College awards 11 professors tenure this winter

At its winter meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the promotion of 11 assistant professors to associate professorships with tenure: Alexander Bevilacqua, history; Nicole Brown, classics; Pei-Wen Chen, biology; Brahim El Guabli, Arabic studies; Man He, Asian languages, literatures, and cultures; Bill Jannen ’09, computer science; Laura Martin, environmental studies; Sarah Olsen, classics; Ben Snyder, sociology; Mason Williams, leadership studies; and Ricardo Wilson, English. The promotions will go into effect on July 1.

Achieving tenure at the College is often a seven-year-long process: After a professor teaches for three years at the College, the Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP) considers whether they should be retained for a second term of up to four years. If retained, the CAP evaluates the faculty member again, making provisional tenure decisions that must then be approved by the Board of Trustees. According to the Faculty Handbook, CAP evaluates professors based on the quality of their teaching and scholarship, taking into consideration student feedback, peer reviews, committee members’ impressions from class visits, and the quality of the candidate’s scholarly research.

Brown, one of the 11 professors who received tenure this year, said that she was grateful for the College’s transparency throughout the tenure process. “I think you have a sense of how things are going — but that doesn’t take away from just the sheer joy of hearing that news on the phone that this has really happened.”

Alexander Bevilacqua, history

Before teaching at the College, Bevilacqua completed his undergraduate education at Harvard University and received his PhD from Princeton University. In an interview with the  Record, he spoke to what drew him to his discipline. “The past really puts us in touch with other people…who lived in very different circumstances from ours,” he said. “The challenge of making sense of that and understanding people across the distance of time as well as space is enduringly interesting and significant to me.”

Bevilacqua has taught a variety of courses that explore the history of early modern Europe — from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment period — such as “Making Race in Early Modern Europe” and “European Intellectual History from Aquinas to Kant.” 

Bevilacqua said that working with students is one of his favorite aspects of his job. “That tradition of great scholarship, joined with great teaching is …something to be proud of …  that I think is an important value of the College.”

Currently, Bevilacqua is working on his next book, Europe Triumphant: Nobility and Race in the First Global Age, which discusses racial performances in early noble courts and their implications for power and influence. 

Nicole Brown, classics

Brown’s primary areas of study are Hellenistic art, Roman literary and visual culture, and Latin literature from the Republican era. A Mount Holyoke College alum, Brown received her doctorate in classical art and archaeology from Princeton University. She teaches classes ranging from the year-long course “Introduction to Latin” to the classical studies seminar “The Garden in the Ancient World.”

“We in no way consider ourselves peripheral to the rest of the life of the College in that we really value …  interdisciplinary conversations,” Brown said in reference to the College’s classics department. She added that she loves the diversity of personal and academic  backgrounds represented in the classics department.

Brown’s work has been featured in the American Journal of Archaeology and Transactions of the American Philological Association (TAPA). She is currently working on a project exploring the experiences of the Roman working class and work as a visual art. “I’m interested why so many of these scenes of making…seem to often include a small child in these scenes. What can tell us about the lived experience of children in antiquity?”

Pei-Wen Chen, biology

Before becoming a professor of biology at the College, Chen studied at National Yang-Ming University in Taiwan as an undergraduate student and received her doctorate from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Her research explores cell function, signaling, and motility — a function that she said is essential to both embryonic development and cancer metastasis. She also studies the cell cytoskeleton and the means by which cells utilize and remodel it. Chen has taught classes like “Essentials in Biochemistry to Nanomachines in Living Systems,” a course that explores the engine-like nature of proteins at the nanometer-level. 

Chen said that the people were her favorite part about working at the College.“What strikes me the most [about the College] is this strong drive for excellence, both in the students I encounter as well as my colleagues,” she said. Currently, she serves on the Faculty Steering Committee. In the future, she hopes to teach a tutorial that focuses on her areas of research.

Brahim El Guabli, Arabic studies

El Guabli’s work in Arabic language and literature focuses on the concepts of memory, transitional justice, environmental humanities, and Saharan imaginations. Before coming to the College, he received his doctorate in comparative literature from Princeton University and taught at Swarthmore College. His scholarship focuses on North African indigenous groups, such as the Amazigh people from which he hails.  He works to increase the representation of Amazigh identities and stories in the western canon through his own publications.

At the College, El Guabli teaches courses ranging from “Elementary Arabic” to “Where are all the Jews?” “[The course] helps students to think through the process of the disappearance of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, but also how they return as an object of loss in literature and film,” he said in an interview with the Record

He is also working on a book tentatively titled Saharan Imaginations: Between Saharanism and Ecocare which explores the desert as a historically misrepresented entity. El Guabli explained how this novel and his corresponding class at the College, “Saharan Imaginations,” explore “how deserts become a discourse and …a subject of power, exploitation, extraction, racialization…and exclusion.” 

Man He, Asian languages, literatures, and cultures

He majored in Chinese literature and culture from Renmin University at Beijing, where she oscillated between studying modern Chinese literature and Chinese spoken theatre and production — particularly, its transformations in the post-colonial age. After graduating, He spent several gap years studying theater production in rural areas of China. “Back then, in China, gap years [were] a flooring concept, relatively speaking,” she said. “I took several gap years, because I was really interested in theater production… But it was pure, self-motivated exploration, [with] no institutional support.”

