Fourteen Teachers-Scholars Join Colby’s Faculty

Announcements12 MIN READ

The newest group of professors will strengthen and expand Colby’s exceptional liberal arts curriculum

(Photo by Gregory Rec)
By Laura MeaderPortraits by Brian Fitzgerald
October 10, 2023

Colby’s commitment to expanding the faculty and broadening the curriculum is evidenced by the newest group of teacher-scholars to join the community. This fall 14 new assistant professors are in classrooms across campus, infusing the curriculum with their unique expertise, collaborative spirit, and innovative teaching techniques.

The boundary-pushing work these scholars have already completed offers a fascinating view into the diversity of fields that Colby students will have the opportunity to study.

T. Ben Baker (philosophy) researches the concepts and methodologies that philosophers and scientists use to understand cognitive capacities and artificial intelligence. He is especially interested in the cognition involved in complex and expressive movement, such as in dance. The courses he’ll teach at Colby include Central Philosophical Issues: Mind and Machine, Philosophy of Cognitive Science, and Philosophy of Dance. He completed a postdoc in computational neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania after earning his doctorate in philosophy there. He also went to law school and received his J.D. from Yale University.

Ben Baker (submitted photo)

Caitlin “Cait” Cleaver ’06 (environmental studies) seeks to understand coastal community response and adaptation to climate change. Trained as an applied social scientist and marine ecologist, she wants her research to inform action. She believes that sound science is critical to marine resource and coastal management and that researchers can build capacity within communities. This fall she is teaching an environmental policy capstone course that has students working with the town of Phippsburg to incorporate climate change adaptation strategies into its comprehensive plan. In the spring, she’ll teach courses in fisheries management and marine conservation. She most recently worked at Bates College as director of the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area. She also taught first-year seminars, where she took students to the coast for experiential learning opportunities. Cleaver earned her doctorate in ecology and environmental sciences from the University of Maine.

Cait Cleaver ’06

Flavien Falantin (French) researches and navigates the interpretation of French and Francophone texts, uncovering the dualities of pleasure and risk as a conduit to self-discovery. After publishing a monograph on the novelist Françoise Sagan, he’s currently crafting a book probing the intricacies of reading’s pitfalls, including bovarysm (an imagined or unrealistic conception of oneself) and mimetic desire (the desire that we mimic from the people and culture around us). At Colby, he’s currently teaching a seminar centered around the themes of trauma and resilience within the context of the Francophone world. He envisions a future seminar that will delve into the realm of psychoanalysis applied to Francophone fairy tales. Falantin completed a postdoc at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where he taught graduate seminars on medical studies. He earned his doctorate from Indiana University, Bloomington, where he defended his dissertation on the topic of novelistic contaminations and reader syndrome.

Flavien Falantin

Philip Jun Fang (sociology) is a cultural sociologist studying China’s engagement with the West. He broadly addresses how contrasting forces of nationalism and globalization shape processes of creative production and ideological contention. His current book project, When China Meets Hollywood: Global Collaboration and State Intervention in a Creative Industry, is an ethnography of how Chinese and Hollywood studios co-produce films, exploring the interplay of art, markets, and the state. In the classroom, he will offer courses titled Sociology of Creativity, Sociology of Hollywood, Sociology of Culture, and Contemporary Chinese Society. Fang has spent the last two years as a visiting assistant professor at Colby. He earned his doctorate in sociology from Northwestern University.

Philip Jun Fang

Anna Forsman (biology) focuses her research on understanding how wild birds interact with bacteria that live in, on, and around them. Although some bacteria cause disease, the vast majority does not, and some, like those inhabiting the gut microbiome, are essential to proper development and physiological function of the host. Her work seeks to understand varied and complex host-microbe interactions and how they influence the development and health of wild bird populations. Among the courses she’ll teach at Colby are immunology and ornithology. Forsman spent the last seven years as research faculty at the University of Central Florida, where she developed an undergraduate-focused research program, Wild Symbioses Lab, and established the UCF Purple Martin Project. She also served as a faculty mentor for the UCF campus chapter of the National Audubon Society, the Knighthawks, which was founded under her mentorship. She earned her doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University.

Anna Forsman

Isaac “Ike” Lage (computer science) studies how people can interact with machine learning systems to make better predictions together than either could alone. He approaches this in two ways, developing machine learning models whose predictions are more understandable to users (e.g. what factors are causing it to make this prediction?) and formalizing ways for users to provide feedback to machine learning models based on this understanding. Their specialty courses at Colby will include a sequence of two courses on human-centered machine learning, including aspects of developing machine learning systems that facilitate more effective interactions with users and aspects of evaluating those interactions with user studies. Lage taught at Tufts for a semester during graduate school, and he earned his doctorate in computer science at Harvard University.

