Faculty Spotlight

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Academic Year 2022 - 2023

Faculty Accomplishments for this academic year

February 2, 2023 - Professor David Shapleigh - Art

David Shapleigh, Art - The Potential of Space

Professor David Shapleigh, chair of Art, has a new exhibit entitled The Potential of Space at the Borgia Gallery in the Mary Dooley College Center at Elms College, 291 Springfield Street in Chicopee, beginning on February 21st and continuing through April 6th.  There will be an opening reception on February 28 from 12:15 to 1:15 pm

Professor David Shapleigh
Professor David Shapleigh

David explains: "The work is about the potential of a shape and how a shape can interact with others to make an image.  These shapes that I refer to are pieces left over from other pieces of work.  I did not alter these shapes / pieces when used to create a piece of work.  The images created do not have a central focal point, but one's eye travels through or back and forth between the white and black shapes allowing one to see the potential of a shape and the whole image as one object."

The Borgia Gallery hours are 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

February 2, 2023 - Dr. Imo Imeh - Associate Professor - Art

Dr. Imo Imeh
Dr. Imo Imeh

Dr. Imo Imeh has two exhibitions of his work coming up.

The first is a new solo exhibition entitled The Hope of Radiance, which will  open at the prestigious August Wilson African American Cultural Center in Pittsburgh, PA on Friday February 17th. Dr. Imeh will be in attendance for the opening. The show runs through April 2nd. The following link has more information about this exhibition: https://awaacc.org/exhibition/the-hope-of-radiance/

Dr. Imo Imeh working on The Hope Of Radiance
Dr. Imeh at work

Dr. Imeh explains the new exhibition:The Hope of Radiance, whose title is borrowed from an essay that I wrote in 2021, will be the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of my work to date, featuring works from two recent projects Benediction and in his name, and including collaborations with musician and composer Haneef Nelson and Springfield-based poet Aaron Joseph St. Louis. My recent projects have been made possible largely through the Mass Cultural Artist Fellowship, which I received alongside a distinguished cohort of visual artists in 2022. At the thematic center of this collection of works is the question of the Black male's body as a site of trauma and beauty, and his transcendental emergence into new realms of resplendence, power, and elevation."

The Hope of Radiance will be at the Claude Worthington Benedum Gallery in the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in Pittsburgh from February 17, 2023 – April 2, 2023

The second exhibition includes an excerpt of Dr. Imeh's series 17 Years Boy: Epilogue and will be featured in an upcoming group exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts (MoCADA) in New York City. The exhibition, titled Beyond Rage, considers the works of Black and Latino contemporary artists whose work addresses the recurring cycle of violence perpetrated against Black and Brown men. This show runs from February 16, 2023 – April 23, 2023.

Congratulations on both exhibitions, Dr. Imeh!

January 30, 2023 - Dr. Alina Gross and Dr. Marijoan Bull (emeritus faculty) - Geography, Planning and Sustainability

Dr. Alina Gross, Geography, Planning and Sustainability
Dr. Alina Gross

Congratulations to Dr. Alina Gross and Dr. Marijoan Bull (beloved emeritus faculty member) whose book Housing in America: An Introduction was released in its 2nd edition at the beginning of this month:


Their work provides important insight into how many in America find their housing choices constrained due to cost, discriminatory practices, and physical features not aligning with their needs among many other factors:


Title: Housing in America: An Introduction

Marijoan Bull and Alina Gross

(Introductory textbook geared towards undergraduate students)

Dr. Marijoan Bull, faculty emeritus, Geography, Planning and Sustainability
Dr. Marijoan Bull, faculty emeritus

Housing is a fundamental need and universal part of human living that shapes our lives in profound ways that go far beyond basic sheltering. Where we live can determine our self-image, social status, health and safety, quality of public services, access to jobs, and transportation options. But the reality for many in America is that housing choices are constrained: costs are unaffordable, discriminatory practices remain, and physical features do not align with needs. As a society, we recognize the significant role housing plays in our overall quality of life and the stability of our communities. We have made a national commitment to decent housing for all yet this promise remains unrealized.

Bull and Gross's introductory textbook, Housing in America, provides a broad overview of the field of housing, with the objective of fostering an informed and engaged citizenry. The evolution of housing norms and policy is explored in a historical context while underscoring the human and cultural dimensions of housing program choices. Specific topics covered include: why housing matters; housing and culture; housing frameworks and political ideologies; housing and opportunities; housing and the economy; housing discrimination; and housing affordability. Readers will gain an understanding of the basic debates within the field of housing, consider the motivations and performance of various interventions, and critically examine persistent patterns of racial and class inequality.  With an exploration of theoretical frameworks, short case studies, reflective exercises, and strong visuals, this introductory text explores improving housing choices in America.

January 20, 2023 - Dr. Roderico Acevedo - Assistant Professor - Chemical and Physical Sciences

Dr. Roderico Acevedo, Chemical and Physical Sciences
Dr. Roderico Acevedo

Dr. Roderico (Rico) Acevedo was featured in an ASBMB Today (the member magazine for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) article for the work he will being doing at the society's 2023 annual meeting.  Rico will be leading a workshop about using open-source molecular docking and visualization tools to explore protein–ligand interaction in the classroom.

Here's a link to the article at ASBMB Today.

November 21, 2022 - Dr. Michael Filas - English

Dr. Michael Filas, English
Dr. Michael Filas

Dr. Michael Filas of the Department of English, was featured in The Daily Hampshire Gazette this morning, highlighting his efforts with his son, Huxley, and their family.  Michael, son and family were featured for their litter clean-up efforts in the meadows near the Connecticut River in Northampton.

Here's a link to the article: https://www.gazettenet.com/MeadowsCleanup

Thank you, Michael and family for being a fine example of community service!

Professor Michael Filas and his son Huxley

One piece of litter at a time: For the last three years, city resident has picked up and disposed of trash in the Meadows - gazettenet.com

NORTHAMPTON — One piece of garbage at a time, Michael Filas has a mission to clean up the Meadows, a vast expanse of property hugging the Connecticut River in Ward 3 where dumping of trash is ...


November 1, 2022 - Professor James McNamara - Theatre Arts

Professor James McNamara
Professor James McNamara

The Berkshire Theatre Critics Association have nominated this summer’s production of PASS OVER at the Chester Theatre Company for their annual Berkie award for Outstanding Production of a Play or Musical. They also nominated Theatre Arts Associate Professor and Chair James McNamara for the award for Outstanding Sound Design for a Play or Musical for his work on the production. 

Prior to coming to Westfield State University, James was a fulltime faculty member in the Theatre and Dance program at Franklin Pierce University (FPU), serving as the lighting designer and technical director for the program, James also taught Audio Production in the Mass Comm department of FPU. Over the last 19 years he has worked professionally throughout the county as an educator, designer, assistant and technician. James has been the Assistant Lighting Designer on Productions at the Guthrie Theatre Center, The McCarter Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, The Clarence Brown Theatre and Bard SummerScape. He has designed extensively for the Chester Theatre Company and Lost Nation Theater and was the resident Lighting Designer for the Sankofa Dance Project. Other designs have been with LaMaMa ETC (NYC), The Pilgrim Theatre Company, CompanyOne, New World Theatre, The Commons Group VT, World Myth and Music and New Century Theatre.

