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Meet our Postdoctoral Fellows

Cohort VI, 2021-2023

Announcement of Fellows Coming Soon!

Cohort V, 2019-2021

Dr. Fernando Tormos-Aponte

Public Policy

Now Assistant Professor of Public Policy at UMBC

Dr. Fernando Tormos-Aponte is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Maryland—Baltimore County School of Public Policy and Department of Political Science, a Research Fellow of the Southern Methodist University Latino Center for Leadership Development, and a Visiting Scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Department of Political Science. He earned his MA and PhD in political science from Purdue University, and a BA from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Dr. Tormos-Aponte’s research focuses on how social movements overcome internal divisions and gain political influence. Tormos-Aponte’s work has appeared in Politics, Groups, and IdentitiesEnvironmental Policy and Governance, Alternautas, PS – Political Science & Politics, and in the edited volumes The Legacy of Second-Wave Feminism in American Politics and Gendered Mobilization and Intersectional Challenges.


Dr. Blake Francis


Dr. Blake Francis is an ethicist and political philosopher, working to shape a better picture of the moral landscape of climate change. Should nations be held responsible for their emissions? Should major emitters of greenhouse gases make reparations for their actions? In his dissertation,  “Wrongful Harm by Emitting: Individual and Collective Agents in the Context of Climate Change,” Blake argues that by emitting greenhouse gases some nations do wrongful harm that they ought to be held accountable for. In his current research, he considers the question of when nations’ emissions are morally justified. He is working to develop a moral framework for comparing the harmful effects of anthropogenic climate change with the benefits of current energy systems. Blake earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Stanford University. He has degrees in philosophy from Northern Arizona University (BA) and University of Montana (MA), where he also studied Forestry and Conservation. Before graduate school, Blake worked in wilderness management and trail construction with the US Forest Service in Arizona and Alaska.


Dr. Emily Perez


Dr. Emily Yoon Perez earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Maryland, College Park. She earned her M.A. in Humanities with a concentration in Literary Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas and her B.A. in English from Johns Hopkins University. Her research investigates transnational formations of race as represented in minority U.S. literatures, expanding the scope of American literature and American understandings of race from the national to the global. Her book project focuses on the migrations and intimacies of minority subjects, bringing together transnational literary studies, comparative racialization studies, postcolonial theory, and ethnic studies.

Cohort IV, 2017-2019

Dr. Lisa Cassell


Now Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UMBC

Dr. Lisa Cassell received her PhD in philosophy from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in May 2017, having done both her undergraduate and masters degrees in Canada.  She wrote her dissertation on the normative structure of Bayesian epistemology.  She is currently working on two new projects, both of which expand upon some of the themes from her dissertation.  In one, she considers the relation between synchronic and diachronic rationality on the Bayesian framework.  In the other, she provides a novel way of understanding the structure of diachronic coherence on the Bayesian framework.   Her longterm project is to provide an account of the normativity of logic.


Dr. René Esparza

American Studies 

Now Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at University of Washington

Dr. René Esparza earned his PhD and MA in American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. His primary research interests consist of examining the racial and sexual politics of neoliberal urban social formations. His primary research interests consist of interrogating the racial and sexual politics of neoliberal urban social formations. Currently, René is working on a book manuscript, From Vice to Nice: Race, Sex, and the Gentrification of AIDS, which tracks the agency of AIDS housing activists and gay rights litigators in shaping urban politics in the 1980s vis-à-vis the racialization of public health discourses and practices. Using multiple methods, including archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, and discourse analysis, René argues that public health constructions of normative gender, sexuality, and domestic space became powerfully intertwined with the private housing market so that both seemingly disparate institutions promoted the economically prosperous potential of post-industrial inner-cities as centers of commerce and tourism. René’s second major project surveys the transnational nature of Latinx AIDS activism, comparing how the politics of racialization and the substantive inequalities of U.S. citizenship and immigration law shaped the particular histories of Chicana/o/x activists in Los Angeles and Puerto Rican activists in New York City. René’s teaching interests include comparative race and ethnic studies, queer of color critique, women of color feminism, LGBT history, and urban politics, histories, and discourses.


Dr. Erika Fountain


Now Assistant Professor of Psychology at UMBC

Dr. Erika Fountain earned her Ph.D. in Psychology with a concentration in Human Development and Public Policy from Georgetown University.  Dr. Fountain uses both quantitative and qualitative methods and takes an interdisciplinary approach to examine how adolescents and their families navigate the justice system. Specifically, she incorporates developmental and community psychology, law, and public policy to answer questions about legal decision making, court process, and attorney-client-family relationships. Additionally, Dr. Fountain’s work explores how developmental science is used in developing evidence-based juvenile justice policy. As a postdoctoral fellow, she will publish manuscripts from her dissertation where she explored the juvenile plea bargain decision making process through interviews with justice-involved youth, their parents, and juvenile defense attorneys. She will also begin several mixed-methods projects to further explore the experiences of adolescents in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.


