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The College welcomes new faculty members

This year’s class of new faculty bring a broad spectrum of research, teaching and credentials

The new faculty members joining the College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences this academic year bring with them a broad spectrum of research interests, teaching expertise and professional credentials. They are an integral addition to the College’s efforts to showcase its Tier One academic offerings and to expand on them.

One such notable addition is Emran El-Badawi, assistant professor of Arabic and the new director of the Arabic program in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages. His tenure-track appointment allows the department to strengthen its courses in Arabic as a language and culture.

This class of new faculty also includes Shayne Lee, who returns to UH as an associate professor in the Department of Sociology after leaving the university to teach at Tulane University, and Kristen Yon, associate professor in the Moores School of Music, who arrived on campus with more than a dozen of her violin performance students from Texas Tech University.

Another incoming faculty member arrives as a Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Professor. Michael Zvolensky in the Department of Psychology has published over 200 scientific articles and received a variety of early contribution to the field awards from professional organizations.

Read more about all of the new faculty members below.

African American Studies Program

Kameelah Martin Samuel, visiting scholar

Kameelah Martin Samuel

Dr. Samuel earned her undergraduate English degree from Georgia Southern University and her MA in African American Studies from the University of California Los Angeles. She received her Ph.D. in English from Florida State University in 2006. Her area of focus is twentieth century African-American literature with an emphasis on folklore and the African-American conjuring tradition. Dr. Samuel recently completed a manuscript, currently under review for publication, on the conjure woman as a folk hero in literature. She is busy researching and writing a second monograph, tentatively titled "Envisioning Voodoo: African Diasporic Religion in the Popular Imagination" which questions the representation of women and spirit work in film, graphic novels, and the art work of Romare Bearden and Kara Walker. She is a member of the American Studies Association, National Council for Black Studies, College Language Association, and the African American Historical and Genealogical Society. She is a Visiting Scholar in African American Studies at the University of Houston.

School of Art

Katrina Moorhead, assistant professor  


Katrina Moorhead was born in Northern Ireland and educated in Scotland, but has found an artistic home in the galleries and museums of Houston. Katrina has already received a solo exhibition at UH’s Blaffer Art Museum in 2007, as well as several shows in the Inman and other important Houston art galleries. She was awarded the prestigious Arthouse Texas prize in that same 2007. Katrina has also exhibited in Seattle, South Korea, and New York, to name only a few of the most important venues in what is already an impressive exhibition record. Katrina’s control of different media - her installations often mix sculpture and drawing, among other media - will be a important and fecund new aesthetic voice on our sculpture faculty.

Jenni Sorkin, assistant professor

Jennifer Sorkin

Jenni Sorkin joins the art history and critical studies faculty from the Getty Research Institute’s Post-Doctoral Fellow program, where she was pursuing research on gender and the craft/art divide. Although much of her work treats the American art world of the last 50 years, Jenni has international standing. Last year she was named co-director of the International Symposium on Contemporary Art Theory in Mexico City, entitled “Blind Spots: Feminisms, Cinema and Performance.” Dr. Sorkin received her Ph.D from Yale in 2010, and already has a significant number of published articles in journals such as Art Journal and Third Text. We look forward to Jenni’s contributions to critical discourse, the history feminist art, and the construction of the art world in her teaching and research.

Jack J. Valenti School of Communication

Lindita Camaj, assistant professor

Lindita Camaj

Lindita Camaj got her PhD and MA at the Indiana University School of Journalism, concentrating on political and international communication. Her dissertation investigates media effects on citizens’ political trust and participation in South-Eastern Europe. Her broad research and teaching interests include media role in democratization, agenda-setting and priming effects, the interaction between journalism and culture, and freedom of information (FIOa) legislation. Her scholarly work has been awarded by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and published at the International Communication Gazette, Global Media Journal, and Central European Journal of Communication. Prior to entering the academia, she has worked as a professional journalist in the Balkans, covering public affairs and elections for local and international media.

