Powering-Up Faculty Prestige

Acclaimed scientists, writers and economics experts are among distinguished scholars who joined the faculty last fall as CUNY as well as York College, continues to raise its profile as a magnet for high academic achievers.
Powering-Up Faculty Prestige

Mandë Holford is assistant professor of chemistry at York. Her Ph.D., in synthetic protein chemistry, is from Rockefeller University.

“CUNY’s top priority continues to be the hiring of more full-time faculty, the lifeblood of the University,” Chancellor Matthew Goldstein said. “We are fulfilling that mission, further enriching the high quality and value of a CUNY education.”

“It is most inspiring to contemplate the contributions that these stellar scholars and researchers will offer our University,” said Alexandra W. Logue, Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and University Provost. “As teachers, they will offer our students exceptional instruction, mentoring and guidance. As scholars, they will further enrich the vital intellectual and artistic contributions and collaborations already taking place among their faculty colleagues.”

A significant number of new hires reflect the University’s commitment to the CUNY Decade of Science (2005-2015), a wide-ranging initiative to position CUNY at the forefront of research. They include Charles Vörösmarty, an expert on freshwater resources, who will direct the water and environmental sensing laboratory at the Advanced Science Research Center, which broke ground this fall at City College. Vörösmarty, who joins the civil engineering faculty at CCNY’s Grove School of Engineering, will develop computer models and geospatial data sets to analyze the water cycle’s interaction with climate, biogeochemistry and human activities. Vörösmarty comes from the University of New Hampshire’s Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space.

At York College, Mandë Holford, new assistant professor of chemistry, hopes to develop a lab where researchers will reconstruct the evolutionary history of venomous marine gastropods (cone snails, terebrids and turrids), studying their toxins as biochemical tools for characterizing cellular communication in the nervous system, and as potential drug development targets. Her Ph.D., in synthetic protein chemistry, is from Rockefeller University.

Another science star hired this fall is Alan Lyons, professor of chemistry at The Graduate Center and at College of Staten Island, where he co-directs the Center for Engineered Polymer Materials. At Bell Labs (Alcatel-Lucent), Lyons was a leading innovator of manufacturing technologies for electronic components; his work was responsible for new products and for improvements yielding over $30 million in savings. As a founding member of Bell Labs Ireland, Alcatel-Lucent’s newest research lab, he established a group of young scientists to research thermal management and other energy-efficient technologies. His Ph.D. in polymer chemistry is from Polytechnic University.

Associate professor Daniel Kabat, moving to Lehman College from Columbia University, is a theoretical physicist studying modifications to Einstein’s theory of gravity, which could account for the increasingly rapid expansion in the present-day universe. He has a Ph.D. in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology; much of his research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. 

Physicist Chiaki Yanagisawa, assistant professor of science at Borough of Manhattan Community College, researches particle astrophysics, in particular neutrino physics and its oscillation, proton decays, and cosmic rays. His international collaborations have led to the discovery of the particle gluon, of top quark (sixth and last ingredient of matter) and of neutrino oscillation. His Ph.D. is from the University of Tokyo.

Accomplished writers joining CUNY this fall include Amy Hempel, who heads Brooklyn College’s M.F.A. program in fiction writing. A Guggenheim fellow who has penned more than 50 short stories, a novella and many articles, Hempel succeeds Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Cunningham. “Michael and I are very much in line in thinking about fiction, teaching and what works best,” she said, “so it’s not like people will arrive and find something they don’t recognize.” Hempel, who plans to incorporate more poetry and playwriting into the program, has taught at Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, The New School and Princeton.

Francine Prose, author of more than 20 books of fiction and nonfiction, is Baruch College’s Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence for fall 2008. Her works include the just-published novel Goldengrove, novels Blue Angel and A Changed Man, volumes on gluttony and the painter Caravaggio, and books for children and young adults. A contributor to The New York Times, New York Review of Books, The New Yorker and other journals, Prose, president of PEN American Center, has received many grants and awards and has taught at The New School, Harvard, Iowa Writers Workshop, and as a distinguished visiting writer at Bard.