November 1, 2022 - Dr. Sophia Sarigianides - English

Dr. Sophia Sarigianides, English
Dr. Sophia Sarigianides

Dr. Sophia Sarigianides has come out with a series of recent publications including, “Who is the “young adult” in young adult literature? Critically analyzing conceptions of adolescence in texts designed for their consumption,” in How Young Adult Literature Gets Taught: Perspectives, Ideologies, and Pedagogical Approaches for Instruction and Assessment. (Routledge) and “High Fidelity: Factors Affecting Pre-service Teachers’ Commitment to Antiracist Literature Instruction,” written with Carlin Borsheim-Black in English Education. Dr. Sarigianedes will be presenting her work this fall at the National Council of Teachers of English and the New England Association of Teachers of English. Dr. Sarigianides presented at the Faculty Center last week with Dr. Carol Bailey, “When Texts use the N-Word.” 

November 1, 2022 - Dr. Tracy McLeod - Education

Dr. Tracy McLeod, Education
Dr. Tracy McLeod

Dr. Tracy McLeod, of Education has recently had her article “Parent-Educator Partnerships in Special Education Services Provision: A Thematic Exploration of Challenges Faced by Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families”, published in the International Journal of Special Education

Prior to coming to Westfield State University, Dr. McLeod was the Special Education Coordinator and an Assistant Professor at The Sage Colleges, Troy, NY.  She has taught courses on effective practices in special education to special and general education majors and non-educational majors. Some of these courses focused on topics such as, Diagnosis and Assessment, Response to Intervention, Universal Design for Learning, Differentiated Instruction, IEP Development, Inclusive Models of Teaching, and School-Based and Family Partnerships. Her research areas of interests are issues surrounding immigrant families, school-based and family partnership, disproportionality, multicultural education, and equities within the education system. 

October 21, 2022 - Dr. Elizabeth Preston - Communication

Dr. Elizabeth Preston, Communication
Dr. Elizabeth Preston

On Oct. 21 at Homecoming, faculty and staff were happy to celebrate the outstanding 32-year career of our recently retired and highly esteemed colleague Dr. Elizabeth Preston (Communication, former Interim President and Vice President of Academic Affairs) at the Homecoming Alumni Scholarship Dinner. The dinner celebrated the establishment of a new endowed scholarship in Dr. Preston’s name

October 19, 2022 - Dr. Nicholas Aieta - History

Dr. Nicholas Aieta, Professor, History
Dr. Nicholas Aieta

Dr. Nick Aieta has published, The White Church of Blandford, a visual history of a local Western Massachusetts church. The photographs, memories and, and stories of Blandford residents, past and present, helped develop the tale of this church's birth, physical  decline, and eventual resurrection as a center of the community. With the help of The Blandford Society, the White Church’s history will be preserved as a regional treasure. Divided chronologically into 6 chapters, the text runs from 1735 to the present day, celebrating the deep history of the White Church of Blandford and its impact on local history.

Dr. Aieta will discuss his book The White Church of Blandford as part of the Ely Library Faculty Author Series on Monday, November 7, at 4pm, in the Emilee Dawn Gagnon Event Space. For those unfamiliar, the event space is located in the back right corner of the library’s first floor. Light refreshments will be served.

To learn more about the historic church and Dr. Aieta’s fascinating work, visit Blandford’s Old White Church Celebrates 200 Years.

October 4, 2022 - Dr. Jason Ramsay, Assistant Professor - Biology

Jason Ramsay - Biology
Dr. Jason Ramsay

Westfield State's own Dr. Jason Ramsay of Biology appears on a five-part series on sharks on ABC6, Rhode Island.  Dr. Ramsay, a shark expert, has quite a bit to say about what makes sharks unique and fascinating.

You can view the first episode here.

Dr. Ramsay's general research examines evolutionary transitions in vertebrate form and how form promotes physiological performance within a specific environment. He is particularly interested in research on the form of feeding and locomotor systems, for they govern the types of food (resources) that can be used by various organisms, along with the ability to move and navigate through environments. Such systems are directly linked to fitness, and therefore should be under heavy selection for specific feeding and locomotor features that facilitate the capture and consumption of an organism’s natural prey, species distribution, habitat use, foraging ability, mate location and predator avoidance. He works, primarily, with fish, more specifically elasmobranch fish or what you may know as sharks, skates and rays.

September 22, 2022 - Dr. Imo Imeh, Associate Professor - Art

In 2018, the University Museum of Contemporary Art at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMCA) acquired a limited-edition reproduction of Imo Nse Imeh's painting Butterfly Girl (2017), a work that is part of a series he developed in response to the 2014 mass abduction of approximately 278 girls from Chibok, Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Next week, the UMCA is opening a carefully curated and comprehensive exhibition of their permanent collection in a show titled 60 Years of Collecting: An Anniversary Exhibition Celebrating the UMCA Art Permanent Art Collection. His painting will be featured in the section "Art and Politics: Changing Hearts and Minds."  In this section, Dr. Imeh's work will be in the company of world-renowned artists such as Betye Saar, Fred Wilson, Andy Warhol, and Radcliff Bailey.

The Opening Reception for this exhibition is next week on Thursday, September 29, from 4:30 - 7:30 pm. The exhibition brochure is available here.  It includes the details of the exhibition and the accompanying symposium next day, Friday, September 30th.

For more information regarding this exhibition, please visit: www.umass.edu/umca

Art and Politics image - Imo Imeh, Butterfly Girl

September 19, 2022 - Dr. Shoba Rajgopal, Professor - Ethnic and Gender Studies

Dr. Shoba Rajgopal, Ethnic and Gender Studies
Dr. Shoba Rajgopal

We celebrate the publication of "Fiery Sparks of Change": A Comparison between First Wave Feminists of India and the U.S. by Dr. Shoba S. Rajgopal in the Journal of International Women's Studies from Bridgewater State University (Vol. 24, Issues 2, 2022).  Her piece is a foundational intersectional work from a post-colonial perspective.  Dr. Rajgopal examines race, class, gender, and ethnic subcultural change in the context of voting rights globally.  Here's the abstract: 

"Abstract:  The celebration of the centenary of the 19th Amendment in 2020 has seen the resurgence of interest in the struggles of the Suffragette/Suffragist movement. This article examines the representation of first wave feminism in the developing world, with a focus on the Indian Subcontinent, from a postcolonial feminist perspective. As such, it critiques the colonialist perspective regarding women’s movements of resistance in the developing world and links it to the critique of racism within the women’s movements in the West. It discusses early feminists from India such as Tarabai Shinde whose spirited exposé of the double standards women were subjected to appeared almost a century before Simone De Beauvoir’s landmark analysis and compares their movement to that of the suffragettes in the West. It argues too that, contrary to much of mainstream representation, Dalit feminism is a part not just of the current era of feminism but also of the first wave in India."

Dr. Shoba Rajgopal's article can be accessed here.

September 8 - 10, 2022 - Professor Eric Parness - Theatre Arts

Assistant Professor Eric Parness, Theatre Arts
Professor Eric Parness

Professor Eric Parness, Theatre Arts, had a professional reading of his new play For the People’s Good performed at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA on September 8, 9, and 10.

Global Majority Shakespeare Company presented the reading of For The People's Good and it was directed by Mel Cobb and featured the actors Duane Boutte*, Noelle Franco*, Jeremy Funke*, Laura Poe*, Naire Poole*, and C. Frederick Secrease* (*appeared courtesy of Actors' Equity Association).

