Six Faculty Members Promoted and Awarded Tenure

Announcements8 MIN READ

The newest cohort of senior faculty are also named Haynesville Project Fellows

Photo by Ashley L. Conti
By Laura MeaderPortraits by Gabe Souza
February 9, 2023

On the recommendation of President David A. Greene, six faculty members have been promoted and granted tenure.

Those receiving tenure and a promotion to associate professor are Justin Becknell, environmental studies; Sarah Braunstein, English and creative writing; Nadia El-Shaarawi, global studies; Jay Sibara, women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; Arisa White, English and creative writing; and Nora Youngs, mathematics.

These individuals have also been named Haynesville Project Fellows and will be awarded a $100,000 grant over a two-year period. This innovative pilot project, developed by Tom and Cathy Tinsley P’10, helps attract and retain exceptional scholars and teachers as well as provide resources to foster creative and high-impact research projects and excellence in teaching. Funds may be used entirely for research purposes, or up to 40 percent of the funds may be used for personal expenditures.

“Each of these faculty members has made an extraordinary contribution to the life of the College, through their teaching, scholarship, creative research, and service to the community,”  said Provost and Dean of Faculty Margaret McFadden. “They have excelled in all areas of their work, despite the many challenges of the pandemic. We are so fortunate to have such exceptional colleagues as members of our faculty.” 

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Justin Becknell

Justin Becknell—Environmental Studies

Ecologist Justin Becknell studies forest ecosystems and the role that tropical forests play in the global carbon cycle, work that is fundamental to addressing the climate crisis. He has also launched a new forest-monitoring project based in Maine, working with students to set up research sites for them and future generations of Colby students to study and analyze.

Becknell often works with members of a leading international research team and has played a key role in an array of influential publications, both in highly ranked field journals and in publications such as Science, Nature, and PNAS. He recently received a National Science Foundation Long Term Research in Environmental Biology Grant to continue his research. Becknell has served as associate chair of the Environmental Studies Department, and he has chaired the College’s Woodland Committee, which he co-created to ensure productive use of and care for Colby’s extensive woodlands.

Becknell came to Colby in 2017 after completing his Ph.D. in ecology, evolution, and behavior at the University of Minnesota, where he also earned his B.A. in environmental science.

Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing Sarah Braunstein

Sarah Braunstein—English and Creative Writing

Sarah Braunstein is a prolific fiction writer. She is the author of two novels, The Sweet Relief of Missing Children and Bad Animals, and a collection of short stories, all published by (or forthcoming from) W.W. Norton. She has also published a number of stories in highly visible and respected venues, including The New Yorker, Playboy, and the Harvard Review. 

Highly collaborative and community-minded, Braunstein has participated in the Maine Lit Fest, offered creative writing sessions at the Waterville Public Library, and founded “Power Pens,” a creative writing group at a public elementary school in Portland. She is sought nationally and internationally to speak at colleges and universities and has worked with the National YoungArts Foundation to support the development of youth writers.

Braunstein joined Colby in 2016 as a visiting assistant professor, having held similar positions at Bowdoin and the University of Southern Maine’s M.F.A. program. She earned her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa and her B.A. in English and theater from Mt. Holyoke College. She also earned an M.S.W. from Smith College.  

Associate Professor of Global Studies Nadia El-Shaarawi

Nadia El-Shaarawi—Global Studies

Anthropologist Nadia El-Shaarawi studies global public health and migration. Her forthcoming book, Collateral Damage: Iraqi Refugees, Unknowing and the Everyday Lives of Empire, offers important new insights into the effects of imperialism on Iraqi refugees awaiting resettlement. She is also coeditor of the anthology Migration and Health: Challenging the Borders of Belonging, Care and Policy and coauthor of a forthcoming monograph on the Balkan Route. She has also authored numerous articles in top-tier anthropology journals.

In 2017-18, she responded to the refugee crisis in Europe, documenting and analyzing events in real time. She received a highly competitive National Science Foundation “RAPID” grant to support this research and a subsequent major grant from the American Council of Learned Societies. At Colby, she is the associate chair of the Global Studies Program and the faculty associate director of the Goldfarb Center. She also co-created a concentration in global health within the global studies major.

El-Shaarawi started at Colby in 2015 after completing a Ph.D. in anthropology and an M.P.H. in international health at Case Western Reserve University. She earned an M.Sc. in medical anthropology at Oxford University and a B.A. in anthropology and health studies at McMaster University in Canada.

Jay Sibara—Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Literary critic Jay Sibara focuses his work on race and disability. An interdisciplinary scholar, he is at the forefront of inventing an entirely new field, critical disability studies, which draws on research in the medical and environmental humanities, critical-race scholarship, and queer-of-color critique. The first step in defining this field was his first book, a coedited collection titled Disability Studies and the Environmental Humanities: Toward an Eco-Crip Theory. His new book, Imperial Injuries: Race, Disability, and Debility in Narratives of Refusal to US Empire, is forthcoming from Temple University Press. 

He has done invaluable service in support of students, faculty, and staff on questions of race, gender, disability, and identity, including participating in the Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; serving as a Ralph Bunche Scholars faculty mentor; and co-convening the Antiracist Initiative in the English Department, where he was initially appointed. He co-chaired the English Department’s Curriculum Committee for a year and led the proposal process for a new concentration in literature and the environment.

Sibara started at Colby in 2014, coming from the University of Southern California, where he completed an M.A. and a Ph.D. in English. He also earned a B.A. in English at Swarthmore College.

Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing Arisa White

Arisa White—English and Creative Writing

Poet Arisa White combines poetry, queer studies, Black studies, and the performing arts in expansive and interdisciplinary ways. Since arriving at Colby, she has published three prize-winning books: the illustrated children’s book Biddy Mason Speaks Up, the hybrid memoir Who’s Your Daddy?; and the edited anthology Home is Where You Queer Your Heart. She has also published many poems in top-tier magazines, anthologies, and online sites, and she has written and performed plays and choreo-poems. 

She has served as the faculty liaison for the arts, helping to build Colby’s new Arts Office and connect it to local schools and the arts community. Additionally, she has facilitated community discussions with other artists and writers and was instrumental in planning the first Maine Lit Fest. She has judged poetry competitions and led poetry workshops, often seeking to amplify marginalized voices, and has facilitated two workshops with incarcerated women.

White joined Colby in 2018 following the completion of her M.F.A. in English (poetry) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and her B.A. in creative writing and literature from Sarah Lawrence College.

Associate Professor of Mathematics Nora Youngs

Nora Youngs—Mathematics

Applied mathematician Nora Youngs works at the intersection of mathematics and neuroscience. She has helped create an entirely new subfield of mathematical biology by developing mathematical insight into how the brain encodes information that animals use to determine their location. Through her contributions to this area of research, she has established herself as one of the field’s leading experts. She has published numerous articles in top-tier journals and has several more in the pre-print stage.

As the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Mathematics, she has organized the annual Runnals Dinner for Women in Mathematics, advised the Women in Math and CS student club since its inception, and served on the Davis Institute for Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee. She also does considerable service beyond Colby, as she participates in summer camps for mathematics, adjudicates contests, referees other scholars’ work, and organizes conference sessions.

Youngs joined Colby in 2016 following the completion of her M.S. and Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Nebraska. She also earned a B.A. in mathematics from Smith College.