Colby Welcomes a New Cohort of Faculty Members

Announcements11 MIN READ

These 15 teachers bring exceptional scholarship and interdisciplinary training to Mayflower Hill

By Laura Meader
September 25, 2022

A fresh cohort of professors joins the Colby community this fall as tenure-track faculty members. Fifteen new teacher-scholars will contribute their expertise and innovative teaching strategies to Colby’s robust educational offerings. The addition of these outstanding scholars exemplifies Colby’s efforts to expand and diversify the faculty while moving the curriculum in exciting new directions.

“We are so pleased that these wonderful new teacher-scholars have joined our community,” said Margaret T. McFadden, provost and dean of faculty. “They are already doing important and innovative scholarship that is pushing the boundaries of their fields and will offer courses that will strengthen and expand Colby’s exceptional liberal arts curriculum. We look forward to welcoming them to Colby and to the faculty.”

Robert Augustine

Robert Augustine (biology) uses genetic and biochemical techniques to research and illuminate the function of a stress-protection pathway in plants. Understanding the molecular underpinnings of this pathway should help to provide new strategies for engineering crops that are better able to cope with the effects of climate change. He comes to Colby after completing postdocs at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and at Washington University in St. Louis and teaching at Vassar and Amherst colleges. He’ll draw on these experiences to teach courses in biochemistry and plant physiology at Colby. Augustine earned his doctorate in plant biology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Max Bender
Max Bender

Max Bender (computer science) works with online approximation algorithms. His algorithms attempt to identify approximately reasonable solutions to online problems, where the entire problem input isn’t given upfront. The goal is to react to events in such a way that one feels as good about their decisions as possible in hindsight. Bender was a visiting assistant professor at Colby last year and will teach specialized courses in algorithmic game theory, randomization in algorithms, and advanced theory of computation. He earned his doctorate in computer science, specifically in the field of algorithms and online approximation algorithms, from the University of Pittsburgh. 

Stephanie Dodson

Stephanie Dodson (mathematics) conducts research at the intersection of dynamical systems and mathematical biology. Specifically, she studies the formation and stability of electrical pulses and patterns related to cardiac arrhythmia and to factors influencing blue whale migrations in the Pacific Ocean. Dodson will teach a variety of applied math courses at Colby, including ones that develop and analyze mathematical models and applications to biological systems. She was a visiting assistant professor in the Mathematics Department at the University of California Davis from 2019 to 2022 after earning a doctorate in applied mathematics from Brown University.

Sonya Donaldson

Sonya Donaldson (African-American studies) centers her research on negotiations of identity, genres, and interstitial and contested spaces. She’s interested in the ways writers and artists construct individual identities while negotiating their relationships with community, group, and nation, examining those negotiations through the lenses of African-American studies, Black diaspora studies, and the digital humanities. At Colby, her courses will include Introduction to African-American Cultures and Black Digital Humanities. She previously taught at New Jersey City University and Hampshire College, and she is the recipient of a Virginia Humanities Fellowship and a 2016 Woodrow Wilson Postdoctoral Fellowship. Donaldson earned her doctorate in English language and literature from the University of Virginia.

Danae Jacobson

Danae Jacobson (history) examines United States and environmental history. Jacobson is currently revising her book manuscript, Habits of Conquest: Nuns and the U.S. Settler Empire, which brings together the environment, gender, religion, and settler colonialism in histories of the 19th-century U.S. West. She’s taught at Colby as a visiting assistant professor for the last three years and will continue to teach courses on America’s environmental history, the history of the U.S. West, and a first-year course titled What is Nature? The U.S. Environment and Histories of Settler Colonialism, Slavery, and Capitalism. Jacobson earned her doctorate in environmental and U.S. history from Notre Dame.

Nazli Konya

Nazli Konya (government) investigates contemporary critical and democratic theory, with a focus on protest politics, populism, and authoritarianism. Her current book project, The Inappropriable People of Gezi, takes the 2013 Gezi Protests of Turkey as its case to engage with questions of peoplehood, refusal, and power in popular mobilization, offering a new framework to study protest and popular mobilization. At Colby, she’ll teach upper-level thematic courses on protest and populism; sexuality, gender, and feminism; race and ethnicity; and mass incarceration and decarceration. Konya earned her doctorate in government (political theory) at Cornell University.

Pei Pei Liu

Pei Pei Liu (education) studies instructional strategies that support student motivation and engagement and how instructors can use motivationally supportive teaching strategies to help students transition from high school to college. She comes to Colby following a post-doc at Michigan State University in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education. Previously, she taught high school English in the Boston Public Schools and at an independent school in Sofia, Bulgaria. Courses she’ll teach at Colby include Children and Adolescents in Schools and Society and a senior seminar on instructional theory and design. Liu’s doctorate is in human development and education from Harvard University.