Inspired by Henrik Ibsen's classic An Enemy of the People, For The People's Good is set in an alternative reality where absolute conformity of thought is demanded. When a theoretician discovers a truth that threatens to unravel societal dogma, a family must weigh the serious consequences it could have on them and their community. 

Academic Year 2021 - 2022

Faculty Accomplishments for this academic year

May 25, 2022 - Dr. Imo Imeh, Associate Professor - Art

It is a proud week for the Arts at Westfield!  Congratulations to Dr. Imo Nse Imeh, Associate Professor of Art & Art History and Chair of the Art Department, for being named a Painting Fellow by the Mass Cultural Council. The honor comes with an Artist Fellowship Award of $15,000. 

Mass Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowships recognize exceptional work by Massachusetts artists. These awards catalyze artistic advancement and pave the way for creative innovation.

Below is an image from Dr. Imo Nse Imeh's Benediction series, honored by the Mass Cultural Council.

Imo Nse Imeh art from the Benediction series

May 1, 2022 - Dr. Felicia Barber, Associate Professor, Music

The Westfield State University Choral Ensembles will present their spring concert with music celebrating African American composers and arrangers.  The concert will feature the work The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed by Joel Thompson with string orchestra on Sunday, May 1, 2022, at 3:00 pm with a pre-concert lecture with the composer beginning at 2:00 pm.  The concert will be held in the Catherine Dower Center for the Performing and Fine Arts, located at 715 Western Ave, Westfield, MA 01085 in Room 134, with overflow room 127.  Dr. Felicia Barber, Director of Choral Activities at Westfield State, noted that after a year and a half of virtual classrooms due to COVID, we are excited to be back.  Along with our current students, the concert will also feature both WSU faculty and alumni performers. 

A variety of musical genres from the African American tradition will be represented in the first half including spirituals, anthems, and gospel music; the second half will highlight the featured work.  Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, is a powerful and challenging composition that depicts the final phrases and statements of seven African American men who lost their lives due to police brutality or through “citizen’s arrests.”

  • Movement 1 - “Officers, why do you have your guns out?” Kenneth Chamberlain ~ age 66 
  • Movement 2 -  “What are you following me for?”Trayvon Martin ~ age 16 
  • Movement 3 -  “Mom, I’m Going to College”Amadou Diallo ~ age 23 
  • Movement 4 -  “I don’t have a gun! Stop shooting!”  - Michael Brown ~ age 18 
  • Movement 5 -  “You shot me.  You shot me!”Oscar Grant III ~ age 22 
  • Movement 6 -  “It’s not real.”John Crawford ~ age 22 
  • Movement 7 -  “I can’t breathe!”Eric Garner ~ age 43 
A Celebration of African American Music Concert Poster

April 27, 2022 - Faculty Showcase

Faculty Showcase Poster, April 2022

Living Traditions: Songs and Singing Games from Guatemala and Nicaragua.
Dr. Rachel Gibson, Professor, Music

An investigation into living musical traditions, Rachel Gibson learned children’s songs and singing games from teachers, families, and children living in Guatemala and Nicaragua for ten months.  Her book ¡Canta Conmigo! Songs and Singing Games from Guatemala and Nicaragua was published by Oxford University Press in 2021 and contains 90 songs in Spanish and Kaqchikel, a Mayan language, along with biographies of contributing musicians and the Guatemalan illustrator.  To further frame the song collection, chapters are included on the history of Central America, music in Central America, song histories and background, and how to responsibly incorporate the repertoire in to school curriculums with culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogies.

Eric Parness, Theatre Arts
Professor Eric Parness

“For The People’s Good” – A Pandemic Play.
Eric Parness, Assistant Professor, Theatre Arts

The theatre industry was one of many that ground to a halt during the pandemic, forcing theatre artists who thrive on collaboration into isolation.  Professor Parness used his time in lockdown to redefine his role as a storyteller and channeled his creative energy into writing his first full-length play.  At the presentation, Professor Parness will discuss his inspiration for the piece, share about the writing process, and perform selections.

Dr. Mao-Lun Weng, Biology
Dr. Mao-Lun Weng

Mutation bias reflects natural selection in Arabidopsis thaliana.
Dr. Mao-Lun Weng, Assistant Professor, Biology

“Mutation creates genetic variation, which provides the raw materials for evolution to occur.  To fully understand evolution, we must decode mutation.  Mutation has long been assumed to be a random process.  However, recent studies have challenged this convention.  In my presentation, I will share my recent co-authored publication that uncovers the non-randomness of natural mutations in a plant species.  In this international collaboration, we showed the mutations did not randomly occur in the genome and essential genes were less likely to accumulate than non-essential geneses.  These findings have significant implication in biology and medical research.”

Dr. Felicia Barber, Music
Dr. Felicia Barber

A New Perspective for the use of Dialect in African American Spirituals: History, Context, and Linguistics.
Dr. Felicia Barber, Associate Professor, Music

The interpretation of a piece of music is dependent on several factors, which may include its melody, harmony, and rhythm.  However, in choral music it is the text that serves as a defining characteristic.  The pronunciation and interpretation of text is key to understanding its meaning, as well as cultural interpretation.  One of the persistent problems found in the performance practice of African American Spirituals is its dialect.  This presentation will review the history of the languages and dialects that developed out of the African Diaspora; discuss the sociolinguistic impact of the AAE dialect on practice; discover how to apply the chief phonological features found and instruct teachers on how to employ these finding to enhance the performance practice of spirituals.

April 26, 2022 - Historical Journal of Massachusetts - History

Cover of Historical Journal of Massachusetts 75th Commemorative Issue

The Historical Journal of Massachusetts was presented with a Governor's Citation in "recognition of 50 years of publication and...tireless efforts of Westfield State University students and faculty to create such an impactful historical archive that has become an invaluable resource in understanding the history of Massachusetts and the United States" on April 26, 2022 at the Concord Historical Society in Concord, MA. This citation was accepted by Professor Michael Konig (retired), former editor of the Historical Journal of Massachusetts from 1997-2008.

Dr. Mara Dodge, History
Dr. Mara Dodge

The Historical Journal of Massachusetts was founded in 1972 by Westfield State's Dr. Martin Kaufman.  Since 2008, the Journal has been led by Dr. Mara Dodge of Westfield State's History Department.  One of the hallmarks of Dr. Kaufman's initial leadership of the Journal was the training of more than one hundred students as editorial assistants, a pedagogical practice still employed today.  The Historical Journal of Massachusetts is a highly labor-intensive endeavor.  As a peer-reviewed or “refereed” journal, every article that is submitted is read by two editors and two outside expert “peer reviewers” before it is accepted.  Even after the initial review, most articles go through three to four drafts before a final version is ready for copy-editing, several rounds of proofreading, and then, finally, printing.

April 7, 2022 - Dr. Imo Imeh, Associate Professor, Art

This exhibition of the PFF Collection surveys work by Black artists who have grappled with questions of American identity, allegiance, and belonging in their practice. The selected artworks aim to affirm the role of Black Americans in shaping our national identity and to elevate civic engagement and constructive patriotism as a valid and healthy expression of a love of country. Some notable artists being featured in this exhibition are Elizabeth Catlett, Faith Ringgold, Kehinde Wiley, and world-renowned photography artist Dawoud Bey. 

