The College of Arts & Sciences Welcomes 16 New Faculty Members

The College of Arts & Sciences Welcomes 16 New Faculty Members

Dr. Glenn Sauer speaks at a podium to a group of faculty.

Glenn Sauer, PhD, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and theĀ Donald J. Ross Sr. Chair in Biology and Biochemistry

Despite challenges of the pandemic, the College welcomed 16 new, top-in-their-fields, tenure-track and visiting professors for the 2021-22 academic year.

The College of Arts and Sciences at Fairfield University is home to a vibrant community of engaged faculty, dedicated staff and budding scholars devoted to the process of invention and discovery, and excited by the prospect of producing knowledge in the service of others. Faculty members are experts in their fields and work closely with students to provide academic advice, individualized attention and career planning.

For the 2021-22 academic year, the College — the oldest of the University’s five schools and home to Fairfield’s Core Curriculum — welcomed 16 new faculty members into its ranks, each of whom has already begun contributing to the College’s values-inspired teaching and innovative faculty research that makes Fairfield unique.

“We’re excited because these new faculty colleagues represent a commitment by Fairfield University,” said Glenn Sauer, PhD, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Donald J. Ross Sr. Chair in Biology and Biochemistry, “to not only maintain, but to increase the numbers of high-quality full-time teaching faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences.”   

Dr. Sauer noted, too, that this is a “very difficult time for higher education nationwide” and that many institutions have been “reducing the number of full-time faculty,” but Fairfield has remained strong in face of the Covid pandemic.

“[Our faculty] represent new areas of knowledge and expertise that will enhance the learning opportunities for our students,” Dr. Sauer continued. “As our student body continues to grow, and the world continues to change, it’s important to grow our faculty to meet the challenges not only here at Fairfield, but in the world our students will graduate into.       

The College of Arts & Sciences is proud to welcome 16 new faculty members:

Carolina Añón Suárez, PhD 
Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures
PhD, University of Minnesota
Dr. Añón Suárez received her doctoral degree from the University of Minnesota in Hispanic and Lusophone Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics. Her dissertation focuses on memory and post-memory narratives of the post-dictatorship generation in Argentina. Dr. Añón Suárez’s research interests are memory studies, medical humanities, human rights, film studies, and gender studies. 

Sierre Bell, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology
PhD, Yale University
Dr. Bell earned her PhD in sociocultural anthropology from Yale in 2017. Her doctoral research was on right-wing grassroots activist communities in America, the role of conspiracy theories in those communities, and connections between the recent rise of conspiracy theories and changes in American society and politics related to neoliberalism. She also focuses on other topics, like global inequality and humanity’s apparent desire to make our planet uninhabitable.

Aaron Bentley, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy
BA, University of California, Davis
MA, San Francisco State University
PhD, City University of New York
Dr. Bentley brings to Fairfield specializations in philosophy of law, applied political philosophy, and philosophy of social science. He also has extensive teaching experience in these areas, and has held a CUNY grad center fellowship, served as a New York State Senate fellow, and been the recipient of an award for distinguished achievement. Dr. Bentley is looking forward to contributing to the Magis core, the Honors College, and the pre-law and public policy programs.

Michael Ciavaglia ’04, DMA
Visiting Assistant Professor of Music, Co-director of the Music Program, and Voice Instructor
BA, Fairfield University
MM, Temple University
DMA, Cincinnati Conservatory
Dr. Ciavaglia is also a frequent clinician and guest conductor of the Fairfield University Glee Club, and served as music director for Theatre Fairfield’s Covid-safe production of [title of show], broadcast live from the Quick Center for the Arts. Outside of the University, he is the artistic director of the Connecticut Chamber Choir, and has served on the music staffs of the New York Choral Society, Cincinnati Opera, Asheville Lyric Opera, and New York City’s On Site Opera, where he is chorus master. Through his work with On Site Opera, he directs a chorus composed of individuals who have experienced homelessness, both in annual productions of Amahl and the Night Visitors at New York City’s Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, and in concert choral performance at Breaking Ground, one of New York’s largest homeless service providers. He resides in Fairfield with his StagMate, John Primavera ’05, and their dog Daphne.

Kristin Culbertson, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy
BA, University of North Carolina at Asheville
MA, PhD, University of Connecticut
Dr. Culbertson received her doctoral degree in philosophy from UConn in August of 2021, specializing in ethics and Buddhist philosophy. She is am currently teaching “Introduction to Philosophy” and is enjoying her first semester at Fairfield. When off-campus, Dr. Culbertson likes to hike and forage for hickory nuts, black walnuts, and other wild foods with her husband Michael and their dog Annabelle. 

Patricia Cunningham MA'13, JD, LLM
Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics
BS, Brown University
MA, Fairfield University
JD, Harvard
LLM, New York University of Law
Dr. Cunningham received her BS in applied math and economics magna cum laude at Brown University, then went on to receive her JD degree com laude at Harvard and her LLM in Taxation at New York University of Law. She worked for many years as attorney and tax associate at firms in New York before returning to school to earn her master’s in mathematics at Fairfield University. Dr. Cunningham helped found and for over fifteen years has been on the board of directors and served in many different leadership and legal roles for the Tiny Miracles Foundation, a nonprofit assisting families of severely premature babies born in Fairfield County. She has served as an adjunct professor for the math department at Fairfield for many years, and is now joining the faculty as visiting assistant professor.  

