Muhlenberg College welcomes new faculty for the 2018-19 academic year

Seventeen new faculty members represent a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise.

 Friday, August 31, 2018 03:35 PM

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New faculty hires for the 2018-19 academic year include, left to right, front row: Crystal Adams, Sara Vigneri, Ross Dardani, Mark Emerick. Middle row: Elena Fitzpatrick Sifford, Jacqueline Antonovich, Ellen Rackas, Vincent Trovato. Back row: Kathleen Conn, Silvia Porello, James VanValen, Emanuela Kucik. Not pictured: Brian Kell, Rebecca Lustig, Ethan Philbrick, Jon Reimer, Brooke Vick.

Muhlenberg College welcomed 17 new faculty members for the 2018-19 school year.

This distinguished group of faculty joins us from a wide variety of backgrounds and brings with them a breadth of expertise—ranging from medical and environmental sociology to the influences of the Supreme Court on American politics, from Japanese theater to contemporary African American literature, and from computer science to Latin American art history.

Learn more about our new faculty:

Crystal Adams, assistant professor of sociology

Crystal Adams joins the Muhlenberg faculty from the University of Miami where she taught courses on medical sociology and social epidemiology. Adams received a Ph.D. in sociology from Brown University in 2012, and an M.PH from the Harvard School of Public Health. Her research and teaching interests include medical sociology, environmental sociology, global health, and community-based participatory research. 

Jacqueline Antonovich, assistant professor of history

Jacqueline Antonovich specializes in the history of medicine and politics in the United States. Her current writing projects include a book manuscript on women physicians and medical imperialism in the American West, and an article on the public health politics of the Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Colorado. She is also the co-founder and executive editor of Nursing Clio, a peer-reviewed blog project that ties historical scholarship to present-day issues related to gender, health, and medicine. Antonovich holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan and a M.A. in history and women’s studies from the University of Wyoming.

Kathleen Conn, visiting assistant professor of public health

Kathleen Conn, whose specialty is Education Law, has been a part-time lecturer at Muhlenberg for three years and served as Of Counsel to the KingSpry Law Firm in Bethlehem. Prior to that she taught at the Graduate Education program at Neumann University. She received her M.A. in biophysics from UCLA and her interdisciplinary Ph.D. in physics/biology from Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She received her J.D. and L.L.M. from Widener University School of Law in Delaware. She completed a post doc at Lankenau Medical Research Center studying cancer metastasis.

Ross Dardani, visiting assistant professor of political science

Ross Dardani earned his undergraduate degree at SUNY New Paltz and his Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut in the fields of public law and political theory. His research and teaching interests include law and society, constitutional law, critical race theory, U.S. government and American political thought. He studies how the Supreme Court influences American politics, the manifold ways law matters to ordinary citizens, and the societal forces that shape the U.S legal system. He has a particular focus on how the Supreme Court’s decisions involving race relations are influenced by the larger structural forces of U.S. society. His dissertation examines legal histories of U.S. citizenship legislation for the Pacific unincorporated territories (Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), exploring questions about the interactions between citizenship and territory. He has interned at the clerk’s office of the Supreme Court of the United States and worked at the American Bar Association.

Mark Emerick, visiting lecturer in education

Mark Emerick has been a part-time lecturer in the English Department since 2011. He has also been an adjunct instructor at Lehigh University and Temple University. Mark has his M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction as well as a B.A. in English, both from Kutztown University. He is expected to complete his Ph.D. in education with a concentration in applied linguistics from Temple in 2019.  He began his career as a high school and middle school ESL teacher in the Allentown School District.

Brian Kell, visiting lecturer in computer science

After earning degrees in biochemical engineering from UC Berkeley and MIT, and in computer science from SUNY Albany, Kell worked in technical and management positions in several start-up and early-stage companies in the biopharmaceutical, computational science, and information management industries. Previously, he was a member of the faculty of Wake Forest University and taught at the University of Richmond and Randolph-Macon College.

Emanuela Kucik, assistant professor of English and Africana studies

Emanuela Kucik earned her PhD and MA at Princeton and her BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a scholar of twentieth-century and contemporary African American, American, and African Literature(s), and specializes in Genocide Studies, African Diaspora and Global Black Studies, and Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies. Among her current projects, she is developing her dissertation, Black Genocides and the Visibility Paradox in Post-Holocaust African American and African Literature, into a book manuscript. She is especially interested in how the term "genocide" has been used in relation to Black communities in Post-Holocaust Era writing. While at Princeton, she also taught literature and history at Ewing High School, as part of the Princeton University Preparatory Program, dedicated to helping students from lower-income backgrounds gain admittance to and financial assistance for colleges and universities across the country.

Rebecca Lustig, assistant professor of theatre / costume design

A California native, Rebecca Lustig earned her B.A. in theatre at the University of California, Santa Cruz and her M.FA. in costume design at the University of California, San Diego. Rebecca spent nearly a decade in New York City working as a freelance costume designer off-broadway and at regional theatres including the Philadelphia Theatre Company, the Asolo Repertory Theatre, and the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. During her time in New York she also was the assistant/associate designer on several Broadway and London shows, including all the North American productions of Billy Elliot, Paradise Found in London, and Candide at the New York City Opera. For the past six years she has been an assistant professor of costume design at James Madison University in Virginia.