Temple Northrup, assistant professor

Temple Northrup

Dr. Northup teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in media writing, media effects, and research. He received his B.A. in anthropology from Wake Forest University, his M.A. in media studies from Syracuse University, and his Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His research focuses on the effects of mediated messages on audience members, paying particular attention to the unconscious mechanisms that drive attitudes and behaviors and how the media may help to influence those mechanisms. He has presented research at the annual meetings of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the International Communication Association, and the National Communication Association. His work has also been published in the Journal of Children and Media, the Journal of Media Law and Ethics, and the Southwestern Mass Communication Journal. Dr. Northup brings many years of professional experience to his teaching based on his time working in the television industry in Los Angeles. Over the course of seven years, he worked on more than 180 episodes of prime time television, mostly as a writer. The experience of working in L.A. helps to inform his current research questions.

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

Terrell Brittain, instructional assistant professor

Terrell Brittain

Terrell Brittain is a graduate of the Master’s degree program in Deaf Studies & Deaf Education at Lamar University. He is an accomplished teacher at both the secondary and higher education levels. His expertise is in American Sign Language and Deaf Culture. Terrell has been teaching as an adjunct for us for the past two years. His students describe him as a “master teacher.” They find him demanding but also engaging, and they appreciate the way he incorporates humor in his teaching and puts them at ease as they learn the complicated task of communicating in a visual modality. Terrell’s major focus will be to develop the language mastery component of the American Sign Language Interpreting program, by developing an advanced level of ASL not previously offered, and enhance the skills of the American Sign Language Interpreting majors.

Stephanie K. Daniels, associate professor

Stephanie Daniels

Dr. Stephanie K. Daniels received her PhD from Louisiana State University - Baton Rouge, after which she held joint appointments at Tulane University Health Science Center, Tulane University and Southeast Louisiana Veterans Healthcare System Research Service. She came to Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to continue her research, with joint appointments at Baylor College of Medicine and the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. Dr. Daniels has been a Visiting Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (ComD) for the past two years, sharing her expertise in Dysphagia, which refers to the study of swallowing and swallowing disorders. She is a licensed, certified speech-language pathologist, and a Board Recognized Specialist in Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders. Her particular area of expertise is in the area of stroke as it relates to dysphagia, and her recent text, Dysphagia Following Stroke has been a major contribution to the field. Her research has been funded by the VA for the past eight years, and she has just received funding to develop and validate a screening tool for swallowing post stroke. This coming November Dr. Daniels will be named as a Fellow by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Stephanie will continue to conduct her research at Texas Medical Center and teach in her areas of expertise in both the Graduate and Undergraduate programs in ComD.

Sharon Grigsby Hill, instructional assistant professor

Sharon Grigsby Hill

Sharon Grigsby Hill has been a freelance sign language interpreter for over 15 years and taught as an adjunct instructor last semester in the American Sign Language Interpreting program. She graduated from Houston Community College’s Interpreter Training Program, after which she obtained a Bachelor's degree from UH-Victoria and an MBA from Texas Women’s University. Her specialty is interpreting in high-level settings such as platform/lecture events, post-secondary education, mental health facilities, and drug & alcohol rehabilitation. Sharon has earned the Master Level of interpreting, which is the highest level of interpreting certification awarded by Texas Board of Evaluators of Interpreters (BEI); Very few interpreters are certified at this level. Sharon also serves on the State BEI Advisory Board which advises the State regarding the application of rules, policies and procedures as they relate to certified sign language interpreters, and evaluates and certifies interpreters to work in the State of Texas. Her focus will be to further develop and refine the relatively new American Sign Language Interpreting program, which is the first (and only) four year program in the state.

Byron Ross, clinical assistant professor

Ross Byron

Dr. Byron Ross is originally from Texarkana, AR, and comes to us from the University of Central Arkansas. He received his doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Communication Sciences and Disorders. Dr. Ross is a licensed, certified speech-language pathologist, and serves on the Board of Directors for the National Black American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Dr. Ross’ interests include school aged children, adolescents, and young adults with autism spectrum disorders. He also has an interest in assessment and intervention using augmentative/alternative communication with individuals with severe disabilities. Byron’s focus will be to develop those specialty areas in the graduate program in Speech-Language Pathology and in the University Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic.

