Six faculty members receive tenure

Cassie Deshong

Six faculty members from various departments will be promoted to the position of associate professor with tenure effective July 1. The Board of Trustees voted on Jan. 2 to approve tenure for six assistant professors: Julie Blackwood in mathematics, Matt Carter in biology, Jessica Fisher in English, Jeffrey Israel in religion, Aparna Kapadia in history and Anjuli F. Raza Kolb in English.

After earning her bachelor’s degree at Rochester Institute of Technology, Blackwood obtained her Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of California, Davis, in 2010. A 2008 recipient of the Henry L. Alder Prize for Excellence in Teaching, she incorporates mathematical modelling and ecology into her research, utilizing mathematical methods to analyze large populations of organisms and the their behaviors in the natural environment. 

“My research spans several topics in ecology, including invasive insect management, disease ecology (both in humans and wildlife) and coral reef conservation,” Blackwood said. “Generally, my work explores two underlying questions: What drives population (or disease) persistence? And what are the outcomes of management strategies?” 

Blackwood has been published in such journals as Ecological Economics, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Animal Ecology.

Carter studies how the brain regulates hunger and sleep. Using mice, Carter researches how neural mechanisms in the brain alter animal physiology and behavior. He has received numerous awards, as well as a grant from the National Institute of Health to conduct research about how the brain suppresses appetite after overeating or during illnesses. Carter said that his favorite aspect of the job is developing meaningful relationships with his students. 

“I love experiencing the transition from curious introductory students to advanced students who can work with me in the lab – and after they graduate from Williams, our relationships continue as scientific coauthors, colleagues and indeed friends,” he said.  “In fact, after I received tenure, a group of former students surprised me in Williamstown and took me out to dinner. Watching students develop from beginning science students to curious scientists themselves and then to colleagues is a dream come true.” 

Carter recognizes the pros and cons of having tenure; while one can take more risks and be more ambitious, one might begin to feel like they have no room to grow.  Despite it all, Carter described himself as “enthusiastic, earnest and lucky to be at Williams.” 

Fisher studied as an undergraduate at Swarthmore before earning an M.A and Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley. A prize-winning poet and critic, she has published poems in such publications as the New Yorker, McSweeney’s, American Poetry Review and Poetry Daily. Fisher’s first book of poems, Frail-Craft, won the 2006 Yale Younger Poets Award and was a finalist of the Northern California Book Award. Her second book, Inmost, won the Nightboat Poetry Prize. In 2012, Fisher was awarded a Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Fisher is currently working on her third book of poems, Daywork, as well as a book of lyric essays. 

Israel’s research intertwines modern Jewish thought and political theory. He is currently working on two projects: developing an alternative to conventional ideas about what is meant when discussing the protection of “religious freedom” and researching a new interpretation of the poetry, novels, music and persona of Leonard Cohen. One of Israel’s favorite moments at the College was with his Winter Study class last January. 

“We particularly confident that they could connect to the poetry,” Israel said. “We would read Ginsberg’s poetry out loud, taking turns, sometimes listening to recordings of Ginsberg reading, for three hours at time. At the best moments, we connected to the poetry, to each other through the poetry, while blizzard snows entertained us through the windows in Hopkins 400.”

Receiving tenure was a relief for Israel. “I look forward to doing exactly what I’ve been doing, with less anxiety,” he said. 

Israel will be releasing his book Living with Hate in American Politics and Religion with Columbia University Press later this year. He is the founding associate editor for The Journal of Jewish Ethics, and his writings have appeared as social research in various publications. At the College, Israel formerly served on the faculty review panel and the honor and discipline committee. He currently serves on the College’s curricular planning committee. 

Kapadia’s research involves the history and culture of premodern and modern South Asia, Indian regional traditions and the Indian Ocean. Kapadia is a historian of South Asia and the author of In Praise of Kings: Rajputs, Sultans and Poets in Fifteenth-Century Gujarat, which was published in 2018 by Cambridge University Press. She is also the co-editor of The Idea of Gujarat: History, Ethnography and Text

Kapadia’s favorite type of courses to teach are those where she can introduce “exciting research tools to students like South Asian painting collection at the WCMA or archival resources that we have access to through the library,” she said. 

In addition to teaching, Kapadia serves on the faculty steering and global studies committee. She received her B.A. in history from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai and an M.A. and M.Phil. from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. She received her Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and subsequently held a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Oxford until 2011. Kapadia looks forward to “expanding the South Asian history curriculum further and building interdisciplinary networks with professors working on the region in other departments at the College.”

Raza Kolb’s research is in colonial epistemologies, anticolonial politics and postcolonial poetics. She studies botany, terrorism and water systems and is currently creating a poetry collection and writing about the life sciences in the colonies. 

Among the numerous awards and fellowships Raza Kolb has received are Columbia University’s Meyerson Award, Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching and Edward W. Said Fellowship. In addition, her work has appeared in the Boston Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Fence and Syndicate Lit. Raza Kolb expressed relief at receiving tenure, and she said she looks forward “to taking on new leadership roles on behalf of our students, staff and faculty of color.” 

“We are making progress, but we have a long way to go to undo a long, exclusionary institutional history,” she said.