The Sigal Museum is presenting In Conversation: Imo Nse Imeh, a virtual studio talk in which I will contextualize my painting Feeding the Veins of the Earth with my current studio projects. The talk, which will take place in my art studio, is for patrons of the Sigal Museum; but the institution is extending participation to our Westfield State Community by waiving the viewing fee. I hope that you will consider joining us on April 7, 5:00 PM.

Dr. Imeh utilizes his practice of visual art and research in art history to examine historical and philosophical issues around the black body and cultural identity. He has contributed to visual arts conversations with publications, lectures, and provoking studio art projects that interrogate the ways in which black bodies are imagined, installed, ritualized, and transformed. Recently, his art has been recognized by PBS News Hour, New England Public Media, Orion Magazine, and the contemporary art and culture magazine Art New England.

His current studio project, Benediction, tells the story of a group of angels that have been cast down to earth, and bound to the skins of black boys and men. Their task is to serve as witnesses to the traumas and triumphs that they experience while in this guise. Dr. Imeh considers this series as his personal response—as a black man—to the global pandemic, and the many horrific realities of black existence that the darkness of this plague has elucidated for the entire world to witness.

Dr. Imeh’s Feeding the Veins of the Earth, part of the Benediction series, is currently on display at NCHGS’s Sigal Museum, as part of the exhibit Another American’s Autobiography: Selections from the Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art.

In Conversation Imo Nse Imeh Poster

March 22, 2022 - Dr. Roderico Acevedo, Assistant Professor and Dr. Karsten Theis, Professor - Chemical and Physical Sciences

Special Microsymposium: Learning in 3D with Pymol and Proteopedia during a pandemic: enzyme catalysis and conformational change

Dr. Karsten Theis, Chemistry and Physical Sciences
Dr. Karsten Theis

Professors Acevedo and Theis of Chemical and Physical Sciences have had an abstract for their presentation at the  XXV IUCr (International Union of Crystallography) Congress published in Acta Crystallographica, Section A

Abstract: Crystal structures of proteins are three-dimensional, but most depictions of them, in textbooks and in the scientific literature, are not. When students are on campus, they can interact with physical models, discuss structures in the computer lab and experience the properties and functions of proteins in the biochemistry lab. We describe two projects that support interactive, collaborative and experiential learning in a remote setting. In the first project, students explored metabolic enzymes using the visualization software Pymol.

Dr. Roderico Acevedo, Chemical and Physical Sciences
Dr. Roderico Acevedo

Starting with crystal structures in the Protein Data Bank, students learned the basics of Pymol: they superimposed structures representing different stages in the catalytic mechanism, highlighted non-covalent interactions, identified bonds broken and made, and discussed the active sites of these enzymes in the context of the protein fold. In weekly meetings, students shared their progress and setbacks amongst each other, and used peer-to-peer learning to elevate their chemical and graphical design skills. Individually, they created different scenes and made them into a short video for which they provided an explanatory voiceover. Students wrote about their progress in weekly reflections. Many students reported being “excited and challenged” about learning a new technique at the outset. Later, deeper learning strategies emerged such as searching the primary literature or comparing existing videos to see how one might position an active site. The help-seeking behavior also became more sophisticated, for example asking for a video tutorial showing how to add or remove functional groups from a model. Overall, students were actively engaged in their projects and were eager to share what they had learned in discussions with their peers. The second project, housed on the public science site Proteopedia.org, aims at presenting examples of conformational change in a more interactive way. We wrote a series of Jmol scripts (storymorph.spt) to make it easier to superimpose structures and create morphs (fictional trajectories connecting conformational states). Using an algorithm that combines rigid-body movement with linear interpolation, morphs are made on the fly, allowing the visitor to change parameters (such as the timing of distinct parts of the conformational change or the initial superposition) to get a better feel for how the conformation might change. It is also possible to slow down or pause the morph, allowing visitors to explore the suggested intermediates in three-dimensions, including potential clashes or unrealistic bond lengths or angles. Morphs made available through this project include hexokinase binding to glucose, RNA polymerase transitioning from early to late initiation, conformational changes in calmodulin, and the pre-fusion to post-fusion transition of the coronavirus spike protein. Together these two projects highlight simple ways to keep science-learning interactive, collaborative, fun, and — most importantly — three- dimensional in spite of the limitations caused by a pandemic. Keywords: catalysis, conformational change, interactive learnin

March 15, 2022 - Kate Bagley, Professor Emeritus - Celebration of Her Life and Work

Kate Bagley Celebration Poster

March 2, 2022 - Dr. H. Zahra Caldwell, Associate Professor - Ethnic and Gender Studies

Roberta Flack & Quiet Fire Talk and Listening Party 

Wednesday, March 2rd from 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. in the Faculty Center* (in person!)

Our colleague, Zahra Caldwell, Associate Professor of Ethnic and Gender Studies, recently wrote the liner notes for the 50th Anniversary pressing of Roberta Flack's pivotal third album Quiet Fire. Zahra will share her insights and research on Flack's musical production and cultural labor. We will also reflect on the songs themselves in a live listening party and analysis.

H. Zahra Caldwell Event Poster

February 16, 2022 - Dr. Sophia Sarigianides, Professor - English

AACTE (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education) today

Outstanding Book Award

announced that Letting Go of Literary Whiteness: Anti-racist Literature Instruction for White Students, coauthored by Carlin Borsheim-Black, Ph.D., and Sophia Tatiana Sarigianides, Ph.D., is the winner of the 2022 AACTE Outstanding Book Award. This annual award recognizes a book that makes a significant contribution to the knowledge base of educator preparation or teaching and learning with implications for educator preparation. Sponsored by the AACTE Committee on Research and Dissemination, the award is given to a book that is well-written and offers a fresh lens on current assumptions or practices, reorients thinking in the field, and shows potential for significant impact on policy or practice in educator preparation. The authors will be recognized formally with the award at the AACTE 74th Annual Meeting on March 4.

In their frank discussion, the authors draw upon experiences from their own and others’ classrooms to give discipline-specific practices for implementing anti-racist literature instruction in White-dominant schools. Some of the topics this book examines include designing literature-based units that emphasize racial literacy, selecting literature that highlights voices of color, analyzing Whiteness in canonical literature, examining texts through a critical race lens, managing challenges of race talk, and designing formative assessments for racial literacy and identity growth. Letting Go of Literary Whiteness: Anti-racist Literature Instruction for White Students, published by Teachers College Press in 2019, was also nominated for the Grawemeyer Award for Education (2020).

February 8, 2022 - Dr. Paul Higgins, Assistant Professor, and Dr. Paul Cacolice, Associate Professor - Sports Medicine and Human Performance

female student jogging in place inside the Woodward Center

PeerJ, an online publisher of seven scientifically based open-access journals, has published Westfield State University research into how bilateral back squat strength could be increased during an undulating resistance-training program. The research was conducted by Paul Higgins, DPT, and Paul Cacolice, Ph.D., Westfield State assistant professors of sports medicine and human performance; Westfield State alumnus Troy Doming ’17, Springfield Public Schools science teacher; and Jason Sawyer, Ph.D., assistant professor and chair of the Rhode Island College Department of Health and Physical Education.