The academic interests of a number of new faculty members resonate with contemporary concerns, from ethnic strife to financial markets to social issues.

Sara Schechter has been appointed distinguished lecturer, law and paralegal studies at New York City College of Technology, after 25 years as a Family Court judge and 20 as an adjunct professor at City Tech. “Teaching, with its focus on positive futures for the students, was an antidote to my judicial function of presiding over lives unraveling,” explains Schechter, who recalls teaching her course “Law Through Literature,” on Sept. 12, 2001: “Seventeen of the 23 students managed to make it to class that night, and the session was a celebration of our survival and our freedom to learn together.” The author of the textbook New York Family Law, Second Edition, Schechter has supervised foster care and adoption litigation for the city Human Resources Administration. A former foster child herself, in 1999 she was the first judge to sit in New York City’s Model Court, a federally funded project designed to expedite permanency for children within Family Court jurisdiction. At City Tech, she teaches law and English courses.

Jonathan Engel, professor of public affairs at Baruch College, and associate dean of the School of Public Affairs, specializes in healthcare issues; he is working on a book that examines changes in health care delivery since 1970. He wrote The Epidemic: A History of AIDs, and just published American Therapy: The Rise of Psychotherapy in the United States. “Most psychotherapy today has a strong teaching component," helping people negotiate difficult situations in a way that promotes healthy functioning, he points out. Classic Freudian psychoanalysis, he adds, is “dead," except as a chapter in the history of ideas. His Ph.D. in history and M.B.A are both from Yale.

Considered one of the nation’s top demographers, Richard Alba, distinguished professor of sociology at The Graduate Center, specializes in the sociology and demography of migration, race and ethnicity and urban sociology. With CUNY colleague Nancy Foner, he is working on a book comparing incorporation of immigrants and their children in North America, and Western Europe. Professor Alba comes to the Graduate Center from SUNY Albany, where he directed the Center for Social and Demographic Analysis and the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research. His Ph.D. is from Columbia University.

Bojana Blagojevic, assistant professor of political science at LaGuardia Community College, emigrated to the U.S. from Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1996 to continue her war-interrupted education. Once here, her educational trajectory was swift, from the GED and high school diploma she earned in 1997, to her associate degree from Union County (N.J.) College in 1998 to her Rutgers University (Douglass College) B.A. in 2000, to her Rutgers Ph.D. in global affairs in 2004. Her research interests include causes of war, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Her latest scholarly article “Peacebuilding in Ethnically Divided Societies" was published in Peace Review in October 2007. Non-scholarly publications include a book of poems written during the war in Serbo-Croatia.

In economics-related fields, new faculty include Anne Zissu, an expert on mortgage and asset-backed securities, as associate professor and chair of business at New York City College of Technology. Founding editor of The Financier and The Securitization Conduit, she comes to City Tech after 20 years at Temple University and remains a visiting professor at University Paris-Dauphine. With her husband, Charles Stone, she has co-authored The Securitization Markets Handbook: Structures and Dynamics of Mortgage- and Asset-Backed Securities, three books on global securities, and one on the European market. Zissu has a patent pending for a method of modeling and computing the risks of investing in senior life settlements, contracts that transfer a life insurance policy from the insured (settler) to a life settlement company. Her economics Ph.D. is from The Graduate Center.

Gene Park, assistant professor of political science at Baruch, studies the political economy of Japan — how the Japanese finance their state, tax and use public funds. He also examines why Japan has recently become a debtor country. His book Taxation Without Spending: Financing the Japanese State, the Fiscal Investment Loan Program and the Politics of Public Spending is under review for publication. His new work will contrast Japan’s political economy with other industrially developed nations’. Park holds a Ph.D. from Berkeley

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