Talented New Faculty Welcomed to The City University of New York

November 14, 2013 | The University

An award-winning mathematician who solved a problem that puzzled mathematicians for decades, the winner of a prestigious Young Scientist Award from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the leading historians of Africa, a filmmaker who is one of the outstanding European directors of her generation, a historian of modern Southeast Asia, and an authority on Rabbinic Civilization and Classical Judaism are among talented new faculty welcomed to The City University of New York this fall.

Other new CUNY faculty include a specialist in plant molecular biology who holds a provisional patent to produce a substance important for visual health in bacterial cells, an authority on comparative and international criminal justice, a scholar of Caribbean and post-Colonial literature, an expert on immigration law and civil rights, and a media expert with a distinguished career in TV production, directing and screenwriting.

Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly stated: “We are delighted to welcome thisimpressive group of faculty to CUNY. They include leading scholars, researchers and teachers in a host of fields, ranging from the sciences and architecture to engineering, mathematics, the humanities, the arts, the social sciences, public health, business administration and environmental studies. The past decade has seen a dramatic increase of more than 2,000 full-time faculty at the University, which has played a major role in strengthening CUNY’s core academic areas. This group of talented faculty will further enhance the quality of teaching, research and scholarship at The City University of New York.”

Among the new CUNY faculty are:

Jeremy Kahn, who has made a name for himself for his elegant and original solutions to several deep and long-standing problems, has joined the CUNY Graduate Center as a Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. Kahn recently solved, with Vladimir Markovic of Caltech, the “Ehrenpreis conjecture,” which many mathematicians had worked on for decades. Kahn and Markovic were honored with the 2012 Clay Research Award by the Clay Mathematics Institute.

One of Kahn’s fields is hyperbolic geometry, the whole idea of which, he said, “is that the parallel lines do not maintain a constant distance as they do in Euclidean geometry. The lines remain straight, but the space where the lines are is curved.” Kahn’s research in another field, complex dynamics, drew this statement from Curt McMullen of Harvard: “… his work with [Mikhail] Lyubich…represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in complex dynamics in the past decade.” Dennis Sullivan, the Graduate Center’s Einstein Professor, credits Kahn with having “invented powerful…tools allowing him to solve difficult problems in unexpected ways which are published in the arguably premier math journal on the planet…three consecutive papers in the Annals of Mathematics.” A native New Yorker and the son of two CUNY graduates, Kahn graduated from Harvard with a degree in mathematics and earned his PhD from the University of California,Berkeley. He comes to the Graduate Center from Brown University, where he was a professor of mathematics.

Levi Waldron, assistant professor ofurban public health at Hunter College, received the Young Scientist Award from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center at the 2011 Systems Biology of Diversity in Cancer Symposium. He joins Hunter’s Epidemiology/Biostatistics Program from a post-doctoral fellowship at the Harvard School of Public Health and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. His research has focused on gene expression data for cancer biomarkers and metagenomic data from the Human Microbiome Project. He is a sought-after peer reviewer at numerous journals, including Nature, Cancer Research, PLoS ONE, and BMC Genomics. Dr. Waldron graduated from the University of British Columbia and earned his PhD at the University of Toronto.

Martina T. Nguyen, assistant professor of history at Baruch College’s Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, is a historian of modern Southeast Asia whose research focuses on colonialism, intellectual life and social and political reform in twentieth century Vietnam. Her current project, provisionally entitled The Self-Reliant Literary Group (Tu Luc Văn Đoàn): Colonial Modernism in Vietnam, 1932-1941, examines the historical landscape of 1930s French-occupied Vietnam, arguably the country’s most dynamic intellectual and cultural period, as a lens for examining the relationship between cultures of the metropole and colonized societies. She will teach a variety of classes on modern Asia, world history and colonialism, including classes on the Vietnam War, empire and decolonization, women and gender, and fashion. Professor Nguyen, who received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she earned a BA in history and political science.

Chantal Akerman, Distinguished Lecturer in media and communication arts at City College, is a filmmaker, writer, actor, producer and composer and one of the leading European directors of her generation. Her celebrated feature film, “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” (1975), was ranked number 36 in the British Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest motion pictures ever. With over 40 films to her credit — from 35mm features to video essays to experimental documentaries — her work has been shown at numerous international festivals.

David Brodsky, assistant professor of Judaic studies at Brooklyn College, was previously co-chair of the department of Rabbinic Civilization at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Prior to that, Brodsky was the Perlow Lecturer in Classical Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Brodsky’s research and publications focus on situating the Babylonian Talmud in its Christian Syriac, Zoroastrian Persian, and Greco-Roman contexts. He has taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Academy for Jewish Religion, and was recently a visiting scholar at New York University. Brodsky teaches courses on rabbinic literature and Second Temple Judaism. He received his BA in Classics from Wesleyan University, and his MA and PhD in Jewish Studies from NYU. He has studied in several yeshivot in Israel and the United States, including Yeshivat Or Etzion and the Telshe Yeshiva.

Rena Quinlan, a lecturer in Lehman College’s department of biological sciences, is a specialist in plant molecular biology and holds a provisional patent on “Cells and Methods of Producing Lutein.” Lutein is a carotenoid important for visual health in bacterial cells. Her research has been published in Plant Physiology and in Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, and sheteaches courses in biology, microbiology, genetics, anatomy and physiology, and molecular biology. Quinlan received her PhD in biology with a specialization in plant molecular biology from the CUNY Graduate Center, and her MA in biology and BA in communications and French from Lehman College.

