National Book Award Nominee, Renowned Artist Highlight Class of New Faculty
The College of Liberal & Creative Arts welcomed 11 tenure-track faculty members to its ranks at beginning of the school year. These rising stars bring a wealth and breadth of expertise to share with students in subjects as diverse as the University itself. They include a National Book Award nominee, an artist who created a sculpture for Hillary Clinton, a leading scholar of the Iranian diaspora, a civil-rights lawyer turned political scientist, a transgender health researcher and more.
The new professors are among 38 tenure-track and tenured faculty joining SF State this year.
Libby Black, Art
Assistant Professor Libby Black has garnered wide renown for her Louis Vuitton bags made of paper, Chanel roller skates and drawings of celebrities damaged by addiction. A painter and sculptural installation artist, Black bases her work on imagery culled from disparate sources like fashion magazines, snapshots, newspapers and pop culture websites.
“I am interested in having the work chart a path through personal history and a broader cultural context to explore themes of impermanence and identity,” she says in her artist statement. “Our lives are marked by monumental events and spectacular disasters.”
Black has exhibited nationally, with shows such as Bay Area Now 4 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in 2005, the 2004 California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art and at galleries in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Black’s work has been reviewed in Artforum, Art in America, ARTnews, Zink magazine, Flash Art and The New York Times. Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton commissioned Black to create a floral sculpture.
Black earned her Master of Fine Arts from the California College of the Arts.
May-lee Chai, Creative Writing
Assistant Professor May-lee Chai’s 2001 family memoir, The Girl from Purple Mountain, written with her father, was nominated for the National Book Award in nonfiction.
Chai’s novels include My Lucky Face, Dragon Chica and Tiger Girl, which won an Asian/Pacific American Award in Literature. Her memoir Hapa Girl was a Kiriyama Prize 2008 Notable Book. Her essay, “The Blue Boot,” was cited as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2013, edited by Cheryl Strayed and Robert Atwan.
A former Associated Press reporter, Chai (M.F.A., Creative Writing, ’13) covered stories ranging from the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crackdown to the crash of UA Flight 232 in Iowa to Pope John Paul II’s visit to Denver.
Chai comes to SF State from University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she also was an assistant professor.
Nicholas Conway, Political Science
Assistant Professor Nicholas Conway joins the Political Science faculty after a career as an administrative law judge in Indiana and a lawyer specializing in constitutional law, civil rights and employment litigation.
Conway’s areas of research interest are public law, judicial politics and political methodologies. His dissertation, “Rush to Justice: The Disappearing Civil Trial,” explores the dwindling number of federal civil cases that reach trial.
He earned his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University in 2016.
Christoph Hanssmann, Women and Gender Studies
Assistant Professor Christoph Hanssmann’s research focuses on race, gender, sexuality and citizenship; LGBTQ health; medical sociology; and science, technology and medicine studies.
Completing his Ph.D. in sociology from University of California, San Francisco, earlier this year, Hanssmann wrote his dissertation on “Care in Transit: The Political and Clinical Emergence of Trans Health.” He contributed essays to Transfeminist Perspectives (Temple University Press), which won the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction, and Trans Bodies, Trans Selves (Oxford University Press).
In 2015 he won the National Science Foundation’s Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant.
Active in the community, Hanssmann has volunteered at the Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project and Causa Justa/Just Cause, both in Oakland. He also co-founded the Queer and Trans Health Working Group in Seattle.
Mari Hulick, Design
Associate Professor Mari Hulick joins SF State as director of the School of Design, which offers Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees spanning visual communication, industrial and product design.
She is an expert on big data, information design, user experience, wayfinding and strategic, user-focused design.
Hulick is committed to using design tools to effect change. While an associate professor and department chair at the Cleveland Institute of Art, she was a team leader on the Collaborative Campus Planning Project, a plan to revitalize a Cleveland neighborhood.
In 2013 she won an Ohio Arts Council Statewide Award.
Prior to the Cleveland Institute of Art, Hulick taught at the Parsons School of Design and University of California, Los Angeles.
She earned her Master of Fine Arts from Northwestern University.
