Welcome, New Faculty!

Professors Gate in the sun
September 14, 2016

Columbian College welcomed 23 new full-time faculty members this year, bringing the total number of full-time scholars to 496. Each of these academics adds skills and expertise that enhance the college’s strengths in disciplines across the sciences, social sciences and humanities. 

Joel Blecher, Department of History, earned his PhD in Islamic studies and Near Eastern studies at Princeton University. His scholarship specialty is early and medieval Islamic history. He has conducted research in Arabic and Urdu in Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and India, and has authored articles for volumes such as Oriens, Encyclopeadia of Islam THREE and Oxford Bibliographies in Islamic Studies. Prior to coming to GW, he was an assistant professor of religion and history at Washington & Lee University.

Susan Cairns, Museum Studies Program, holds a PhD in creative arts from the University of Newcastle, Australia, and held an adjunct faculty position there, teaching critical studies and museology. She comes to GW from the Baltimore Museum of Art, where she was the director of audience experience and helped develop the museum’s digital content strategy. Previously, she was the website coordinator for the Newcastle Art Gallery.

Sarah Calabrese, Department of Psychology, received a PhD in clinical psychology from GW. Her research focuses on racial stereotypes and discrimination in the context of HIV prevention, sexual wellbeing and mental health. She held a postdoctoral fellowship with the National Institute of Mental Health HIV Prevention Interdisciplinary Training Program at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS at Yale University. She was also an associate research scientist at the Yale School of Public Health.

Louis Caldera, GW Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute, is a West Point graduate who holds law and business degrees from Harvard University. He is a former University of New Mexico president and a Secretary of the Army under the Clinton administration. He served as an assistant to the president and director of the White House Military Office in the Obama administration. Among the awards he has received are the American Heritage Award from the American Immigration Council and the Distinguished Civilian Service Award from the Department of Defense.

Debbie Cenziper, School of Media & Public Affairs, received a BA in journalism from the University of Florida. In her 25 year career as an investigative reporter for The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, The Charlotte Observer and The South Florida Sun Sentinel, she won numerous journalism awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for a series of articles exposing corruption and waste in the Miami-Dade Housing Agency. She is the co-author of the book Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality (William Morrow, 2016).

Manuel Cuellar, Department of Romance, German & Slavic Languages & Literatures, earned his PhD in Hispanic languages & literatures from the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests include 20th century Mexican cultural and literary studies, Latin American queer narratives, Nahuatl language and culture, queer theory and performance studies in the Americas. His work has appeared in journals such as Performance Research and he has translated both scholarly articles and novels.

Arie Dubnov, Judaic Studies Program, holds a PhD in history from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His fields of expertise are modern Jewish and European intellectual history, with a subsidiary interest in nationalism studies. He is the author of Isaiah Berlin: The Journey of a Jewish Liberal (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) and has published essays in journals such as Nations & Nationalism, Modern Intellectual History, History of European Ideas and The Journal of Israeli History. He is the editor of the collection (in Hebrew) Zionism – A View from the Outside (The Bialik Institute, 2010).

Keryn Gedan, Department of Biological Sciences, received her PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology from Brown University. A marine ecologist, her research interests include tidal wetland ecology, conservation biology and the response of coastal and marine species and ecosystems to global changes in climate, sea level, nutrient availability and invasive species. She is a former David H. Smith Fellow with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

Sylvain Guiriec, Department of Physics, holds a PhD in astronomy and astrophysics from the Universite Montpellier in France. His research focuses on gamma-ray astronomy. He is the winner of the 2015 Young Scientist Prize in Astrophysics from the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics and a postdoctoral fellowship in the NASA Postdoctoral Program. Since 2013, he has been an assistant research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Sarah L. Hedlund, Doctor of Psychology Program, received her PhD in clinical psychology from GW. She is a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating children, adolescents, adults and couples in individual and group therapy. In addition to her private practice, she is the director of the externship program at the Lodge School and has been an adjunct professor at GW since 2006.

Scott Jones, Interior Architecture Program, received his Master of Industrial Design, from the Pratt Institute. As an industrial designer, he specializes in residential and commercial furniture and lighting and consumer soft goods. He has been a visiting professor at GW.

Jakub Kostal, Department of Chemistry, earned his PhD in theoretical and biophysical chemistry from Yale University. His areas of expertise include computational chemistry, green chemistry and predictive toxicology. He has served as a research scientist with GW’s Computational Biology Institute since 2015.  He has also conducted research at the National Institutes of Health’s Laboratory of Computational Biology.