Megan Vaughan, who has been appointed Distinguished Professor of History at the Graduate Center, is a fellow of both the British Academy and the Royal Historical Society and one of the most productive and innovative historians of Africa and comparative colonialism. Her five books are classics that resonate both within and beyond the academic world. The first four, published between 1981 and 1994, examine British Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Women Farmers of Malawi, coauthored with David Hirschmann; The Story of an African Famine; Curing their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness; and, coauthored with anthropologist Henrietta Moore, Cutting Down Trees, which won the Herskovits Prize from the African StudiesAssociation. Her fifth book, Creating the Creole Island: Slavery in Eighteenth-Century Mauritius (2005), won the 2005 Heggoy Book Prizefrom the French Colonial Historical Society. Vaughan has published a prodigious number of journal articles and chapters in edited books, serves on the editorial boards of several journals, and has organized major internationalconferences in both England and Africa. President of the African Studies Association (UK), she played a key role in building the programs of Africanstudies at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities and is highly respected for her contributions to the study of Africa in Africa itself. Vaughan earned her PhD in African history at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and comes to the Graduate Center from the University of Cambridge, where she has been Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History, a fellow of King’s College, and director of the Centre of African Studies.

Verónica Michel, assistant professor of political science at John Jay College, received a BA from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and a PhD from the University of Minnesota. Her research and teaching interests include comparative and international criminal justice, human rights, rule of law, norm diffusion, legal mobilization, andaccess to justice, with a regional focus on Latin America. She is working on how procedural rights of victims of crime impact access to justice in LatinAmerica. In addition, she is a team member of the Transitional Justice Project, a collaborative research endeavor funded by the British Arts and HumanitiesResearch Council and the National Science Foundation.

Natalie M. Léger, assistant professor of English at Queens College, received her PhD in English Literature from Cornell University. Prior to coming to Queens she completed an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Tufts University. Her primary research and teaching interests include Caribbean literature as well as post-Colonial literature and theory, with a particular emphasis on the historical narrative and poetics. Her scholarship and teaching interests also include the literature of the Black Diaspora, Haitian literature and culture, Black women writers and feminist theory, as well as tragedy and anti-blackness. She is completing a book manuscript concerning the theoretical and artistic importance of Haiti and the Haitian Revolution to the Caribbean literary imagination.

Nermeen Arastu has joined the CUNY School of Law’s Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic as a clinical law professor and supervising attorney. Her practice areas include immigration law, civil rights matters, and commercial litigation. Before joining CUNY Law, Arastu was a litigation associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, LLP and a staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), where she led the Immigrant Rights Program and Post-9/11 Civil Liberties Project. Through the course of her pro bono work at Simpson Thacher and tenure at AALDEF, Arastu managed an immigration docket that included deportation defense, suppression, asylum, citizenship and green card interviews and various other immigration processes. At AALDEF, she oversaw monthly immigration clinics in conjunction with various community-based organizations, litigated matters relating to zoning and houses of worship, addressed anti-Muslim bias in the immigration system, and advocated against racial and religious profiling and law enforcement surveillance. Arastu has also worked at the Legal Assistance Centre of Namibia and in the Immigrant Women Program at Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense) where she focused on policy relating to gender-based violence. Along with Diala Shamas, Arastu is a principal author of Mapping Muslims: NYPD Spying and Its Impact on American Muslims, a report produced byCUNY Law’s Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility project. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Bethany Jacobson, assistant professor of new media, comes to LaGuardia Community College with a 20-year career in media that includes television production, directing, screenwriting and college teaching. She has producedmagazine-style segments, corporate videos, PSAs and long-format documentaries, multi-camera shoots and reality television. Jacobson’s work has aired on PBS, MTV, WDR, Arte and ZDF.  She is working on a feature project, “Hotel Bleu,” which was one of 15 projects out of 350 submissions selected for the 2013 Cannes “Maison Des Scenarists,” an initiative to support screenwriters, and to connect screenwriters with producers. She has taught production and screenwriting courses at Brooklyn College, Hunter College, Pratt Institute, NYU’s Graduate Film Program and its School of Continuing Education.   Jacobson earned her BFA in photography/media from The Cooper Union and an MFA in film production from NYU.

Elys Vásquez-Iscan, who has joined Hostos Community College as assistant professor in the education department, received her EdD in health education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her scholarly interests include an online investigation of HIV/AIDS transmission prevention strategies of diverse sexually active young adults, and the examination of adaptive coping strategies in the ongoing era of HIV/AIDS. She previously taught at Brooklyn and Lehman Colleges.

Janet Esquirol, assistant professor of media arts and technology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, is an art director and educator who specializes in design, advertising and publishing, online and off. With multiple degrees in areas of art and technology, in motion graphics and user interface design, she brings an exceptional interdisciplinary range of experience to the classroom.

Pazrvi Kermani, professor in information technology, joins the Stella and Charles Guttman Community College with extensive industry experience and expertise in the field having previously worked with IBM and taught at UMass-Amherst and elsewhere.

About The City University of New York:
The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, theCUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health.   The University serves more than 270,000 degree-credit students and 218,083 adult, continuing and professional education students.College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of NewYork City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. Nearly 3 million unique visitors and 10 million page views are served each month via www.cuny.edu, the University’s website.

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