclimate off the Pacific coast of Panama to understand changes in precipitation and droughts.
Elizabeth Cook, Assistant Professor, Environmental Science
Elizabeth Cook is an urban ecosystem scientist with interdisciplinary expertise in social and natural sciences, including ecology, cultural geography, and sustainability sciences, whose research focuses on future urban sustainability and human-environment feedbacks. Cook seeks to advance a broader understanding of cities through the integration of transdisciplinary frameworks, mixed methods, and a comparative approach with examples from cities in Latin and North America. Cook earned a Ph.D. at Arizona State University and a B.A. from Wellesley College.
Ahmet Çoymak, Weiss Visiting International Scholar, Psychology
Ahmet Çoymak is a transnational peace activist and a peace psychologist. He received his M.S. from the social psychology graduate program at Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey, and earned his Ph.D. in political psychology from Queen’s University Belfast by studying the complex nature of multiple social identities and intergroup trust in the aftermath of the bitter conflict between Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland. Çoymak is co-editor of the Türk Psikoloji Dergisi (Journal of Turkish Psychology). Çoymak’s primary research interests are in political psychology, including the content of the social self, intergroup relationships, civic engagement, political trust, stereotypes, and prejudice.
Maria de la Paz Fernández, Assistant Professor, Neuroscience
Maria de la Paz Fernández’s research is focused on the neural mechanisms underlying aggressive behavior and territoriality and the relation between the circadian clock and social behaviors, using Drosophila melanogaster (common fruit fly) as a model system. Fernández completed postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School and joined the IBioBA-Max Planck Partner Institute of Buenos Aires as a group leader.
Qi Feng, Postdoctoral Fellow, Physics and Astronomy
Qi Feng’s research in observational high-energy astrophysics focuses on three aspects: variability of gamma-ray sources, primarily active galactic nuclei; high-energy astrophysics instrumentation; and the application of machine-learning algorithms in gamma-ray data analysis. Feng currently co-leads the blazar science working group in the VERITAS Collaboration and actively contributes to the commissioning of the prototype Schwarzschild-Couder telescope as part of the CTA-US Collaboration.
Marjorie Folkman ’91, Dance, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice
Marjorie Folkman is a dancer and choreographer who has performed and worked collaboratively in numerous opera and stage productions, including the staging of Mark Morris’ dances at Barnard and other colleges. After graduating from Barnard, Folkman danced as a member of the Mark Morris Dance Group between 1996 and 2007. Folkman was a 2016 recipient of Barnard College’s Emily Gregory Award for Excellence in Teaching and Devotion to Students as a visiting professor. She received an M.A. from Columbia University and is a Ph.D. candidate at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City, where she researches European interwar visual culture and its intersections with choreography.
Ignacio G. Galán, Assistant Professor, Architecture
Ignacio G. Galán is a New York-based architect, historian, and educator concerned with the role of architecture in the articulation of societies. His scholarship addresses the relationship between architecture, politics, and media, with a particular focus on nationalism, colonialism, and diverse forms of population transience. The designs of his firm, [igg-office for architecture], have won awards in several competitions, including first prize for the New Velodrome in Medellín, and are part of the permanent collection of the Pompidou Center. Together with the After Belonging Agency, Galán was the chief curator of the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale. Galán studied architecture at ETSAMadrid and TUDelft, graduated with distinction from the MArchII program at Harvard GSD and earned a Ph.D. in architecture history and theory of architecture from Princeton. Galán has been a Fellow at the Spanish Academy in Rome and a Fulbright scholar, and was previously a term assistant professor at Barnard.
Maria Hinojosa ’84, Distinguished Journalist in Research, English
Maria Hinojosa is an award-winning journalist, the founding anchor and now executive producer of NPR’s Latino USA, and the founder of the Futuro Media Group. Hinojosa has informed millions about the changing cultural and political landscape in America and abroad. She is the author of three books and has won dozens of awards, including four Emmys, the John Chancellor Award, the Studs Terkel Community Media Award, two Robert F. Kennedy Awards, the Edward R. Murrow Award, and the Ruben Salazar Lifetime Achievement Award. Hinojosa is also a new contributor to the long-running, award-winning news program CBS Sunday Morning and a frequent guest on MSNBC.
Sylvie Honig, Term Lecturer, Athena Center for Leadership Studies
Sylvie Honig earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago, with a specialization in youth, life course theory, and qualitative methods. Honig’s doctoral project, “Untangling the Apron Strings,” examines how inequality in young adulthood is exacerbated by the emphasis on independence and how it paradoxically enables a prolonged dependence on parents for financial and other types of support. Honig’s other research interests include urban sociology, gender, sexuality, and stratification. Honig has done qualitative research on sexuality in young adulthood, income instability, and HIV stigma at the intersection of race, gender, and class.
Matthew L. Keegan, Moinian Assistant Professor, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures
Matthew L. Keegan’s work focuses on the intersections of Arabic literature and Islamic thought in the precolonial period. In particular, Keegan’s first book project explores the vast commentary tradition on the Maqamat of al-Hariri, a collection of Arabic trickster stories written in the 12th century that was a canonical text of Islamic education until the 19th century. Keegan received a Ph.D. from NYU, taught at the American University of Sharjah, and completed a postdoctorate at the Freie Universität Berlin.