Dr. Paul Cacolice, Sports Medicine and Human Performance
Dr. Paul Cacolice

The article, “Bilateral back squat strength is increased during a three-week undulating resistance training program with and without variable resistance in DIII collegiate football players,” explored strength development strategies and techniques in a short timeframe, and utilized members of the Westfield State University football team.

The investigation determined that appreciable gains in muscle strength may be achieved in as little as three weeks using a specific type of training program while still performing pre-season, sport-specific activities. These findings could have a profound impact on injury prevention and optimized performance, according to Cacolice.

January 12, 2022 - Dr. Mao-Lun Weng, Assistant Professor - Biology

Dr. Mao-Lun Weng, Biology, has co-authored a published Nature article about genetic mutation entitled "Mutation bias reflects natural selection in Arabidopsis thaliana."

Dr. Mao-Lun Weng, Biology
Dr. Mao-Lun Weng

Abstract: Since the first half of the twentieth century, evolutionary theory has been dominated by the idea that mutations occur randomly with respect to their consequences.  Here we test this assumption with large surveys of de novo mutations in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. In contrast to expectations, we find that mutations occur less often in functionally constrained regions of the genome—mutation frequency is reduced by half inside gene bodies and by two-thirds in essential genes. With independent genomic mutation datasets, including from the largest Arabidopsis mutation accumulation experiment conducted to date, we demonstrate that epigenomic and physical features explain over 90% of variance in the genome-wide pattern of mutation bias surrounding genes. Observed mutation frequencies around genes in turn accurately predict patterns of genetic polymorphisms in natural Arabidopsis accessions (r = 0.96). That mutation bias is the primary force behind patterns of sequence evolution around genes in natural accessions is supported by analyses of allele frequencies. Finally, we find that genes subject to stronger purifying selection have a lower mutation rate. We conclude that epigenome-associated mutation bias2 reduces the occurrence of deleterious mutations in Arabidopsis, challenging the prevailing paradigm that mutation is a directionless force in evolution.

November 5, 2021 - Professor Huguette Williams - Criminal Justice

Congratulations to Criminal Justice faculty member, Huguette Williams, who was awarded the Alumni Inspiration Award by the African American Female Professor Award Association last night at a ceremony at Western New England University. The following is from the announcement of the award,  

"It brings me great pleasure to honor you as well as value the core proficiencies that you endlessly demonstrate in higher education and the community. You are being recognized for your academic vigor and commitment to higher education. Along with your community engagement and dedication to multicultural dynamics, diversity, and equity."

October 28, 2021 - Professor Rebecca Olander - English

Rebecca Olander's book Uncertain Acrobats, her collection of poems, will be officially released November 2, from CavanKerry Press

Professor Rebecca Olander, English
Professor Rebecca Olander

"Uncertain Acrobats evokes unraveling within its tightly woven narrative, the central concern of which is the death of a parent and the fumbling for balance a dying father and his adult daughter share. Rebecca Hart Olander’s intimate collection doesn’t shy from darkness, strives for light, and resides in music and openhearted humanity. These poems arc across a terrain of divorce, family, childhood, coming of age, mortality, and deep, abiding love, always landing with a foothold in the genuine. A manifestation of what endures, Uncertain Acrobats reaches beyond personal grief and speaks to all who have been upended by terminal illness and the enormity of loss one faces when a beloved leaves one’s life." --CavanKerry Press

Arrangements for book purchases can be made directly with the author immediately following the reading. You can also pre-order your copy of Uncertain Acrobats here: https://www.cavankerrypress.org/product/uncertain-acrobats/

Rebecca Olander's Uncertain Acrobats

Uncertain Acrobats - CavanKerry Press

Coming Soon!!! Publication Date: 11/2/2021 (Please note: books will ship out on or shortly before the official pub date based on availability) Uncertain Acrobats evokes unraveling within its tightly woven narrative, the central concern of which is the death of a parent and the fumbling for balance a dying father and his adult daughter share. Rebecca Hart Olander’s intimate collection doesn ...


September 29, 2021 - Dr. Imo Imeh, Associate Professor - Art

Feeding the Veins of the Earth (Grounded Angel) by Dr. Imo Nse Imeh
Feeding the Veins of the Earth (Grounded Angel) by Dr. Imo Nse Imeh

The artwork of Imo Nse Imeh, Ph.D., Westfield State University associate professor of art and art history, has been added to the prominent Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African-American Art.

The New Jersey-based foundation purchased Imeh’s most recent painting,

Feeding the Veins of the Earth (Grounded Angel), is part of his Benediction series. This group of paintings envisions angels sent to Earth to be bonded to the skins of Black men and boys to bear witness to their traumas, triumphs, and lived experiences.  Completed in 2020, Feeding the Veins was created using oil paint, India ink, acrylic ink, and charcoal on unstretched canvas, measuring 100 x 84 inches.

Dr. Imo Nse Imeh, Art
Dr. Imo Imeh

“As stewards of African American art, we look for work that is technically skillful, intellectually engaging, and deeply moving,” said Claudia Volpe, director of the Petrucci Family Foundation. “Dr. Imo Nse Imeh ticks every box in his practice. His Benediction series, in particular, caught our eye. We were struck by Imo’s decision to depict Black men as angels and as God’s direct witnesses to the gravity of living as a Black man in America during a time when it feels as though the struggles that Black Americans face are willfully ignored. Feeding the Veins of the Earth (Grounded Angel) elegantly captures the crushing weight of bearing witness to tragedy, as well as the critical need for these national wounds to be seen and recognized. It is our distinct privilege to include this remarkable piece in the PFF Collection.”

September 3, 2021 - Dr. H. Zahra Caldwell, Associate Professor - Ethnic and Gender Studies

Dr. H. Zahra Caldwell, Ethnic and Gender Studies
Dr. H. Zahra Caldwell

Dr. H. Zahra Caldwell of Ethnic and Gender Studies is a contributor to a new book entitled  Beyoncé in the World: Making Meaning with Queen Bey in Troubled Times with a chapter entitled "I Came To Slay" The Knowles Sisters, Black Feminism, and the Lineage of Black Female Cool. 

Beyonce In The World

From Destiny's Child to Lemonade, Homecoming, and The Gift, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter has redefined global stardom, feminism, Black representation, and celebrity activism. This book brings together new work from sixteen international scholars to explore Beyonce's impact as an artist and public figure from the perspectives of critical race studies, gender and women's studies, queer and cultural studies, music, and fan studies. The authors explore Beyoncé's musical persona as one that builds upon the lineages of Black female cool, Black southern culture, and Black feminist cultural production. They explore Beyoncé's reception within and beyond North America, including how a range of performers—from YouTube gospel singers to Brazilian pop artists have drawn inspiration from her performances and image. The authors show how Beyoncé's music is a source of healing and kinship for many fans, particularly Black women and queer communities of color. Combining cutting edge research, vivid examples, and accessible writing, this collection provides multiple lenses onto the significance of Beyoncé in the United States and around the world.

Academic Year 2020 - 2021

Faculty Accomplishments for this academic year

July 15, 2021 - Dr. Nora Padykula, Professor - Social Work

Dr. Nora Padykula, Social Work
Dr. Nora Padykula

Westfield State University’s Department of Social Work has received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for the Integrative Behavioral Health (IBH) Equity Project. The project builds a specialized workforce within rural, medically underserved areas as well as among diverse and historically marginalized populations to address the barriers identified by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the “Social Determinants of Health.”