Melissa Miller (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

Melissa Miller (Russian) specializes in the medical humanities and Russian literature and culture from the 19th century to the present, with a special focus on depictions of women’s health. Her current project examines narrative medicine and women’s health in Russian literature of the long 20th century. She’s co-editor of The Russian Medical Humanities: Past and Present (Lexington Books, 2021) and comes to Colby from the University of Notre Dame, where she was an assistant teaching professor and director of undergraduate studies in Russian. At Colby, she’ll teach courses on the representation of women in Russian and Post-Soviet literature and cultures, and the vampire in the Slavic tradition. Miller earned her doctorate in Russian literature, with a minor in second-language acquisition, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Sanval Nasim

Sanval Nasim ’08 (economics) explores two broad themes in his work: citizens’ behavior in response to deteriorating environmental quality in developing countries, and state capacity in developing countries and how it relates to the provision of public goods. Addressing environmental challenges, improving welfare, and enhancing trust in the state in developing countries connect his research strands. A Colby graduate, he’s eager to teach courses such as Environmental and Natural Resource Economics and Challenges of the Anthropocene. Before Colby, Nasim taught in his hometown, in the Economics Department at Lahore (Pakistan) University of Management Sciences. He earned his doctorate in environmental and natural resource economics and policy at the University of California, Riverside.

Sam Plasencia

Sam Plasencia (English) researches and publishes on early Black intellectual histories, or, put differently, traditions of thought and practice. She’s fascinated by how early Black writers were critical theorists, such as poet Phillis Wheatley Peters and activists Adam Carman and Russell Parrott. Early Black writing theorizes differently than the abstract logic of Western philosophical traditions, and Plasencia’s work is devoted to re-articulating their thoughts and the original contexts they respond to. A visiting assistant professor at Colby for the last two years, she will continue teaching courses on early African-American literature, Black speculative fiction, and protest literature. Plasencia earned her doctorate at the University of Illinois.

Farah Qureshi

Farah Qureshi (anthropology) studies the concept of financial and digital inclusion through technology systems, which are often introduced as a means to advance national development agendas. From her fieldwork and research in Kenya, she’s found that financial technology (fintech) and the systems involved within them are instead exacerbating some inequalities or creating new problems, where people are immobilized through unreliable automated decision-making processes. Specialized courses she’ll teach at Colby include Anthropology of Money, AI and Inequality, and Financial Inclusion and Development. Qureshi earned her doctorate in anthropology from the University of California at Irvine.

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson

Matthew Schneider-Mayerson (English) combines literary criticism, cultural studies, and sociology to examine the cultural and political dimensions of climate change, with a focus on literature and climate justice. His research topics include the influence of environmental literature on readers, eco-reproductive concerns and choices, and apocalyptic energy subcultures. At Colby, he’ll teach courses in the environmental humanities focused on the relationship between literature, media, and environmental injustice and action. Previously, he was the Cultures of Energy Postdoctoral Fellow at Rice University and an associate professor of environmental studies at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. He earned his doctorate in American studies at the University of Minnesota.

Ben Scharadin

Benjamin Scharadin (economics) investigates food insecurity and the impact of federal and state policies meant to address its negative effects on household health and well-being. Specifically, he looks at the role household time constraints and local food retail environments play in food insecurity. A visiting assistant professor at Colby for the last three years, he leads an upper-level economics elective centered around poverty and food insecurity. Previously, he taught at Washington and Lee University. Scharadin earned his doctorate in agriculture, environmental, and resource economics from Pennsylvania State University.  

Kerry Sonia

Kerry Sonia (religious studies) focuses her research on family and household religion in Iron Age Israel (ca. 1000-500 BCE). Her first book, Caring for the Dead in Ancient Israel, examines the veneration and ritual care of the dead in Ancient Israel reflected in archaeological evidence and biblical literature. Her current book project focuses on the social and ritual dimensions of childbirth and miscarriage in ancient Israel. A visiting assistant professor for two years at Colby, she’s taught courses titled Gender, Sexuality, and the Bible as well as War and the Bible. Previously, she was an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow at Bowdoin College and a research associate in the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School. She’s also taught at Wheaton College, Washington and Lee University, and Brown University, where she received her doctorate in religious studies.

Yee Mon Thu

Yee Mon Thu (biology) uses her research lab to explore molecular mechanisms crucial for maintaining the integrity of genetic information by using approaches and tools in molecular biology, genetics, cell biology, and biochemistry. She uses budding yeast (also used for baking and brewing) and cancer cell lines as model systems to answer her research questions. Her courses at Colby will include genetics and molecular biology and a senior seminar titled Genome Instability and Cancer. Thu completed her post-doctoral training at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and taught at both Grinnell College and Allegheny College. She earned her doctorate in cancer biology at Vanderbilt University.