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Meet your (grade) makers: a profile of professors

The Voice sent out questions to a number of new and returning faculty members asking them questions about their research and the classes they teach. The following are the answers they gave.


Returning Professors:


What classes do you teach at the College and what is your favorite class to teach?

Theodor Duda, Prof. of Music: When I first started at Wooster in the Fall of 1990, I was hired to be the principal teacher of Voice (i.e., Singing) and taught the first two semesters of Music Theory. Over the years, I also taught Vocal Pedagogy, History of the Song Cycle, Class Voice for Instrumentalists, Opera Workshop, Music of the United States, second-year Music Theory, Counterpoint, Form & Analysis, beginning Piano and eight years of First-Year Seminar. Unfortunately, I have a hearing disorder that forces me to avoid most exposure to sound as even moderate-level music sets off bouts of ear pain. Because of this, I have had to limit myself to teaching Theory I & II for the last ten or so years. I’ll say that I am very pleased to see students through their initial training in Theory.

Amber Garcia, Associate Prof., Psychology Department Chair: I teach Introduction to Psychology, FYS, Stereotypes and Prejudice, Social Psychology, Psychology of Women and Gender, Motivation and Emotion and Statistics (next semester). I especially like to teach Introduction to Psychology because there are so many topics to explore and Social Psychology because that’s what I do (I was trained as a social psychologist and my research is in social psychology).


What did you research while on leave, and how will you incorporate this research into your classroom?

Th.D:Since I am a composer, my research takes the form of writing new music rather than doing what is typically thought of as scholarly research. On leave, I completed two projects: a set of five songs for soprano and piano entitled Let Me Sing before Night (Homage to Schubert) and a 4-minute choral piece called Soon … (Fantasy on an American Spiritual). The song cycle was written specifically to be performed by my colleagues Dr. Carrie Culver and Dr. Peter Mowrey.

As far as incorporating this research into the classroom, I think that happens indirectly — particularly because what I teach is at the absolute ground level of Theory. It helps me to remember that I too was a beginner in theoretical studies and that a mastery of even the simplest of materials is necessary to progress to independent creative work.

AG: My research was primarily on Latinos’ attitudes toward various social issues, including contraceptives and romantic relationships (both ingroup and outgroup). My own research very much influences the direction in which I nudge I.S. projects. On a broader level, the process of writing, rewriting, submitting and revising my own manuscripts confirms the importance of these steps for my students. I try to incorporate revision and peer review into most of my courses because these processes, when done well, lead to a better final product.


Are there downsides to being on leave? If so, what are they?

Th.D: The biggest downside in general is that I know that when I retire at the end of the current semester I am — somehow! — going to fit all the books and music in my office into the much larger collection of books and music currently at home.

Truly, there are no downsides.

AG: It’s hard to find a downside to leave! Of course I miss my students, but leave allows me the opportunity to spend dedicated time working on research, which in the long run is a benefit to students. One of the projects I worked on during leave was based on a former student’s I.S. project and they are a co-author on the manuscript, which will be submitted this fall. The only other downside to leave is giving up my wonderful office. I had to adjust to working in a space other than my office.


New Professors:


What is your educational background?

Melissa Mullen Davis, Visiting Assistant Prof. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology:For my undergraduate education I attended Colby College double majoring in Chemistry and Spanish. During my Junior year, I studied abroad at the University of Salamanca in Spain. I then earned my Ph.D. in Chemistry from The Pennsylvania State University studying nucleic acid folding in plant systems. Most recently I was a Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute investigating mechanisms of eukaryotic transcription elongation.

Lisa Fisher, Visiting Assistant Prof. of Sociology: I got myPh.D. in sociology (University of Cincinnati, 2010). Before that, I received my Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in interpersonal communication (Bowling Green State University, 1996, 1995).

Joseph Aguilar, Visiting Prof. of English: I received my Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Missouri.

Charalambos (Harry) Michael, Assistant Prof. of Business Economics: I got my Bachelor’s degree in Economics in my home country Cyprus, and then Master’s and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Where else have you previously taught, or is this your first professorship?

MMD: This is my first professorship.

LF: I began teaching part-time in 2001 at Brookhaven College in Dallas, TX. I also taught at the University of Cincinnati main campus, University of Cincinnati Raymond Walters College and BGSU Firelands (Bowling Green State University’s regional campus). I also worked as an administrator, most recently serving as assistant dean for research, planning and institutional effectiveness at BGSU Firelands.

JA: My first academic job was at the University of Tampa, where I taught from 2013-2014.

CM: My first professorship is at the College of Wooster. At UW-Madison I worked as a teaching assistant for six years.


What about Wooster most excites you?

MMD: I am thrilled to be working with Wooster students!

LF: I love the true commitment to the mission of the College and liberal education.

JA: Even though I haven’t been here long, I’ve really been enjoying the strong sense of community. It feels like a welcoming campus.

CM: Advising students to write their Senior I.S. thesis.


What is your favorite class to teach?

MMD: This semester, I am most excited about teaching Biochemistry. I am looking forward to in-depth discussions about advanced topics at the interface between chemistry and biology.

LF: I love teaching social psychology, work and organizations and social inequality/history of inequality, but my favorite class to teach is Introduction to Sociology. I love sharing the discipline’s unique perspective with a wide array of students and helping them learn to think more critically about the society in which they live.

JA: I love teaching workshop-based creative writing courses. I’m also teaching an experimental fiction class that’s going to be a lot of fun.

CM: My favorite class to teach is Principles of Economics. Most students who take this class have no prior exposure to or interest in economics. I welcome the challenge to be the first to teach them some basic yet very powerful economic principles that will make them informed citizens and critical thinkers of current topics of economic concern.


What is your primary research focus?

MMD: My research at Wooster will focus on investigating the effects of environmental stress (such as drought) on the expression and function of long non-coding RNAs in the model plant system Arabidopsis thaliana.

LF: My research interests are social psychology, visual sociology, work and organizations and discourse-linking work and family issues, inequality, individualism, social capital and social change. My primary research focus is on ways that tacit social understanding is built and evidenced in specific contexts.

JA: My primary reserach focus isfiction writing. Right now, I’m working with a partner on a collaborative novel project set in medieval Wales. We spent the summer researching the novel, including a trip overseas to look at Welsh castles for a few weeks, which made our research feel a bit more real.

CM: Financial markets and International Finance.

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