This HRSA award will be distributed over the next four years and will train 92 Westfield State graduate students in the Master of Social Work (MSW) program in the following integrative behavioral health specialties: Child, Youth, and Family; Health Social Work; Substance Use and Addictions; and Latinx Community Health. These students will receive $920,000 in training stipends over the next four years.

“The pandemic has highlighted how racial and economic disparities impact health outcomes. Social workers have an important role in addressing the social determinants of health, and these must be addressed to achieve health justice,” said Nora Padykula, Ph.D., professor and chair of the University’s Department of Social Work and principal investigator of the grant. “Westfield State students while training in these specialty areas work directly with our community partners to increase access to healthcare among vulnerable populations.”

May 10, 2021 - Dr. Patrick Romano, Professor - Chemical and Physical Sciences

Professor Patrick Romano works with a student
Dr. Patrick Romano

As a part of the Evening of Discovery on Friday, one of our senior chemistry majors, Morgan Shia, paid tribute to Dr. Patrick Romano, who has completed 50 years of service at Westfield State.  Morgan had the idea of creating a short video that includes as many photos as possible from each year of Dr. Romano's remarkable career.  

It is not surprising that a student would go out of her way to celebrate Dr. Romano.  This is a reflection of the meaningful relationships he has built with his students for 50 years.

Many thanks to Dean Hanselman for organizing and hosting a great evening, and for including this tribute as a part of that celebration of our students and alumni.  The link below is to a YouTube video that Morgan created.  Enjoy.


May 5, 2021 - Dr. Paul Cacolice, Associate Professor - Sports Medicine and Human Performance

Westfield State University research, into how using mild jugular compression collars could prevent brain damage in high school ice hockey and football athletes, was recently published in the April 2021 issue of the International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training (IJATT).

Dr. Paul Cacolice
Dr. Paul Cacolice

Paul Cacolice, Ph.D., assistant professor of movement science, sport, and leisure studies at Westfield State; and 2018 graduate Megan Nye conducted the research and wrote the article—“Mild Jugular Vein Compression Decreases Brain Tissue Changes in High School-aged Males Playing Collision Sports”—which is a based on Nye’s senior project on athletic training.

Cacolice explained that this investigation is the first critical analysis to attempt a meta-analysis on the effectiveness of this new, proposed concussion-preventing device: a device modeled from a strategy seen in woodpeckers. He believes that a challenge to all patient-facing clinicians is to offer educated counsel, which requires a broad, and yet thorough understanding of prevention and care strategies for various body systems and for many different activities. Some of these strategies may still be in development or have only recently been released to the market.

“What makes this more challenging for certified athletic trainers is that we are considered reliable sources of information by injured or ill patients, but also uninjured student-athletes, coaches, institution administrators, and parents,” he explained.

April 8, 2021 - Dr. Kamal Ali, Professor Emeritus - Ethnic and Gender Studies

Dr. Kamal Ali takes the stage with a great Op Ed piece in the Springfield Republican newspaper on the importance of courses in our Dept. "If we’re going to live under one roof as an indivisible American people, with liberty and justice for all of us, it is absolutely essential that we educate ourselves on certain undeniable contradictions and distortions that have, over time, assumed the mantel of truth."


February 26, 2021 - Dr. Lauren DiCarlo, Assistant Professor - Environmental Science

Dr. Lauren DiCarlo, Environmental Science
Dr. Lauren DiCarlo

Lauren DiCarlo, faculty in the Environmental Science Department, has been developing a new Restoration Ecology minor.  She was just given approval by the Conservation Commission of the City of Westfield to take on a fairly substantial restoration project that will involve many, many of our students over the next five years.  The main goal of the project is to remove invasive plants on University-owned property, especially along the Westfield River (along Route 20) and Little River (near South Lot).  It's a real-world example of what many of Westfield State's majors do in their careers once they graduate.

Here is an article from yesterday's Westfield News about the approval: https://thewestfieldnews.com/student-led-project-to-remove-invasives-along-rivers/

February 12, 2021 - Dr. Rachel Gibson, Professor - Music

Dr. Rachel Gibson, Music
Dr. Rachel Gibson

Westfield State University Professor of Music Rachel Gibson, Ph.D., of Amherst, Mass., was awarded the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award for the Spring 2021 semester. She is currently teaching and conducting research at the Universidad de Málaga in Spain.

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program offers approximately 470 teaching, research, or combination teaching/research awards in over 125 countries.

“In Spain, I will work with Ph.D. students, engage in research, and teach seminars and workshops in my areas of expertise,” said Gibson, who also serves as the University’s coordinator of music education. “I have tremendous excitement for this cross-cultural collaboration and working with students and faculty at this university.”

Westfield State Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Kersting, Ph.D., praised Gibson on her accomplishment.

“Dr. Gibson has been an amazing asset to our Music Department and Music Education Program,” said Kersting. “I know that her Ph.D. students in Spain will greatly benefit from working with her and upon her return, Westfield State University students will uniquely benefit from her experiences in Spain.”

February 11, 2021 - Dr. Catherine Savini, Professor - English

Dr. Catherine Savini, English
Dr. Catherine Savini

An article written by Catherine Savini, Ph.D., Westfield State University professor of English, coordinator of Writing Across the Curriculum, and director of the Reading and Writing Center, was recently featured in the national publication Inside Higher Ed. Savini’s article—“10 Ways to Tackle Linguistic Bias in Our Classrooms”—focused on the many problematic elements of linguistic bias she has encountered as an educator.

“I’ve learned that it is pervasive and that it is extremely damaging,” said Savini. “Linguistic bias can lead students to feel as if they don’t belong at the university. We don’t want this to be the case but it is.”

“Language, after all, is a central component of our identities. Our assessment practices typically don’t reflect our stated desire of including all students,” Savini explained.

“The impact of linguistic racism extends beyond education,” said Savini. Included in her article is an example of an urban planning student who later admitted to learning how to separate dialects from intelligence, following the reading of Vershawn Ashanti Young’s essay “Should Writers Use They Own English?”, published in the Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies in 2010.

December 20, 2020 - Dr. Tarin Weiss, Dr. Frank Giuliano, Professor Kerrie McKinstry-Jett - Chemical and Physical Sciences

Dr. Tarin Weiss
Professor Tarin Weiss of Chemical and Physical Sciences

Professors Tarin Weiss, Frank Giuliano, and Kerrie McKinstry-Jett of Chemical and Physical Sciences were featured in a Springfield Republican article entitled Science changes, so do teachers about the challenges of teaching labs online during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The article can be read here.

October 20, 2020 - Dr. Jason Ramsay, Assistant Professor - Biology

Dr. Jason Ramsay, Biology
Dr. Jason Ramsay

Westfield State University alumnus Jarrod Petersen ’19 and Assistant Professor of Biology Jason Ramsay, Ph.D., recently had a paper titled “Walking on chains: the morphology and mechanics behind the fin ray derived limbs of sea-robins,” published in the September 28, 2020, issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Their research revealed that the design of sea-robin limbs may have practical applications in the development of human limb prosthetics. “The remaining muscles from an amputated leg, which are typically close to the trunk of the body, may be able to power a prosthetic limb build like a sea-robin limb,” said Dr. Ramsay.

