Visiting Faculty Bring Their Own Energy to Campus

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David Laspina Artwork
From 'We Have Only Just Begun'. David la Spina, Oxford, MS, 2008

This fall we’re not only welcoming our new provost, we’re also welcoming a group of visiting faculty to campus. Together, they’re bringing new talents and areas of specialization to Bard College at Simon’s Rock.

Visiting faculty are selected on the strength of their teaching experience, their ability to enhance the academic program and complement existing curriculum.  They bring fresh perspectives to campus that enhance the intellectual exchange at the College. They also contribute to one of the key measures of the academic culture at Simon’s Rock: Low student-faculty ratio.

Hailing from institutions such as Rutgers, UCLA, and West Point, our visiting faculty not only have degrees from top graduate programs, each faculty member is actively engaged in their field. What they share with all Simon’s Rock faculty is a passion and commitment to teaching and forming relationships with students.

Coming from across the country, they bring experience from large public universities and community colleges, small private colleges like Simon’s Rock, international universities, and businesses.

This year, we welcome seven visiting faculty: Four in the Division of Science, Mathematics, and Computing; two in the Division of the Arts; and one in Languages and Literature.

Three of the four new math and science faculty are women, helping the College meet its goal of greater gender diversity. Among other reasons, it’s known to be a factor in encouraging women students to pursue concentrations and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Meet the Visiting Faculty

Biology: Erin McMullin’s latest research looks at what happens when species only exists in zoos. She wants to know how population and genetics work in life that’s contained to a zoo, and she’s focusing on a type of African cichlid (a fish) that may already be extinct in the wild. As a whole, her work uses molecular genetic techniques to answer phylogenetic and ecological questions about natural populations. She’ll be at Simon’s Rock for three years and is excited to continue her research. Since receiving her PhD in biology at Penn State in 2003, McMullin has taught at the University of Delaware, Bowling Green State University, and at Denison University.

Drawing and painting: Jacob Fossum received a BFA from Utah State University and a MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He has taught at Sacramento City College and his work is in the collections of Rutgers University and the University of Arizona. From his artist’s statement: “My work can’t help but reflect the curiosity that is fueled by my nomadic living. I love to teach and create and understand my personal myth through art and music. Both are meant to be humorous and tragic.”

Geophysics: Yahya Al-Khatatbeh is visiting assistant professor and research associate. He comes to Simon’s Rock from Yale, where he was a postdoctoral associate.  He’ll work with Mike Bergman, faculty in physics, on an NSF-grant funded research project on the Earth’s inner core. Al-Khatatbeh will be at the College for three years. In addition to teaching, he’ll work with student researchers doing laboratory research in fluid mechanics and materials science.

Mathematics: Catherine Pfaff is currently finishing up her PhD at Rutgers, where she founded a mentor program to pair undergraduates with graduate students for semester-long independent study projects. Pfaff’s research in geometric group theory--an area where geometric techniques are used to study algebraic objects called group--is deeply related to chemistry, physics, and computer science.

Mathematics: Courtney Thatcher comes to Simon’s Rock from Penn State Altoona. She completed her PhD in mathematics at the University of Chicago in 2007. Her primary area of research lies in topology, which asks what properties are preserved in objects that are continuously being deformed.  Thatcher is currently focused on extending the results in her thesis and applying them to other areas of mathematics. Recently, she has worked with HSBC Card and Retail Services in analytic marketing strategy. There, she applied her talent to deliver data analytics for population segmentation, and behavioral modeling and data mining.

Photography: David La Spina earned an MFA in photography at Yale University in 2009. He has a background in advertising photography and since 2003 he has worked as an archivist at Esto, an architectural photography firm. His photos regularly appear in the New York Times Magazine. La Spina has given artist talks and been a guest critic at Bard, Amherst College, Parsons The New School for Design, and the University of Nebraska, among others.

Spanish: Kate Pichard received her PhD in linguistics from the Graduate School of the City University of New York in 1997. From 1996 to 2006, she taught in Paris at University of Paris VIII and the American University of Paris, where she was assistant professor of English. More recently, she has taught Spanish in local schools. Pichard publishes regularly on the evolution of Spanish-based Creole languages and other non-standard Spanish forms.