Emily J. Hangen, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology
BA, University of Chicago
MA, PhD, University of Rochester
Dr. Hangen previously taught as a college fellow at Harvard University, as an instructor at Harvard Extension School, and as a statistics lecturer at Tufts University. While at Harvard, she was a postdoctoral member of the Stress & Development Lab. She earned her BA in psychology from the University of Chicago and her PhD in social-personality psychology from the University of Rochester. The overarching focus of Dr. Hangen’s research is understanding how social influences affect students’ approach and avoidance motivation, mental health, and academic achievement. Dr. Hangen has multiple years of teaching college-level psychology courses and has received various teaching awards including a Commendation for Extraordinary Teaching from the Office of Undergraduate Education and a Certificate of Teaching Excellence from The Derek Bok Center at Harvard University.

Rachel Heffner-Burns, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor of English
BA, Hamilton College
MA, Brooklyn College
PhD, Lehigh University
Dr. Heffner-Burns’ scholarship focuses primarily on religious influence in American poetry of the nineteenth century and modernist periods, with particular attention given to how theology and religious practice have impacted the verse of secular, social justice-focused poets. Dr. Heffner-Burns has also been designing and teaching introductory composition and rhetoric classes and literature and film courses for over a decade and is thrilled that her work as a faculty member in the Core Writing Program both extends and compliments her academic studies of literature and social justice.

Maryam Khalili, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry
PhD, University of Connecticut
Dr. Khalili received her PhD in Organic Chemistry from the University of Connecticut. Before coming to Fairfield, she was a faculty member at the University of New Haven. She has also taught at the University of Connecticut-Hartford campus, Eastern Connecticut State University, and Quinnipiac University. Mary is teaching “General Chemistry I” lecture and laboratory sections in the fall 2021 term.

Xavier Montecel
Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
PhD, Boston College (pending)
Mr. Montecel is scholar of Christian theological ethics, whose work focuses on the intersection of liturgy and the moral life. He is completing his doctoral work at Boston College, where he is writing a dissertation that explores the implications of Eucharistic theology and virtue theory for the field of liturgy and ethics. Mr. Montecel is a Latino scholar and a native of San Antonio, Tex. He is the product of a Jesuit education and lives in Southeastern Mass., with his husband Ryan, two dogs, and a flock of chickens.

Olivier J. C. Nicaise, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry
BS, MS, Université Pierre et Marie Curie/Paris VI, Paris, France
PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois
Dr. Nicaise was a postdoctoral research associate at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. After finishing his postdoctoral fellowship, he has held full-time faculty positions at Hamline University, Alma College, Saint Louis University, Southern Connecticut State University, and Trinity College. In addition, he has held full-time teaching positions at Darien High School and North Haven High School.  He has served as an adjunct professor of chemistry at Fairfield University since the summer of 2015. Dr. Nicaise is working on a laboratory research project with five students this semester and is involved in the Chemistry Olympiad for high school students in the New Haven Section of the American Chemical Society. Dr. Nicaise is also a volunteer in the Hamden Boy Scout Troop and for Habitat of Humanity.

Sarah Poniros, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology
PhD, University of Sheffield
Dr. Poniros’s doctoral degree is in biological anthropology and archaeology from the University of Sheffield in England. Her research interests include skeletal variation and diversity in archaeological populations, as well as health and disease in archaeological populations. She is a native of Stratford, Conn.

Viviana Rigo de Alonso, PhD
Assistant Professor of the Practice, Modern Languages (Spanish)
PhD, McGill University
Dr. Rigo de Alonso earned her PhD in Hispanic Studies at McGill University in Montreal. Her interest in a deeper understanding of women’s writing in Hispanic-American countries led her to explore the topic of women’s self-representation and identity in literature for her dissertation, which analyzed the autobiographies written by Argentinean women writers of the second half of the twentieth century. Along with a strong interest in language acquisition research, she has extensive experience as a language instructor both in the United States and Canada, and she has often been part of the Fairfield University community as an adjunct professor of Spanish since 2012.

Nick Rutter, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor of History
BA, Brown University
MA, PhD, Yale University
Dr. Rutter is a specialist in Modern Germany, the Soviet Union, and the Global Cold War. His research has centered on Socialism, World Youth movements and the post-war USSR. Dr. Rutter has also obtained a graduate certificate in digital public humanities from George Mason University’s center for new media studies. His final project, hosted by the Library of Congress, was titled, “Veteran Storytellers: An oral history of Native American service in the Armed Forces from 1945 to 2020.” Dr. Rutter is a member of a motorcycle club and a hen co-op.

Lembe Tiky
Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics
BA, University of Yaoundé
MA, American University
MA, University of North Texas
PhD, University of Texas at Dallas
Dr. Tiky is also a research associate at the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, Southern Methodist University. His research interests are both in international relations and comparative politics and include topics such as democratization, development, human rights, and African security issues and foreign relations. Dr. Tiky has been serving the discipline of international studies for many years, organizing local and international conferences and workshops for IR scholars. In 2019, he was co-program chair of the first International Studies Association’s (ISA) conference in the African continent. Prior to moving to the United States, he worked as a journalist and traveled extensively in the continent of Africa to cover political developments for papers in Cameroon and Senegal.

Scott Weatherbee, PhD
Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
BA, State University of New York, Oswego
PhD, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Dr. Weatherbee’s graduate work focused on developmental genetics - specifically the study of wing pattern regulation in insects. He later pursued postdoctoral work at Memorial Sloan Kettering, where he switched to a mouse model system to identify previously unknown genes that control limb formation and function.  And most recently, in his own laboratory at Yale, Dr. Weatherbee continued to work on those newly-identified genes, several of which turned out to be important for cilia formation and function. Dr. Weatherbee has traveled to Trinidad on nine occasions to research bats, and a photo from that work hangs in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

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