“We have known for centuries that sea-robins had these small limbs for walking. It was also known that the limbs were modified fin rays. What we did not know was how such multi-jointed, flexible structures were capable of being used as limbs. It seemed counterintuitive. We now know what features are required for this ability and can use those data in comparisons of other living species and fossil species to get a better idea of when these modifications first arose in the evolutionary history of sea-robins.”

The Journal of Experimental Biology (JEB) is the leading primary research journal in comparative physiology and is published by The Company of Biologists, a not-for-profit publishing organization dedicated to supporting and inspiring the biological community.

October 16, 2020 - Dr. Lisa Barao, Assistant Professor - Criminal Justice

Dr. Lisa Barao, Criminal Justice
Dr. Lisa Barao

Westfield State University Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Lisa Barao, Ph.D., co-authored an independent year-long climate study of the Hartford, Conn., Police Department (HPD). The study, recently released by the City of Hartford, examines the department’s “weakness and avenues for organizational improvement,” and found “most officers felt that in recent years the department has been moving in a better direction and is focused on continual improvement.”

Partnering with Chelsea Farrell, Ph.D., assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Rhode Island, Dr. Barao used Hartford police officer surveys and interviews and administrative and case data to assess seven areas: discipline, misconduct, and harassment; diversity in promotions and assignments; equipment, resources, and training; officer wellness; recruitment and retention; transparency, communication, and fairness; and workplace environment.

“The goal of this assessment was to holistically evaluate organizational features and workplace perceptions within the HPD with an intentional focus on examining organizational characteristics that might lead to the negative treatment of officers by their peers or supervisors,” said Drs. Barao and Farrell in a joint statement. “We utilized a mixed-methods approach to collect and analyze officer surveys, officer interviews, administrative demographic data, and employee complaint files.” 

“Our police department is committed to constant improvement, both in terms of serving residents and building a fair, inclusive workplace,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “This deep, broad, independent assessment identifies both a number of strengths and a number of areas for improvement, and we will be working with [Hartford Police] Chief Jason Thody and his team to review and implement reforms to build a stronger culture. Our officers do incredibly difficult work on a daily basis, and we need to do everything to support them—and hold them to the highest standards. Our community deserves an effective police department that builds trust through transparency and a dedication to self-assessment and improvement, and this study will help the department move forward.”

October 7, 2020 - Dr. Julian Fleron, Professor - Mathematics

Dr. Julian Fleron, Mathematics
Dr. Julian Fleron

Westfield State University alumnus Nicholas Taliceo ’16 and Professor of Mathematics Julian F. Fleron, Ph.D., recently had a paper titled “A Prime Example of the Strong Law of Small Numbers,” accepted for publication in Mathematics Magazine.

The peer-reviewed journal has been an international publication of the Mathematical Association of America, one of the largest societies of mathematicians, since 1947.

The two authors worked together and based the article partly on Taliceo’s senior honors thesis, titled Intercardinal Adjacencies: A New Landscape Metric. Dr. Fleron was the faculty advisor for the project.

“I did this work in the context of being a teacher and a mathematician,” he said. “Much of my career has focused on helping people find healthier perceptions of mathematics.”

September 10, 2020 - Dr. Kristen Porter, Assistant Professor - Biology

Dr. Kristen Porter, Biology
Dr. Kristen Porter

Westfield State University Biology Professor Kristen A. Porter, Ph.D., has been awarded a $750,000 grant through the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) Women’s Health Program to research predictive modeling to create “bioprofiles” for use in personalized medicine in women’s health.

Dr. Porter’s is one of five capital projects in the MLSC Women’s Health Program to receive part of the $8.3 million in funding this year. The funding supports innovative research and cross-sector collaboration between non-profits and Massachusetts-based life science companies to advance research in women’s health and foster new talent for the Massachusetts biotechnology super cluster.

The MLSC Women’s Health Program supports collaborative projects to improve the discovery, technical innovation, and/or analysis of datasets to answer pressing life science-related questions around women’s health.

Massachusetts Secretary for Administration and Finance Michael J. Heffernan, who serves as co-chair of the MLSC Board of Directors, said: “The Baker-Polito Administration is proud to support these novel efforts encouraging collaboration and innovation to advance human health and improving patient outcomes. These grants further our important, shared mission to incentivize transformative projects developing solutions in areas of need, while strengthening the thriving life sciences industry here in Massachusetts.”

August 25, 2020 - Dr. Sophia Sarigianides, Professor - English

Dr. Sophia Sarigianides, English
Dr. Sophia Sarigianides

Westfield State University English Professor Sophia Sarigianides, Ph.D., co-author of the book Letting Go of Literary Whiteness: Anti-racist Literature Instruction for White Students with Carlin Borsheim-Black, Ph.D., has been nominated for the Grawemeyer Award in Education.

The award winner will be selected by a committee in 2021 and will receive a $100,000 prize. “The Grawemeyer Award in Education, administered by the University of Louisville since 1988, is intended to stimulate thoughtful discussion and implementation of ideas that have potential to have a positive impact on educational practice,” said Dr. Jeffrey C. Valentine, director of the Grawemeyer Award in Education in the University of Louisville’s College of Education & Human Development.

In Letting Go, the authors use classroom examples to offer discipline-specific practices for implementing antiracist literature instruction in white-dominant schools.

“We poured everything we had into this book and hoped it would reach the hands of teachers, since it was a book we needed as teachers ourselves,” said Professor Sarigianides. “To now have our work be considered for this honor, we could not have imagined this. We hope word of the nomination brings attention to just how much work we need to do in white-dominant schools to address our nation’s problems with racism, and that there are clear steps teachers can take to begin this journey.”

Academic Year 2019 - 2020

Faculty Accomplishments for this academic year

August 4, 2020 - Dr. Imo Imeh, Associate Professor - Art

Art professor, Imo Imeh, working on one of his large canvases in his studio
Dr. Imo Imeh

A recent, local television network feature about Professor Imo Imeh's current studio art project Benediction has gone national. It is now on the PBS News Hour "Art Canvas" website. The project has many threads of connection to the current conversations about racial inequality and injustice in the United States. 

PBS News Hour Link: 


Before PBS News Hour picked up this story, it was broadcast in the Boston area as part of the Open Studio television series. His art was featured in an episode with two icons in the field of contemporary art, Yinka Shonibare and Jacob Lawrence. 

Open Studio Link: 


July 15, 2020 - Dr. Felicia Barber - Music

Dr. Felicia Barber, Music
Dr. Felicia Barber

Dr. Felicia Barber of Music was featured on the Facebook live show "And the Beat Goes on" which is sponsored by the American Choral Directors Association. She discussed topics of diversity as well as her new book entitled:  

A New Perspective for the Use of Dialect in African American Spirituals: History, Context, and Linguistics. (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2020). (Upcoming Fall Release)


February 26, 2020 - Dr. Miriam Tager, Associate Professor - Education

Miriam Tager book, Technology Segregation
Technology Segregation, by Dr. Miriam Tager

Westfield State University Early Childhood Education Professor Miriam Tager, Ph.D., has written a new book.

Titled Technology Segregation: Disrupting Racist Frameworks in Early Childhood Education (Lexington Books, 2019), sheds light on “technology racism” in which children’s lack of access to technology impacts their quality of education and life success. The book draws from rich classroom observation and the history of segregation in housing, education, and technology in American communities. It uses the framework of critical race theory to unpack the issue of technology segregation of citizens of color in the United States.

