Cohort VI, 2021-2023
Sociology, Anthropology, and Public Health
Dr. Mercedez D. Dunn earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan. Additionally, she holds a M.P.H. in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan and a B.A. in Sociology from Spelman College. Her primary research interests lie at the intersection of gender, race, class, relationships, and sexual health inequity. She is particularly in the ways young Black Americans confront intersectional inequities in their sexual lives. Her dissertation, “Respectability, Responsibility, and Resistance: Heterosexual HBCU Women’s Negotiations of Sexuality, Romance, and Sexual Health,” examines how Black collegiate women’s sexual and romantic pursuits both challenge and reinforce existing social hierarchies.
During her postdoctoral appointment, Mercedez will work on an ethnographic project that examines how ideology around race, class, and sexuality inform HBCUs’ institutional policy, practice, and sexual landscapes and expand her current research on the sexual and romantic experiences of HBCU women.
Tahir Hemphill is a creative technologist whose practice investigates the role systems play in the generation of form and the role collaborative knowledge production plays in the resilience of communities. These influences are synthesized into his current creative pursuits at the Rap Research Lab, a community-based creative technology studio that uses a Hiphop framework to develop new ways for people to engage with data and culture. Rap Research Lab builds on Hiphop’s legacy as a transformative and innovative genre that revolutionized global cultural practices by pioneering new, 21st century digital forms by harnessing big data, artificial intelligence, robotics, natural language processing, and social networks to create opportunities for cultural research, creative competition, individual expression, and collaborative problem solving. With wide use, our platforms reconstruct how the public understands, visualizes and engages data networks, and ignites student interest in STEM careers.
Tahir is the inaugural 2021 UMBC Faculty Diversity in the Arts Fellow, 4th Chair in Education at the Library of Congress, 2019 Verizon 5G EdTech Challenge winner, 2019 Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media Studies Fellow, 2018 LACMA Art + Technology Lab Grantee, 2017 Autodesk Pier 9 Artist-in-Residence, 2016 Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Behavioral Science Resident, 2016 Spotify Media Artist-in-Residence, 2015 National Endowment of the Arts Art Works Grantee, 2012 Fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, 2012 Creative Capital Awardee, and 2010-2012 Eyebeam Artist-in-Residence. Tahir’s work is featured in the Talk to Me exhibit at MoMA which explores design and the communication between people and objects.
Cohort V, 2019-2021
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 Identities, Environmental 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.
Now Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UMBC
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.
Now Assistant Professor of English at UMBC
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Now Assistant Professor of Dance at Bowdoin College
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.
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
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 Nnawulezi
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.
Dr. 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
Now Associate Professor of History and Director 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.
Mathematics and Statistics
Now Assistant Professor at Norfolk State University
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.
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
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.
Gender & Women’s Studies
Now Assistant Professor, Spanish and French Studies, 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.”