2016 New Full Professors

On November 17, Michigan State University will recognize three new professors to the College of Arts & Letters at the University Promotion and Tenure Ceremony Dinner. Please join us in congratulating these great scholars.

Jeff Wray

a man with facial hair wearing glasses and a suit

Department of English

Professor Jeffrey C. Wray, English and Film Studies, is an independent filmmaker and screenwriter. His award winning feature films include China, made for PBS and broadcast nationally, and The Evolution of Bert which premiered in the Chicago International FilmFestival and was screened the Pan African Los Angeles Film Festival, among others. In his career, his films have screened in over 100 festivals around the world. In 2016, Jeff won the prestigious Paul Varg Award for teaching excellence from the College of Arts & Letters Alumni Association.

Says Wray, “Being a part of the Michigan State University community has continually challenged me to grow as a professor, a filmmaker and a member of the broader community. I am now much better in all three aspects than when I started teaching here. My English home has been nurturing. Being in this department has allowed me to teach to my passions and serve students in the best way that I can. With the many important things I have been involved in over the years, my interaction with students is still the most important thing I do at MSU.” 

Wray received his BA from Hiram College before going on to earn a MFA from Ohio University in Production, Screenwriting, Theory and History.  Prior to his arrival at Michigan State University, he has taught at Ohio University as an instructor in the Department of African-American Studies and School of Film.

Malea Powell

a women wearing glasses and a black shirt

Department Chair & Professor
Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures

As a scholar, Professor Powell blends the uncovering of historical fact and elaboration of rhetorical theory with personal narrative. In her highly influential works such as “Rhetorics of Survivance,” she writes not only to inspire and challenge, but also to create pathways for others to follow: a method, theory, an example, a course, a program, a field of study. The impact of Dr. Powell’s work is clear: she creates opportunity and space for voices typically missing from the academy. She brings this passion to transform institutions to her work in the archive as a scholar, and in the classroom as a teacher. But her vision for transformation extends more broadly to the institutions and communities in which she works. Professor Powell has built a career as a leader and mentor, catalyzing positive change across the country as Chair of the CCCC, the largest professional organization for Rhetoric & Writing. Her work has culminated in a new area of study dedicated to critical, inclusive inquiry – Cultural Rhetorics – ascendant across the United States and around the world.

Says Powell, “Earning the rank of full here at MSU seems surreal. On one hand, it confirms decades of choosing to focus my scholarship on educating my colleagues about what it means to engage in indigenous, decolonial intellectual practices, and to focus my leadership work on making space for others in academia and in scholarly circles instead of just taking up space myself. On the other hand, it seems surreal that someone like me — a rebellious mixed-blood farm girl from nowhere Indiana — is now a full professor at a research institution like Michigan State. Sure, I worked hard to get here, but the support and love of my relative, my elders, my ancestors is what really made the difference. Their teachings are the ones I’ll carry forward and work hard to honor from this place of extreme privilege: to always work for the good of the community rather than just for my own interests, to make certain my actions make space for others rather than narrow the boundaries and close the gates for those who come after, to work with a good heart in a good way.”

Powell received her BA from Indiana University at Kokomo before going on to earn a MA and PhD from Miami University in Rhetoric and Composition.  Prior to her arrival at Michigan State University, Powell was Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska in the Department of English and Assistant Director of College Composition in the Department of English at Miami University.

Thomas Berding

a man wearing glasses in a black button down shirt

Department of Art, Art History, and Design

Professor Tom Berding’s paintings have been recognized with awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the NEA/Mid America Arts Alliance, and participated in over 80 exhibitions. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the University of Maine Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, and The Painting Center in New York. Tom also served as Chair of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design from 2005-2013, and in 2010 he was one of six MSU faculty and administrators selected as a Big Ten Academic Leadership Fellow.  Tom currently serves on the National Council of Arts Administrators’ Board of Directors, a position he was elected to by his peers from across the nation.

Says Berding, “The promotion to Professor carries a recognition that one’s work has been continually disseminated in significant peer reviewed venues. It is an acknowledgement of sustaining a creative research agenda over a number of years and being committed to displaying that work in quality exhibitions, especially exhibitions where one’s work is featured. The endorsement provided by one’s peers and across the nation is critical to achieving the rank of Professor and that makes the promotion especially meaningful.”

Berding received a BA from Xavier University before going on to earn a MFA from Rhode Island School of Design. Prior to his arrival at Michigan State University, he taught at Dartmouth College, Indiana University, and Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University).