College Welcomes New Faculty

This fall, the College of Arts & Letters welcomes many new faculty members, including 11 who are either tenured or in the tenure system. Those faculty members include:

woman wearing an orange top and necklace smiling at the camera

Cara Cilano

Cilano is the Chair of the Department of English and comes to Michigan State University from the University of North Carolina Wilmington where she served on the English faculty and was Director of General Education. She has a Ph.D. in English from Duquesne University as well as master’s and bachelor’s degrees in English, both from St. Bonaventure University.

“I feel fortunate to receive the Department’s and the Dean’s support as I take on the Chair’s role,” Cilano said. “The faculty and students in all the Department’s programs are impressive, and I am eager to highlight the strength and potential that comes from this diversity.”

Jennifer Gradecki

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Gradecki is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design. She previously was an Instructor of Record at State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY). She is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Visual Studies at SUNY Buffalo. She received her M.F.A. in New Genres from the University of California Los Angeles, and B.F.A. in Sculpture and Experimental Social Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“The Electronic Art and Intermedia position seems like a great fit for my varied background and interests,” Gradecki said. “I look forward to further developing this area of study while collaborating with faculty across the campus on my own interdisciplinary artistic research.”

Lamar Johnson

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Johnson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English. He comes to MSU from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was an Assistant Professor of Literacy for Linguistic and Racial Diversity. He received his Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Curriculum Studies and Language and Literacy, Master’s of Education in Language and Literacy, Master’s of Teaching in Secondary Education, and Bachelor of Arts in English, all from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina.

“Coming to MSU has been rejuvenating,” Johnson said. “It is refreshing to be working with and learning from people who come from different racial and ethnic backgrounds and who are adamant about fighting for racial justice and humanizing those who are often on the margins in society.” 

Catherine Kendig

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Kendig is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy. She previously was an Associate Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Missouri Western State University and before that Lecturer in Philosophy of Science in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London. She received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom; MSc in Philosophy and History from King’s College London; M.A. in Philosophy and Social Policy from American University in Washington, D.C.; and B.A. in Philosophy from Syracuse University.

“MSU’s commitment to engaged philosophy is why I’m here,” Kendig said. “The approach is based on challenging pedagogy, sowing intellectual passions, and growing robust interdisciplinary communities. I think that it is prerequisite to cultivating not only a fecund research program but also hungry student minds that seek to be the change they want to see in the world. I am incredibly happy to be part of that.”

Xhercis Mendez

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Mendez is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and African American and African Studies. She comes to MSU from California State University, Fullerton, where she was an Assistant Professor in the Women and Gender Studies Program. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. from the Philosophy, Interpretation, and Culture Program at SUNY Binghampton, along with certificates in Feminist Theory and Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies. As a scholar-activist, her research departs from engaged philosophy that centers those bodies systemically devalued, marginalized, and targeted for demise. Her work brings together Women of Color and Decolonial Feminisms, Sexuality Studies, and Afro-Latinx/diasporic Religion and Philosophies in order to develop decolonial feminist methodologies, ingredients, and tools for the (re)making of social relations, histories, intimacies, normative value systems, and resistant possibilities.

Dawn Opel

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Opel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures. She previously was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Nexus Lab for Digital Humanities and Transdisciplinary Informatics at Arizona State University, where she also held a supplemental appointment in the Technical Communication program. She holds a Ph.D. in English: Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics from Arizona State University, a J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a B.A. in English from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina, as well as a B.A. in History from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem North Carolina.

“I am honored and thrilled to be joining the faculty in the College of Arts & Letters and in Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at MSU, where I am working alongside the most innovative researchers and teachers in my field,” Opel said. “Add to that the enthusiasm and kindness of the faculty, staff, and students, and I know that I could not be working in a more special place. Go Green!”

Emery Petchauer

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Petchauer is an Associate Professor and the English Education Coordinator in the Department of English. He comes to MSU from Oakland University where he was an Associate Professor in Teacher Development and Education Studies. He received his Doctor of Education from Regent University. He has an M.A. in Teaching with an English concentration and a B.A. in English and Secondary Education, both from Wheaton College.

“I’ve worked closely with MSU faculty for years in both scholarship and community initiatives,” Petchauer said. “I’m excited to link arms as colleagues – officially – and continue the good work that serves students, schools, and communities.”

Jacqueline Rhodes

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Rhodes is a Professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures (WRAC). The author/co-author or editor of four books, including the award winning On Multimodality, she previously was a Professor of English at California State University, San Bernardino. She has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Southern Mississippi, an M.A. in English from the University of Idaho, and a B.A. in English from the University of Montana.

“I’m happy to join the MSU team,” Rhodes said. “The WRAC department has exciting programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and I’m particularly pleased to join the faculty of one of the top Ph.D. programs in Rhetoric and Composition in the country.”

Elena Ruiz

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Ruiz is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy. She also holds an appointment in Global Studies. Prior to joining MSU, she was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Her research focuses on the philosophical foundations of violence and gender-based harms. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and an M.L.A. in Social and Political Thought from the University of South Florida.

“What most attracted me to MSU, aside from a leading-edge philosophy department, was the institutional stewardship and commitment to diversity,” Ruiz said. “It’s exciting to work for an institution with a core vision, one that can, for instance, emphasize the critical need to create globally impactful and diverse knowledge systems while at the same time remaining deeply committed to community-based engaged scholarship as a basic, public good.”

Lara Shipley

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Shipley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design. She comes to MSU from the Kansas City Art Institute where she was a Visiting Artist and Lecturer. She has an M.F.A. in Photography from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s degree in Journalism – Photography from the University of Missouri. Shipley’s research focuses on artistic approaches to nonfiction photography. Her work has been exhibited and published internationally and is in collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, Illinois; and the Nelson Atkins Museum for Art in Kansas City, Missouri.

“It’s an honor to join the esteemed faculty in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design,” Shipley said. “I am looking forward to a great semester!”

Photo credit: Barrett Emke

Aurora Wolfgang

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Wolfgang is a Professor in the Department of Romance and Classical Studies. She previously was a Professor of French in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at California State University, San Bernardino. She is a scholar of 17th and 18th-century French literature working on gender politics, salon culture, and questions of style and has authored two books and numerous articles on early modern writers. Wolfgang has a Ph.D. in French Literature from New York University, an M.A. in French Literature from New York University in Paris, France, and a B.A. in French Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“I am excited to be joining the Spartan family,” Wolfgang said. I have no doubt my own research will be greatly enhanced by learning about the important work being done by my new colleagues at MSU.”