Erika Kitzmiller, Term Assistant Professor, Education
Erika Kitzmiller is a historian of inequality, education, and public policy whose scholarship focuses on the historical and contemporary policies and practices that contribute to inequality today. Kitzmiller is the principal investigator of the National Science Foundation-funded ethnographic project “From Direct Instruction to Authentic Engagement,” which aims to generate a framework of school reform and instructional change that takes into account teacher and student identities and perspectives. Kitzmiller’s forthcoming book is entitled The Roots of Educational Inequality: Philadelphia and Germantown High School, 1907-2014. Kitzmiller earned a dual Ph.D. in history and education, culture, and society, an MPA from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. in history and Italian from Wellesley College.
Matthew Lacombe, Assistant Professor, Political Science
Matthew Lacombe received a Ph.D. from Northwestern and a B.A. from Allegheny College. Lacombe studies American politics, with a broad focus on understanding and explaining political power in the United States. Stemming from his dissertation research, he is working on a manuscript that explores how the National Rifle Association has marshaled the political behavior of its supporters over time in ways that have enabled it to advance its gun rights agenda and, more broadly, build political power. Lacombe is the co-author of a recent book that explores the political preferences and actions of U.S. billionaires.
Diana Matar, Distinguished Artist, Comparative Literature
Diana Matar is a photographic artist whose work investigates history, memory, and state-sponsored violence. Grounded in intensive research, she produces installations and books that query what role aesthetics might play in the depiction of power. Matar’s monograph, Evidence, looked at the effects of state-sponsored violence on her husband Prof. Hisham Matar’s family and the Libyan nation, and was published to critical acclaim. Major installations of Evidence were exhibited in 15 international institutions and galleries, including Tate Modern, Institute du Monde Arabe, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. In 2016, Matar received a Ford Foundation grant to produce photographs at the sites of lethal police violence in America. The work will be published as a monograph in 2020 and exhibited next year as a solo show at Musée de la Photographie à Charleroi in Belgium and in “America Geography” at SFMOMA in San Francisco. Matar is a graduate of the Royal College of Art and is represented by Purdy Hicks Gallery.
Chandler Miranda, Term Assistant Professor, Education and Urban Studies
Chandler Miranda is a former high school science teacher who uses ethnographic methods to study school culture, community engagement, and leadership. Her research focuses on educational opportunities for recently arrived immigrant teenagers, and she writes about sanctuary schooling as a culturally responsive practice for immigrant youth. Miranda has published research in the Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Harvard Educational Review, Journal of Cases for Educational Leadership, and Theory into Practice.
Sarah Morrison-Smith, Teaching and Research Fellow, Computer Science
Sarah Morrison-Smith joined Barnard College in July 2019 as the Roman Family Teaching and Research Fellow. Morrison-Smith’s expertise is in human-centered computing. Morrison-Smith received a Ph.D. from the University of Florida, an M.S. in computer science at Colorado State University, and a B.S. in computer science from Montana State University. Morrison-Smith’s current research interests include usable security, harnessing technology to support e-Science research, and exploring gestural interaction as an input modality for mobile devices and wearables.
Antoni Fernández Parera, Lecturer, Spanish and Latin American Cultures
Antoni Fernández Parera is from Tarragona, Spain, and studied English philology at the Universitat Rovira I Virgili (Spain). Fernández Parera obtained a Ph.D. in Romance studies at the University of Miami in Florida. Since earning a master’s in teaching foreign languages, Fernández Parera has been actively engaged in teaching second- and heritage-language learners of Spanish in the U.S. and Spain. Fernández Parera’s areas of research and interest are sociolinguistics, sociocultural theory and second language acquisition, and pedagogy with special emphasis on comparative second and heritage language research.
Gretchen Pfeil, Term Associate, Anthropology
Gretchen Pfeil is a linguistic and semiotic anthropologist who is concerned with how people think about, judge, and manage the movement and circulation of information and (or as) objects. Since 2006, Pfeil has conducted fieldwork in Dakar, Senegal, focused on the city’s charitable and domestic economies, tracing the kinds of knowledge and ongoing relationships built in and through networks of care managed by the city’s female householders. Pfeil served as program associate for the ACLS African Humanities Program and holds an M.A. in anthropology from the University of Chicago, where she will defend her dissertation this October.
Ben Philippe, Term Assistant Professor, Film Studies
Ben Philippe is a writer and screenwriter with a B.A. from Columbia University. Philippe received an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a Michener Center for Writers Writing Fellow. Philippe previously won the Tennessee Williams fiction contest and the BlueCat pilot screenplay competition. His culture essays can be found in Vanity Fair, Observer, Thrillist, and others. Philippe’s debut YA novel, The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, was published by HarperCollins in January 2019.
Lindsay Piechnik, Visiting Associate Professor, Mathematics
Lindsay Piechnik comes to Barnard from her position as an associate professor of mathematics at High Point University. Piechnik earned her B.A. at Duke University, where she was a varsity athlete and graduated top of her class. Piechnik’s completed her Ph.D. in mathematics at Columbia University, with research focusing on combinatorial approaches to questions in toric algebra and tropical geometry.