Afterward, He earned a M.A. in Asian studies from Seton Hall University and a M.A. and PhD in East Asian languages and literature as well as a graduate program minor in theatre at the Ohio State University. He arrived at the College in 2015 and was eligible for tenure evaluation in 2021. However, she deferred her tenure process for two years — a possibility the College created as a response to the pandemic — in order to conduct further research that would be evaluated by CAP.

He’s course offerings span advanced Chinese language classes, comparative literature, and Chinese literature in translation. Next fall, He will be on leave, when she will research the restaging of traditional Asian theaters during the Cold War, performance in sports, and Asian diasporic communities in Southern California.

Bill Jannen ’09, computer science

Jannen ’09 studies software that optimizes computer hardware and has taught a variety of classes that range from introductory programming skills to advanced courses such as “Game Analysis and Aesthetics.” Prior to teaching at the College, he worked at the OSCAR Lab at Stony Brook University, where he studied the Graphene library operating system and the BetrFS file system. 

Jannen has helped write a variety of papers on topics ranging from RNA to the implementation of state-of-the-art systems, which have been published in the Journal of Molecular Biology and  ;login: Magazine. Previously, he served as the co-advisor of both the College’s Underrepresented Identities in Computer Science (UnICS) Committee and its Computer Science Student Advisory Committee. 

Laura Martin, environmental studies

As an undergraduate, Martin studied biophysics at Brown University and received her PhD in natural resources at Cornell University. At the College, she serves as a professor of environmental studies and a faculty affiliate of the history department, where she has taught a variety of courses focusing on environmental history including “Animals and Society” and “Conservation and Climate Change.” 

Her most recent book, Wild By Design: The Rise of Ecological Restoration, discusses the interplay between restoration and imperialism in United States history and questions the presented dichotomy between environmental preservation and conservation. She has also written a variety of articles covering ecological science and intervention that have been published in [ITAL] The New York Times and The Washington Post

Currently, she serves on the Science and Technology Studies Advisory Board and is working on a new book that explores the cultural implications of the “grasscapes” created by modern herbicides. 

Sarah Olsen, classics

Olsen said she was drawn into classics because of its inherently interdisciplinary focus. “One thing that I really love about having ended up [at the College] is that I can indulge in [my] broad love of literature, teach courses that draw on not just ancient literature, but look to the reception of it as well, and talk to lots of colleagues in different history, literary traditions, and languages quite easily,” she said.

Olsen majored in classics and comparative literature at Wellesley College and earned her M.A. and PhD in classics at University of California, Berkeley. Her primary research interests include Greek and Roman performance culture, with an emphasis on dance, as well as gender and sexuality in Greek tragedy. Currently, she is collaborating with a colleague from the University of Madrid to assemble a volume on Greek and Roman dance, which will be published in both English and Spanish. Olsen said she looks forward to continuing to teach travel courses, like “Presence in Place: The Greek Dramatic Imagination,” which Olsen co-taught this Winter Study with chair of Classics Amanda Wilcox. 

Ben Snyder, sociology

Snyder first encountered ethnographic work at a study abroad program in Nepal during his undergraduate education at Haverford College. “I was just blown away by the experience and thought, ‘If someone will pay me to do this, I would do this forever,’” he said.

Now an ethnographer of work and organizations with an M.A and a PhD from the University of Virginia, Snyder’s research interests include the changing nature of work, as well as surveillance technology, crime, and policing. His forthcoming book Spy Plane: Inside Baltimore’s Surveillance Experiment, is an ethnographic project studying aerial surveillance technologies used by the Baltimore Police Department. At the College, Snyder teaches many sociology courses intertwined with his research interests, such as “The Panopticon: Surveillance, Power, and Inequality.” He also serves on the College’s Committee on Diversity and Community and teaches classes within the science and technology studies program.

Mason Williams, leadership studies

Before teaching at the College, Williams received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his doctorate in history from Columbia University. His scholarship focuses on American political history — specifically,  New York in the 20th century. He has taught a variety of courses that reflect his work, including “Heroes and Villains: Iconic Leadership and the Politics of Memory”  and “Leadership and The Anxieties of Democracy.”

His first book, City of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern New York, discusses how President Roosevelt’s New Deal interacted with New York’s government and the impact of the New Deal in modern day New York. He has also published shorter pieces in The Atlantic and the Journal of Federalism. Currently, he is studying urban inequality in New York City and its impact on housing and educational policy. 

Ricardo Wilson, English

Wilson labels himself primarily as a creative writer, though he is also a professor of English at the College. 

Wilson completed his PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California.Wilson had his own classroom and teaching responsibilities as a graduate student — a responsibility he resisted at the time, but ultimately one he credits for his decision to become a professor. “I fell in love with teaching,” he said. “It was really that simple.”

Next year, Wilson will be on sabbatical, where she will work on projects ranging from a new novel to critical work on Langston Hughes’ newly translated work from his time in Mexico and Cuba — a near-perfect fit for his academic interests, which he described as “the United States and Mexico, and ideas of Blackness between the two with a focus on literature and culture.” He’s also the founder of Outpost, a residency for writers of color, which welcomed its first cohort last year.