Department of Economics

Jee-Yeon Lehmann, assistant professor

Jee Yeon Lehmann

Jee-Yeon Lehmann received her B.A. in economics from Yale University and her Ph.D. in economics from Boston University. She is a labor economist whose research primarily focuses on studying the sources and the consequences of racial and gender discrimination in the labor market. She is currently working on developing empirically relevant theoretical models that can account for unequal market outcomes across various demographic groups.


Vikram Maheshri, assistant professor  


Vikram Maheshri received his BS in economics and math from MIT, his Ph.D. in economics from University of California-Berkeley, and has completed a post-doc at the University of Rochester. His fields of interest include political economy and public economics. He is currently working on projects about school segregation, judicial elections and regulatory complexity.



C. Andrew Zuppann, assistant professor

C Andrew Zuppann

Andrew Zuppann received his BA in economics and computer science from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago. He studies the economics of families, health, and labor markets. His current research answers questions such as how contraception changes sexual behavior and relationships; how parents divide their time among children; and how demographic changes affect wages and productivity.


Department of English

Katherine Anderson, assistant professor

Katherine Anderson

Dr. Anderson is a specialist in Linguistics and took her Ph.D. in Sociolinguistics at the University of Georgia, where she also earned a Graduate Certificate in Interdisciplinary Qualitative Studies. She was a postdoctoral researcher in the distinguished Center for Research on Learning and Technology at Indiana University. For four years before being lured to the University of Houston, Dr. Anderson was an Assistant Professor in the Learning Sciences Lab and the Learning Sciences and Technologies Academic Group at the National Institute of Education in Singapore. Kate has a wide-ranging research agenda that reaches into areas of interest for departments in the Humanities and the Social Sciences, and her publication record is impressive, with over a dozen single-authored articles and about the same number of co-authored articles, all in top-tier journals. Her work in sociolinguistics, student learning assessment, language, race, and identity, includes such titles as ‘Constructing “otherness”: Ideologies and differentiating speech style’; ‘Discourses of difference: Applied methodologies for evaluating race and speech style’; her research even extends into the field of digital story-telling. Her expertise complements the English Department’s interests in language, cultural diversity, pedagogy, and assessment. She will help situate the importance of Linguistics not only in the English Department but in many other units on campus.

Kate Megear, instructional assistant professor and post-doctoral fellow

Katherine Megear, who joins our postdoctoral program as a Houston Writing Fellow; she teaches within the framework of our concentration in Rhetoric, Composition, and Pedagogy. Katherine completed her M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Florida; she has taught at the University of New Hampshire and the University of Virginia. Her fiction has earned her a number of awards and distinctions, including the Thomas Williams Memorial Award for Excellence in Fiction Writing, and nomination for Best New American Voices. She has also interned at The Paris Review, in New York, and was a writer and researcher for The History Channel, based in New York. We are fortunate to have her talent as a teacher and writer as part of our Houston Writing Fellows initiative.

Department of Health and Human Performance

Stacy Gorniak, assistant professor 

Stacy Gorniak

Stacey Gorniak joined the Department of Health and Human Performance after completion of a post-doctoral fellowship in the Biomedical Engineering Department at the Cleveland Clinic. She received her PhD in Kinesiology with a focus on motor control from Penn State University in 2009. Her recent work has included collaboration with the Center for Neurological Restoration at the Cleveland Clinic Main Campus and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. Other recent collaborative research efforts have included work with the University of Florida and Columbia University. Her most recent studies have focused on the effects of aging and neurological disorders on bimanual hand function. Building on her experiences in clinical populations, she is interested in investigating how neural disorders such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, and diabetic neuropathies affect functional hand use, particularly in actions of daily living. At UH Stacey will teach motor control courses and conduct research in the Center for Neuromotor and Biomechanics Research located in the Texas Medical Center

Department of Hispanic Studies

Mabel Cuesta, assistant professor


Mabel Cuesta is a Cuban born critic and writer. She is a graduate of the University of Havana (Cuba), University Complutense of Madrid (Spain) and The Graduate Center, City University of New York. Mabel has published several peer reviewed articles and she is also an author of short stories. Hercurrent research focuses on Spanish Caribbean female authors, both in their homeland and abroad. Her field of expertise is Latin American and US Hispanic Literatures, Caribbean Studies and Literary Theory.