Maria del Carmen Montoya, Department of Fine Art & Art History, holds an MFA in digital media from the Rhode Island School of Design. As a new media artist, she works in sculpture, performance and video. Her work has been shown at the New Museum Festival of Ideas, the ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, the Venice Biennial of Architecture and Visiones Sonoras in Morelia, Mexico, where she cofounded an artist residency program for multimedia performance art. She was awarded the 2009 Rhizome Commission for New Media for I Sky You, an installation of chemically synthesized light.

Ariadna Pichs, Department of Romance, German & Slavic Languages & Literatures, received her MA in Spanish language, literature & culture from Syracuse University. She was a visiting instructor of Spanish at GW from 2011 to 2014. She also taught Spanish at American University and Lycoming College and has taught both Spanish and English as a second language in Spain, and studied Spanish language and culture in Cuba.

Ethan Porter, School of Media and Public Affairs, received his PhD in political science from the University of Chicago. His research interests include public opinion, political communication, political psychology and experimental design. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation and the Omidyar Network. His articles for Democracy and The Washington Post outlining a “taxpayer receipt” plan were adopted as part of a White House initiative. 

Hilary Silver, Department of Sociology, earned her PhD in sociology from Columbia University. Her areas of study include urban sociology, housing and social policies, comparative stratification, social exclusion and poverty. She has received three Fulbright Fellowships to France and Germany and created the 2009 PBS documentary film Southside: The Fall and Rise of an Inner-City Neighborhood. Before joining GW, she was the director of the Urban Studies Program and a professor of sociology and urban studies and public policy at Brown University.

Francesco L. Sinatora, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, holds a PhD in Arabic linguistics from Georgetown University. His research interests include Arabic diglossia, Arabic in the media, cognitive linguistics, discourse analysis and early Arabic poetry. He has taught Arabic at the Sijal Institute in Jordan, the University of Exeter in England and the University of Pavia in Italy, as well as Georgetown University.

David Szakonyi, Department of Political Science, holds a PhD in political science from Columbia University. His research interests include non-market strategy, political economy, corruption and corporate governance. He was a research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and an academy scholar at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. His work has been published in World PoliticsJournal of PoliticsBritish Journal of Political Science and Comparative Political Studies.

Víctor A. Valdivia-Ruiz, Department of Romance, German & Slavic Languages & Literatures, received his PhD in linguistics from the University of New Mexico. His areas of specialization include functional syntax, discourse analysis, Spanish in the United States and Hispanic linguistics. His articles and book reviews have been widely published in both English and Spanish language journals. He has been a language instructor and research assistant in the United States and Mexico.

Elizabeth Vaquera, GW Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute, received her PhD in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on the wellbeing of vulnerable and diverse groups, and the character and importance of race and ethnic identity in outcomes such as education, health and emotional and social wellbeing. She has authored several books including Education and Immigration (Polity, 2013), and is the recipient of grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. She comes to GW from the University of South Florida where she was an associate professor of sociology.

Joann M. Weiner, Department of Economics, earned her PhD in economics from Harvard University. She served as a senior economist in the Office of Tax Policy at the U.S. Treasury Department. She taught at the Saint Louis University in Brussels, worked as a consultant for the European Commission and was the senior economics correspondent for Tax Notes International.  She has written for The Washington Post, Bloomberg Government, AOL’s Politics Daily and the nonprofit publisher Tax Analysts. Since 2006, she has taught at GW as a visiting associate professor and director of the Applied Economics graduate program

Ning Yu, Department of Music, received her DMA in piano performance from Stony Brook University. She has taught piano and chamber music in the United States and China. She has performed worldwide at venues including the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, Kölner Philharmonie in Germany, the Kwai Tsing Theatre in Hong Kong and the Lincoln Center in New York. She is a member and co-artistic director of Yarn/Wire, an international quartet of two percussionists and two pianists.

Jung Yun, Department of English, received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she also served as a senior lecturer and director of new faculty initiatives before coming to GW. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed novel Shelter (Picador, 2016). Her fiction has appeared in Tin House, The Best of Tin House: Stories and The Massachusetts Review.  She has received two Artist’s Fellowships in fiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and an honorable mention for the Pushcart Prize.