Ethan Philbrick, visiting assistant professor of theatre

Ethan Philbrick is a performer and writer based in Brooklyn. He has recently performed original work in New York at Abrons Arts Center, BRIC, Dixon Place, Grey Art Gallery, SculptureCenter, and NYU Skirball, and his writing has been published in The Drama Review, Movement Research Performance Journal, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Studies in Gender and Sexuality, and Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory. Ethan holds a Ph.D. in performance studies from New York University, where his dissertation received the Monroe Lippman Memorial Award for Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation. Before joining the faculty at Muhlenberg, he taught in the MFA program in Performance and Performance Studies at Pratt Institute and in the Performance Studies program at New York University.

Silvia Porello, lecturer of chemistry

Silvia Porello earned her B.S. in clinical biochemistry from the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina, and her Ph.D. in biological chemistry from the University of Utah. Porello has more than 10 years of teaching and mentoring experience from, among others, Bryn Mawr College and Swarthmore College.  She has taught a wide-range of chemistry courses across the sub-disciplines, and has experience in curriculum development, planning and implementation. Porello is also passionate about creating an inclusive classroom and has pioneered initiatives implementing online learning and digital pedagogies. Porello will teach primarily in our general chemistry program, leading the coordination of the laboratory sequence with an eye toward innovation and enhancing student engagement.  

Ellen Rackas, assistant professor of accounting

Ellen Rackas has more than 25 years accounting, auditing, and tax-related industry experience, including 10 years as an accounting instructor at nearby Delaware Valley University, and 14 years as an independent consultant. Over the course of her career, she has worked with Raffa & Associates and Harman International Industries, Inc., and has held roles as a finance manager, audit manager, controller, and CFO. Rackas received her accounting from American University in Washington DC and her MBA from the University of Maryland. She holds CPA designations in both Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Jon Reimer, visiting lecturer in theatre

Jon Reimer, who is is teaching Japanese and Asian Theatre this year, received his B.A. in theatre with a minor in Asian studies from Muhlenberg in 2006. Currently a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the joint Ph.D. Program of the Department of Theatre & Dance at UC San Diego and the Department of Drama at UC Irvine, Reimer lived abroad in Japan for seven years, during which time he worked primarily with Tokyo International Players (TIP) as a director, performer, and member of their Board of Governors. Reimer's research interests include traditional and modern Japanese performance, Meisner-based acting techniques, and cross-cultural theatre. He is specifically interested in interculturalized Japanese theatre and its relevance amongst international perspectives of queer performance.

Elena Fitzpatrick Sifford, assistant professor of art history

Elena (Ellie) Fitzpatrick Sifford earned her Ph.D. in art history at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she specialized in Latin American and Renaissance art, and her B.A. in art history and African-American studies at Oberlin College. She was most recently an assistant professor of art history at Louisiana State University. Prior to that, she taught at Pratt Institute and Lehman College (CUNY) in New York City. Fitzpatrick Sifford’s current research examines the representation and reception of African subjects in colonial Latin American visual culture, and she has two articles forthcoming on this topic. Her book in progress has the working title Visualities of the Black Body in Spanish Viceregal Art.

Vincent Trovato, staff accompanist, music department

Vincent Trovato has conducted over 40 area productions for the Muhlenberg Summer Theatre, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Company, DeSales University and Civic Theatre. He first joined Muhlenberg in 1995, when he served as conductor for the Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre. He joined the Music Department in 2006 and now, in addition to accompanying, he teaches piano, encouraging his students to explore the different styles of music that interest them.  He also coaches Musica da Camera, the student Chamber Music Ensemble, teaches conducting and collaborates with colleagues and students on recitals and various department music events. In 2012, Trovato made his conducting debut with the Pennsylvania Sinfonia Orchestra offering a program of Broadway and Operetta. He received a B.M. in composition from Boston University. 

James VanValen, visiting assistant professor of theatre

Jim VanValen spent nine years at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa where he was an associate professor of theatre and head of the acting program. He has taught courses in scene and monologue study, voice and movement, Meisner, and auditioning and careers. He studied Shakespeare and voice and text training with Patsy Rodenburg OBE and received his Meisner Teaching Certification through the True Acting Institute. As a professional actor, VanValen spent three years with the Barter Theatre and has performed throughout the country in top regional theatres.

Sara Vigneri, lecturer in media and communications

Sara Vigneri is a journalist with over 20 years-experience as an editorial researcher and fact-checker for books, magazines, and websites. She has taught Journalistic Traditions at Muhlenberg since 2013 and has advised the Muhlenberg Weekly for the past three years. For the second year, she will also be teaching magazine writing and publishing her students’ work in the Berg Beat magazine.

In addition, as announced previously, Brooke Vick joined Muhlenberg in July as associate provost for faculty and diversity initiatives. She was awarded tenure as an associate professor of psychology during the October 2018 Board of Trustees meeting.