Ike Lage

Amanda Lilleston (art) creates artwork that depicts an evolving relationship with human anatomy, physiology, and ecology. Using printmaking techniques and paper joining, she transforms zoological/anatomical/botanical imagery into adapting structures and environments, focusing most specifically on the physical practice of carving wood, layering ink, cutting, and recombining paper. As a visiting assistant professor at Colby for the last five years, she has taught introductory through advanced levels of printmaking, starting with foundational printmaking techniques such as relief, intaglio, and monotype and building to more experimental techniques like installation and paper joining. She also helps students understand what it means to develop an independent studio practice. Lilleston has collaborated with the Computer Science Department and Environmental Humanities program in courses at Colby and looks forward to developing more interdisciplinary connections across campus. She earned a master’s of fine arts in studio art from the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art and Design.

Amanda Lilleston

Zoe Shan Lin (history) studies state operations in local society and political culture in Medieval China. Her current book examines how local officials worked the system to get things done in Song China (960-1279), which reveals the informal mechanisms that undergirded the formal institutions and enabled the state to function in premodern China. Her contributions to Colby’s curriculum will include introductory courses on premodern Chinese and East Asian histories as well as courses on material culture, gender, and social histories of premodern China. Lin taught at Ithaca College after she earned her doctorate in history at the University of California, Davis.

Zoe Shan Lin

Xi “Sissi” Ning (statistics) focuses her work on the intersection of survival analysis, semiparametric models, goodness-of-fit tests, and machine learning. She is dedicated to developing innovative statistical methodologies to tackle real-world challenges in diverse fields such as medicine, public health, and biology. In addition to teaching introductory courses in statistics and data science, she looks forward to developing a specialized introductory course in survival analysis. This course will introduce basic concepts, theoretical basis, and statistical methods associated with survival analysis, a branch of statistics for analyzing the expected duration until one event occurs, such as mortality or disease progression. In May, Ning completed her doctorate in applied mathematics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, concentrating in biostatistics.

Xi Ning

Onnesha Roychoudhuri (English, creative writing) is a journalist, storyteller, and essayist whose work combines creative and critical writing to examine received narratives around power, agency, and identity. She is deeply interested in how surfacing more obscured historical and personal narratives can create openings for true systemic change and equity. She is the author of The Marginalized Majority: Claiming Our Power in a Post-Truth America, and her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Harper’s Bazaar, Kenyon Review, The Nation, Mother Jones, and other publications. At Colby she will teach Introduction to Creative Writing as well as Creative Nonfiction I & II, incorporating community engagement and storytelling as integral components of studying and practicing creative writing. Roychoudhuri regularly leads writing and storytelling workshops for organizations and universities across the country, including Western Connecticut State University, where she was an instructor in the graduate writing program. She earned her master’s of fine arts in creative writing from San Francisco State University.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri (submitted photo)

Takahiro “Taka” Suzuki (art) will teach a new concentration track in digital media within the Art Department. His own creative research practice utilizes forms in both still and moving imagery, primarily making experimental film and video artworks. His recent works have explored speculative and nonhuman communication as generative narrative material. Currently, he is working on films and photographs that investigate the hidden knowledge and communicative properties of plants and trees as well as works that loosely tie in or build upon Japanese folklore and traditions. In his upper-level courses at Colby, he will introduce students to time-based art practices, such as sound recording as art and experimental film and video art. He earned his master’s of fine arts in film, video, animation, and new genres from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Taka Suzuki

Yiqi “Annie” Tang (statistics) engages in both foundational statistics methodology-driven research and applied collaborative research. Her more theoretical research has focused on Bayesian and Bayesian-like methods for high-dimensional data (where the number of predictors exceeds the number of observations) and other types of complex data. In her applied work, she focuses on health-services research in collaboration with the Emergency Medicine Department at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, and she has worked on problems in other fields such as fintech and bioinformatics. Among the specialty courses she’ll teach is one on Bayesian statistics, where students learn about the Bayesian way of thinking (calculating and updating probabilities as new information becomes available) and apply Bayesian methods to different statistical problems in their field of interest. Tang previously taught at Williams College for a year, and she earned her doctorate in statistics from North Carolina State University.

Annie Tang

Joshua D. Urich (religious studies) broadly focuses his work on how bodily experiences generate religion, including concepts like the sacred, religious worldviews, and religious classifications. His current project is a cultural history of suspicion, focusing especially on how suspicion has shaped Americans’ lived experiences throughout the nation’s history. Courses he’ll teach at Colby include a course on new religious movements (commonly called cults), another on the intersection of American Christianity and American capitalism, and another examining the coevolution of race and religion in American history. Urich was previously a teaching fellow at Trinity University, San Antonio, for a semester and a visiting assistant professor at Bowdoin College for four years. He earned his doctorate in religious studies, specializing in American religious history, from the University of Texas at Austin.

Joshua Urich

Ashton Wesner (science, technology, and society) investigates the politics of scientific knowledge production, with a focus on nonhuman relations, cultures of environmentalism, and U.S. settler colonialism. Practices in the natural sciences have contributed to racial and gender formations that normalize forms of occupation and othering, and Wesner is interested in how queer, anti-colonial frameworks can disrupt and reshape those practices. She’s taught at Colby for two years as a visiting assistant professor and will continue to mentor senior capstone projects and offer specialized courses such as Critical Natural History and the Making of U.S. Empire, and Queer Feminist Engagements with Lab and Field Science. Wesner earned her doctorate in environment and society at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ashton Wesner