Dr. Miriam Tager
Dr. Miriam Tager

Examples of “technology racism” includes high poverty schools that have little to no technology in the classroom. Dr. Tager witnessed a pre-K teacher doing a lesson with his own personal laptop, with no access to a projector or smartboard.

A Westfield State faculty member since 2015, Dr. Tager previously served as a first-grade public school teacher in New York and New Jersey and was a preschool director in New York City. She earned a Ph.D. in urban education with a concentration in early childhood education from the City University of New York Graduate Center. She received an M.S. in early childhood education from Bank Street College and a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College.

“I was inspired by my research on school readiness. I noticed that students of color had much less access to technology, said Tager. “I conducted a second study in Massachusetts, to see if it held true, and it did.”

December 6, 2019 - Dr. Mary Keator, Assistant Professor - English

Dr. Mary Keator, English
Dr. Mary Keator

Mary Keator, Ph.D., assistant professor of English at Westfield State University, will serve as a keynote speaker for Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya (DSVV) University’s 3rd Annual National Holistic Literacy Conference, located in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India. In addition, she will be serving as one of the principal leaders for the University’s teacher training from mid-December 2019 to mid-January 2020.

During this conference, Dr. Keator will share her knowledge of literacy, close reading, her scholarship in lectio divina and contemplative reading and writing practices, and her continuous work for interfaith and inter-subjective dialogue.

Lectio divina, or “divine reading,” was the pedagogical method used within the monastic schools to teach deep reading, reflection and prayer. “The culminating experience of lectio divina was contemplatio, union with God’s love.” In 2018, Dr. Keator published her adaptation of this monastic pedagogical method for use in the secular classroom in her book Lectio Divina as Contemplative Pedagogies: Re-Appropriating Monastic Practice for the Humanities.  She also contributed a chapter titled “Lectio Divina and the Awakening of the Soul” for Dr. Maureen Hall’s book, The Whole Person.

“I am humbled and honored to be invited as a keynote speaker at the National Holistic Literary Conference and to co-lead the teacher training at DSVV,” said Dr. Keator. “Professionally, as a scholar-teacher of World Religion, World Literatures, Yoga, and a life-long practitioner of Eastern and Western contemplative practices, I have always felt a deep respect and affinity for the peoples and cultures within India. I whole-heartedly welcome this opportunity to listen, dialogue, collaborate, and grow with the teachers and students at DSVV.” 

November 1, 2019 - Dr. Karsten Theis, Professor - Chemical and Physical Sciences

Dr. Karsten Theis, Chemistry and Physical Sciences
Dr. Karsten Theis

Westfield State University Associate Professor of Chemical & Physical Sciences Karsten Theis, Ph.D., recently had a project published in Chemistry Teacher International (CTI).

His work, “PQtutor, a quasi-intelligent tutoring system for quantitative problems in General Chemistry,” studies the software’s effectiveness with students. PQTutor functions by comparing student input to a model answer in order to generate prompts for finding a path to the solution and for correcting mistakes. Feedback is derived via questions from a virtual study group that suggests problem-solving moves, such as accessing relevant content, reviewing examples, or reflection about what their answer means.

“My work on [this] project supplements an existing open (free) chemistry textbook by providing free online homework as well,” said Dr. Theis. “This aligns with the goal of going beyond the open textbook articulated a decade ago by the Capetown Open Education Declaration (#CPT10), and with our institution’s values to ‘providing an accessible, affordable public higher education for all.”

A Westfield State faculty member since 2010, Theis holds a Ph.D. in structural biology from the Free University of Berlin, Germany, where he also earned his B.Sc. in chemistry.

October 29, 2019 - Dr. Dristi Neog, Associate Professor - Geography, Planning and Sustainability

Dr. Dristi Neog, Geography, Planning and Sustainability
Dr. Dristi Neog

Dristi Neog, Ph.D. an assistant professor of geography, planning, and sustainability (GPS) at Westfield State University, has authored a book titled Shaping our Future: Community Planning Basics for Happier, Healthier and More Sustainable Cities, published by Cognella Academic Publishing in August 2019.

Shaping Our Future is a contemporary and comprehensive introductory text to the field of planning. It touches on various aspects of community/urban planning, exposing the reader to all dimensions of the profession, including topics such as the advent of big data and sustainable development.

Dr. Neog earned a Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from Florida University, a master of city and regional planning from the University of Texas at Arlington, and a bachelor of architecture from Jawaharal Nehru Technological University in India.

October 7, 2019 - Dr. Robert Bristow, Professor - Geography, Planning and Sustainability

Dr. Robert Bristow, Geography, Planning and Sustainability
Dr. Robert Bristow

Research conducted by Westfield State University’s Robert Bristow, Ph.D., professor of geography, planning, & sustainability, and undergraduate student Anna Therien, has been published in the North American Archaeologist journal.

Their work, titled “Discovering archaeological landscapes in parks and protected areas,” examines how Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) can be used to monitor cultural resources in parks and other protected areas. They studied the Appalachian Trail using this method combined with records identifying historical archaeological resources. “The use of remote sensing imagery gives researchers another tool to find historic cultural features in the backcountry of our public lands,” said Dr. Bristow.

A senior from Woonsocket, R.I., Therien has a double major in regional planning and environmental science. “I really enjoyed the research because it was related to my interest with Geographic Information Systems (GIS),” said Therien, “but I also knew how valuable it could be to organizations like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the National Park Service.”

Therien admitted that publishing research “is something I never thought I would do, especially as an undergraduate. I am extremely proud and happy that I had the opportunity to work on this independent research that led to this great accomplishment.”

Dr. Bristow earned a Ph.D. in geography from Southern Illinois University and both his B.S. and M.A. in geography and environmental planning from Towson University. In addition to teaching, he authors a blog named Recreation Geography.

To access the article, visit https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0197693119868912.

September 13, 2019 - Dr. Christine von Renesse, Professor - Mathematics

Dr. Christine von Renesse, Mathematics
Dr. Christine von Renesse

Westfield State University Professor of Mathematics Christine von Renesse, Ph.D., has collaborated with a team of faculty representing four regional inquiry-based learning (IBL) communities on a proposal that has been approved for funding by a $299,999 grant through the National Science Foundation.

The project, entitled “The Inquiry-Based Learning Regional Communities Project: Transforming Undergraduate Mathematics (IBL Communities)” and led by the University of Nebraska Omaha, supports the innovative transformation of undergraduate mathematics through regional inquiry-based learning communities. Patrick Rault, Ph.D., of the Univ. of Nebraska Omaha is the principal investigator and Dr. von Renesse is one of four co-PIs, including representatives from the Maryland-DC-Virginia IBL Consortium, Michigan IBL Consortium and Midwest Regional IBL Community.

A member of the leadership team of the New England IBL Mathematics Consortium (NE-IBLM), Dr. von Renesse will work to organize activities for the New England region, including workshops, initiating classroom visits, and planning professional learning communities. The NE-IBLM hosted a launch conference in November, where more than 40 educators from 26 institutions across all six New England states participated.

The project team aims to use the IBL communities model to provide ongoing support that instructors need to successfully adopt and sustain IBL strategies in the classroom, to nurture growth and investigate the impact of these communities and promote the use of IBL in undergraduate mathematics education.