Dr. Chris Hawn

Geography and Environmental Systems 

Now Assistant Professor of Geography and Environmental Sciences at UMBC

Dr. Chris Hawn’s areas of focus include conservation ecology, citizen science, environmental justice, trophic ecology, landscape ecology. Their recent research activities include detecting pharmaceuticals and personal care products in urban riparian spiders and their effects on density, prey availability, and behavior; air quality monitoring using spider webs; environmental justice concerns of houseless populations, and the effects of corridors on food web subsidies in green lynx spiders


Dr. Adanna Kai Jones 


Now Assistant Professor of Dance at Bowdoin College 

Dr. Adanna Kai Jones received her Ph.D. in Critical Dance Studies at the University of California, Riverside, and her BFA in Dance from Mason Gross School of the Arts—Rutgers University. She has performed in professional dance companies based in NYC, including the Julia Ritter Performance Group and Souloworks with Andrea E. Woods. And in general, her research remains focused on Caribbean dance and identity politics within the Diaspora, paying particular focus to the rolling hip dance known as winin’. With regards to her own creative pursuits, she has choreographed dance-theater pieces that were not only based on her research but were also used as tools for generating more research questions. In July 2015, she choreographed “Wine & Tales” in Port of Spain, Trinidad, which was presented by New Waves! 2015 and the Dancing While Black Performance Lab. And in May 2016, she performed “Rum & Coke” in New York City at Field Studies 2016. Both performances were rooted in her ethnographic fieldwork on the wine and Caribbean Carnivals within the US. Starting this Fall (2018), she will be an Assistant Professor of Dance in the Department of Theater and Dance at Bowdoin College. Her latest research project uses multi-sited, transnational ethnography to track the ways in which Caribbean choreographers play an integral role in the support and preservation of contemporary Caribbean identity politics within the US.

Dr. Camee Maddox-Wingfield

Sociology, Anthropology and Health Administration and Policy

Now Assistant Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Health Administration and Policy at UMBC

Camee Maddox-Wingfield, Ph.D. earned her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Florida.  Her ethnographic research interests center on cultural activism and identity formation in Caribbean and African diaspora dance communities, with a primary focus on the French Caribbean.  As a dance ethnographer, she is particularly interested in the various ways that dance expression intersects with spirituality, emotional health, and wellness in communities suffering from colonial and/or racial oppression. She is also interested in how dance becomes an expression of protest, resistance and solidarity.

As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Maddox-Wingfield will work on a book project that examines the interrelationship among dance, spiritual orientation, and well-being in Martinique’s bèlè tradition.  This project is being developed along with a curated virtual exhibition that will serve as a multimedia companion to the book, promoting wider public engagement with digital scholarship on performative cultural traditions.  She will also continue making progress on aspects of her research that engage bèlè performance from Black feminist perspectives to analyze the impact of the bèlè tradition on individual women’s lives.


Dr. Noor Zaidi


Now Assistant Professor of History at UMBC

Dr. Noorzehra Zaidi is a scholar of Middle Eastern History with a specialization in Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan. Her current research focuses on the construction of sacred space in Shia Islam. After completing her dissertation on the development of sacredness in Syria and Pakistan, she has shifted her studies to Iraq. After the collapse of the Saddam regime, Iraq worked to create a new identity, positioning itself at the center of the Shia world. Dr. Zaidi’s research covers this transformation, working to understand the effects of these changes on faith and culture. At present, she is working on a series of oral histories from Iraqi political prisoners for her upcoming book.

Cohort III, 2015-2017

Dr.Keisha Keisha McIntosh Allen


Now Assistant Professor of Education at UMBC 


Dr. Keisha McIntosh Allen, alumna of Hampton University, received her Ed.D. from Teachers College at Columbia University in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching. She engages in critical research across the fields of curriculum theory, cultural studies, and teacher education. Specifically, she is interested in the ways in which existing knowledge systems support or constrain historically marginalized students’, particularly Black male youths’, opportunities to learn. Through the lenses of identities-in-practice and critical race theory, she examines the ways in which youth’s identities are supported and constrained by Discourses such as curricula and the ways in which asset-based,culturally sustaining pedagogies influence how youth view themselves as learners and critically engaged members of society. She also theorizes how the knowledge systems teachers operate within support their identities as anti-racist, critical educators.


Dr. Nkiru NnawuleziNkiru

Now Assistant Professor of Psychology at UMBC 


Dr. Nkiru Nnawulezi earned her Ph.D. in Ecological-Community Psychology from Michigan State University. Her interdisciplinary program of research broadly integrates empowerment theory, organizational behavior theories, intersectionality, and the social-ecological model in order to understand the factors that promote or hinder the well-being of survivors who experience gender-based violence. She is primarily interested in exploring how social identity and culture influence Black women survivors’ disclosure and help-seeking practices, as well as determining ways to improve how formal support systems and communities respond to survivors. Dr. Nnawulezi has secondary research interests in organizational diversity and inclusion, critical pedagogy, white racial identity, program evaluation and transformative mixed-methods. As a postdoctoral fellow, she plans to publish manuscripts from her dissertation exploring how the construction of domestic violence shelter contexts contributes to survivor empowerment. She will also begin a new collaborative projects examining violence against Black women.