Persis Karim, World and Comparative Literature/Iranian Diaspora Studies
Professor Persis Karim is the inaugural Neda Nobari Distinguished Chair and director of the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies, a first-of-its-kind endeavor in academia.
She is also a tenured professor in the Comparative and World Literature Department.
Karim’s most recent book is Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian American Writers (University of Arkansas Press), co-edited with Anita Amirrezvani. Karim is invited regularly to speak on Iranian diaspora narratives, storytelling and archive building, serving to build bridges across academic and nonacademic communities and institutions.
The Bay Area native is also a poet whose work has been published in Reed Magazine, Alimentum, Caesura, Poetry Flash and other outlets.
Most recently, Karim was a professor of English and comparative literature at San Jose State University, where she was also founding director of the Persian Studies Program and winner of the 2017 Outstanding Professor Award.
She earned her doctorate in comparative literature and Master of Arts in Middle Eastern studies from University of Texas, Austin.
Alex Nevill, Cinema
Fascinated by the use of light in movies, Assistant Professor Alex Nevill will begin teaching at SF State in the spring after finishing his Ph.D. at University of the West of England.
His research explores the journey of illumination: from a source of light to how and why the audience may engage with the moving image. As part of his doctoral project and position as an associate editor of the Screenworks journal, Nevill contributes to debates surrounding emerging practice-research methodologies and modes of dissemination.
As a cinematographer in the U.K., Ireland and abroad, Nevill has photographed independent feature projects and short films. His work has been exhibited at the British Film Institute London Film Festival and awarded at the Edinburgh International, European Independent and Aesthetica Short Film festivals, among other events.
Anthony Pahnke, International Relations
Assistant Professor Anthony Pahnke’s work on social movements, Brazilian politics and development has appeared in Monthly Review, New Politics, The Journal of Peasant Studies and Latin American Politics and Society.
Pahnke co-edited Brazilian Agrarian Social Movements (Routledge, 2016). His book, Brazil’s Long Revolution: The Landless Movement’s Challenge to Capitalism and State Sovereignty, is forthcoming from University of Arizona Press. His current projects include analyzing the dynamics of transnational mobilization in the Americas and the development of sovereignty in the United States.
Before SF State, Pahnke was an assistant visiting professor of political science and environmental studies at St. Olaf College.
Pahnke received his Ph.D. in political science from University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in 2014.
David M. Peña-Guzman, Humanities and Liberal Studies
Assistant Professor David M. Peña-Guzman studies the history and philosophy of science, animal studies, feminist philosophy, bioethics and social theory. His work has appeared in journals such as Foucault Studies, The Journal of French and Francophone Philosophy, and Hypatia.
Peña-Guzman is working on his first book, What is Historical Epistemology?, expected in 2018.
Most recently, Peña-Guzmán was a Hecht-Levi fellow at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Prior, he was a postdoctoral scholar at Laurentian University’s Center for Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Ethics.
He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Emory University in 2015.
Elizabeth Ramirez-Soto, Cinema
Assistant Professor Elizabeth Ramirez-Soto conducts research on the contested images of the nation in Chilean films produced with European television channels. She is also co-editing a book on Chilean women filmmakers in exile.
Her essays have appeared in Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice, Quarterly Review of Film and Video and Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies: Travesia, among others.
Most recently, Ramirez-Soto was a postdoctoral researcher at the Universidad de Valparaíso and an associate fellow at University of Warwick.
Ramirez-Soto earned her Ph.D. in film and television studies from University of Warwick in 2014.
Meredith Reifschneider, Anthropology
Assistant Professor Meredith Reifschneider is a historic archaeologist whose primary research interests are the social politics of medicine, African diaspora archaeology, Virgin Islands history, Scandinavian colonialism and material culture studies. Her geographic area of interest is the Caribbean, although she has worked extensively in the southwestern United States, Greece and Albania.
Reifschneider is the director of an ongoing archaeological research project in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, at Estate Cane Garden. The focus of this research is to understand how the Danish colonial healthcare system, implemented in the early 19th century, impacted medical practices and understandings of the body and health to include enslaved patients, enslaved care providers, European trained physicians and Danish colonial legislators.
Reifschneider also has worked extensively with archaeological materials from the Market Street Chinatown in San Jose.
She earned her Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford University this year.
— Matt Itelson