Francey Russell, Assistant Professor, Philosophy
Francey Russell works on issues in moral psychology and ethics broadly construed, often overlapping with topics in social philosophy and aesthetics, and drawing from contemporary and historical sources. Russell’s work engages with Kant, Freud, Nietzsche, and Cavell. Russell is currently writing a book on the concept of self-opacity and its significance for philosophical accounts of agency and moral psychology, and also writes film criticism, and is working on a project on cinematic aesthetics in genre films. Russell earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Chicago, an M.A. in philosophy and psychoanalysis from the New School for Social Research, and a bachelor’s in philosophy and cinema studies at the University of Toronto.
Rishita Shah, Lecturer, Biological Sciences
Rishita Shah is a molecular biologist who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. Before coming to Barnard, Shah was a guest lecturer at Sarah Lawrence College and a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Joe Sheppard, Term Assistant Professor, Classics
Joe Sheppard graduated from the Ph.D. program in classical studies at Columbia University with a dissertation entitled “Mass Spectacles in Roman Pompeii as a System of Communication.” He is the assistant field director for the excavations at the Villa Adriana near Tivoli, Italy, undertaken by the Advanced Program in Ancient History and Art (Columbia University and Sapienza Università di Roma). Sheppard is currently working on the historiography of intercity rivalries in Roman Italy and material religion in the Vesuvian cities.
Christian Siener, Term Assistant Professor, Urban Studies
Christian Siener is an urban geographer with a focus on political economy and the carceral state. Siener’s research has centered on the institutional transformations that resulted in the birth of the modern homeless shelter from early 20th-century prison reform in New York City. Siener previously taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronx Community College, and Hunter College.
Angela Simms, Assistant Professor, Urban Studies and Sociology
Angela Simms’ research examines how legacy and contemporary market and government processes in metropolitan areas shape racial inequality, with a particular focus on the suburban black middle class. Simms completed her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor’s in government from the College of William and Mary. Before UPenn, Simms was a Presidential Management Fellow and legislative analyst for seven years at the Office of Management and Budget within the Executive Office of the President, serving in the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Katherine Thorson, Term Assistant Professor, Psychology
Katherine Thorson studies interpersonal interactions, with a focus on how people from different social groups influence one another’s psychological experiences and physiological responses. Her work has been published in journals such as Psychological Methods, Social Psychological and Personality Science, and Biological Psychology. Thorson’s research has been funded by the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and was selected as a finalist for the Society for Experimental Social Psychology Dissertation Award. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Bates College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology from New York University.
Marcela Tovar-Restrepo, Term Assistant Professor, Urban Studies
Marcela Tovar-Restrepo obtained a Ph.D. in anthropology at the New School for Social Research in New York City and an M.A. in urban development planning at University College London. Tovar-Restrepo conducts research on diversity, gender, and development in Latin America. Tovar-Restrepo was director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at Queens College–CUNY (2008-2011) and has served as an international consultant mainstreaming cultural and gender rights into policymaking processes for the U.N.
Duygu Ula, Postdoctoral Fellow, First-Year Writing
Duygu Ula’s work centers on queer film, contemporary art, literature, and theory in the Middle East and the Balkans. Her current project on local queer aesthetics explores how filmmakers and visual artists from these regions envision modes of queerness that take their bearings from a local and culturally specific visual lexicon. Ula’s research focuses on the possibilities the various cultural, linguistic, and artistic contexts of the Global South can afford us to rethink globalized and Western-centric understandings of gender and sexuality. Ula received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Michigan, with certificates in LGBTQ studies and film, television, and media studies.
Juan Gabriel Vásquez, International Artist Fellow, Spanish and Latin American Cultures
Through works that include The Informers, The Secret History of Costaguana, and The Sound of Things Falling, Colombian novelist Juan Gabriel Vásquez has delved into his country’s complex history and present. Vásquez’s work has received several international awards, including Spain’s Premio Alfaguara and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the French Ministry of Culture recently made him Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Vásquez has also translated, from French and English into Spanish, several authors, including Victor Hugo and Joseph Conrad.
Jonelle White, Term Assistant Professor, Chemistry
Jonelle White received her B.S. from SUNY Albany in chemistry and her Ph.D. from UCLA in biochemistry, structural and molecular biology this year. White’s graduate work at UCLA focused on investigating the role of protein methylation on the translational apparatus, including ribosome structure, ribosome assembly, elongation factors, translational fidelity, and the actin cytoskeleton in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (a form of yeast).
Amy Zhou, Assistant Professor, Sociology
Amy Zhou studies health care, inequality, and development. Zhou received her Ph.D. in sociology at UCLA and was a postdoctoral scholar at the Institute for Practical Ethics at UCSD. Zhou’s research examines health inequalities in the U.S. and globally. Zhou’s dissertation and book project traces the effects of HIV policies across different segments of Malawian society, highlighting the misalignments between the vision of global institutions and the needs of local governments, providers, and patients.