MejDr. Mejdulene Shomali

Now Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at UMBC 

Gender and Women’s Studies


Mejdulene B. Shomali received her PhD in American Culture at the University of Michigan.  She received her master’s degree in Women’s Studies from The Ohio State University and her bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy from The University of Michigan, Flint. Her research investigates the representation of femininity and sexuality in Arab and Arab American literature, art, and film. Her book project focuses on three prominent icons of transnational Arab culture: the storyteller Scheherazade, the belly dancer Samia Gamal, and the revolutionary Leila Khaled. Currently, Mejdulene is developing two articles for publication and designing a new Gender and Women’s Studies course for the Spring 2016 term, titled “Trans/national Femininities.”

Cohort II, 2013-2015


Sibaja_RwanyDr. Rwany Sibaja

Now Assistant Professor of History and Director of History and Secondary Education at Appalachian State University 


Dr. Rwany Sibaja received his Ph.D. in History at George Mason University (Fairfax, VA). His research interests focus on the cultural history of 20th-century Argentina, particularly with the role of sports in shaping notions of collective identity. Dr. Sibaja’s secondary interests reside with the role of digital tools in the teaching, learning, and writing of history. As a postdoctoral fellow at UMBC, he continues to investigate how soccer, or fútbol, allows us to understand the larger social issues and debates of the 1950s and 1960s — a period of rapid transformation and political divisiveness. Currently, Dr. Sibaja is developing various writing projects that stem from his dissertation. He will be presenting papers at Latin American and sports conferences this academic year, and he will also conduct a research trip to Buenos Aires that will shed light on the state’s influence over professional fútbol in Argentina between 1946 and 1978.


Thomas_EvelynDr. Evelyn Kamaria Thomas

Mathematics and Statistics

Now Owner, Peace of the Pi

Dr. Evelyn Kamaria Thomas, an alumna of Spelman College, received her Ph.D. from Howard University in the Department of Mathematics. Her research interests lie in mathematical biology; specifically, the modeling of sexually transmitted diseases and social/sexual behavior. Her work is a mixture of analytical techniques from classical epidemiological modeling involving dynamical systems, new modeling techniques, and numerical simulations. As a postdoctoral fellow at UMBC, Dr. Thomas has continued her research in these areas and has submitted an article for publication entitled, “Analysis of SI Models With Multiple Interacting Populations Using Subpopulations with Forcing Terms”. Currently, she is working on the publication of additional articles and seeking out new problems that address the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in homosexually mixing populations.


Hunt_KaraDr. Kara N. Hunt

Media and Communication Studies

Now Director of Education & Outreach, Maryland Commission on Civil Rights 

Dr. Kara N. Hunt received her Ph.D. in Culture and Theory from the University of California, Irvine. She situates her work at the intersection of humor studies, Black studies, and visual studies. Her dissertation investigates the relationship between humor and modern conceptions of humanity in order to intervene on the criteria driving evaluations of race and gender. As a postdoctoral fellow at UMBC, Dr. Hunt will finalize her book manuscript, and also pose critical inquiries to the book project visually by means of a documentary film.

Cohort I, 2011-2013

Arvenita Washington CherryDr. Arvenita Washington Cherry

Language, Literacy & Culture and Africana Studies

Now Professorial Lecturer of Anthropology at American University 

Dr. Washington Cherry received a B.S. in biology and an M.A.T. in Middle/Secondary Biology from Hampton University. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Studies from Johns Hopkins University. She also earned an M.A. in Public Anthropology and a Ph.D. in Anthropology with a concentration in Race, Gender, and Social Justice from The American University. As an educational and socio-cultural anthropologist, Dr. Washington Cherry’s research explores the rich diversity of the African Diaspora, with a special focus on people from the Caribbean and Latin America now in the United States in areas highly populated with African Americans and in public school settings. Her dissertation research is entitled Reading, Writing, and Racialization: The Social Construction of Blackness in Prince George’s County Public Schools.

viviano1Dr. Viviana MacManus

Gender & Women’s Studies

Now Non-Tenure Track Assistant Professor, Critical Theory and Social Justice at Occidental College 

Formally Assistant Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at UMBC

Dr. Viviana MacManus received her Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego in the Department of Literature. Her research interests lie in 20th-century Latin American literary and cultural studies, and critical gender studies. Dr. MacManus’ work centers on transnational Latin American state violence, gender politics, the politics of memory and the politics of human rights. As a postdoctoral fellow at UMBC, Dr. MacManus has continued her research in these areas and has submitted an article for publication entitled, ” ‘We are not victims, we are protagonists of this history’: Latin American Gender Violence and the Limits of Women’s Rights as Human Rights.” Currently, she is conducting research for an upcoming research trip to Mexico City, where she will interview women who were former participants in the guerrilla movements during Mexico’s “Dirty War.”