Teresa Nunes, instructional assistant professor 


Teresa Nunes is Brazilian-American, born in Libya, and she has lived in different places (including Texas where she attended Texas A&M).Teresa earned her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Purdue University in 2006. She has master’s degrees in Sociology and Latin American Culture, also from Purdue. Teresa has taught courses in Women’s Studies,Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature and Bilingual Education methodology. She has served on the National Women’s Studies board and was director of Service Learning for the Modern Languages department at Purdue University. She relocated to Houston from New York two years ago. Her research interests include Latino and U.S. popular culture, grassroots’ sociopolitical movements, language acquisition, immigrant’s rights, and world literature, especially in the areas of postcolonial and Diaspora studies.

Jose Ramon Ruisanchez, assistant professor


José Ramón Ruisánchez was born and raised in Mexico City. He studied a BA in Spanish at the UNAM –the largest and most prestigious university in Mexico-. He earned a MA in Comparative Literature and a PhD in Spanish at the University of Maryland. For the last five years he taught full time at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, where he was also the undergraduate director for the Latin American Literature Program. Besides his academic duties, José Ramón is the host of a TV show “Letrero” in a public television network, and has published five novels and one children's book. His areas of expertise include Mexican Literature and Cultural Studies as well as Critical Theory and Creative Writing.

Department of History

Matthew Clavin, associate professor


Dr. Matthew J. Clavin received his Ph.D. in American history from American University in Washington, DC, in 2005. An historian of early America and the Atlantic World, he is the recipient of numerous teaching and scholarly awards. Dr. Clavin is the author of Toussaint Louverture and the American Civil War: The Promise and Peril of a Second Haitian Revolution (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), and his current research project, which is based on a 2009 NEH Landmarks in American History and Culture Workshops grant, explores the history of slavery and the Underground Railroad in the Deep South.

Mark Goldberg, assistant professor


Mark Allan Goldberg received his B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Goldberg specializes in Latina/o history, the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and the history of health and healing. His research explores the role that health played in cross-cultural relations and in processes of empire building and race formation in the 18th- and 19th-century Texas borderlands. He has published articles in the _American Indian Culture and Research Journal_ and in an anthology entitled, _Recovering the Hispanic History of Texas_. He is a member of the Western History Association, the Organization of American Historians, and the Latin American Studies Association. Mark is a Houston native, and he is excited to be joining the University of Houston community.

Center for Mexican American Studies

George Diaz, visiting scholar


In addition to being a CMAS Visiting Scholar, George Diaz is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of History. Díaz earned his Ph.D. in History from Southern Methodist University in May 2010. Most recently, he served as full-time faculty in the History and Mexican American Studies Department at South Texas College. In 2009-10 he was awarded the Dissertation Fellowship at the Clements Center for Southwest Studies. His book, Contrabandista Communities: A History of Smugglers and Smuggling along the Lower Rio Grande Border, 1848-1945, is under contract with University of Texas Press. Díaz’s research interests include transnational border formation/border subversion, ethno history, ethnomusicology, violence, and identity in the U.S./Mexico Borderlands.

Department of Modern and Classical Languages

Emran El-Badawi, assistant professor


Emran El-Badawi completed his PhD with distinction in 2011 from the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Emran took an MA in Religion from Temple University in 2005 and a BA in Religion as well as Computer Science from Rutgers University in 2003. He has also lived in the Middle East and South East Asia. Emran has published articles on the relationship of the Qur'an to the Syriac Gospel of Matthew, as well as Early Syrian Christian history. He is currently revising his dissertation for publication with Routledge Press. In addition to Qur'anic Studies and its relationship to late antique Christianity, Emran is also interested in Arab intellectual history. His next project is concerned with Enlightenment and Islamic Modernism in the Arab world, which is a study of different trends in religious, social and political reform in Arabic speaking countries. Emran is a member of the Middle East Studies Association, the American Oriental Society and the American Academy of Religion.

Julie-Francoise Kruidenier Tolliver, instructional assistant professor


Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, Julie Tolliver has followed a career path that has gradually led her further and further south. Her previous appointment was a two-year visiting position at Hamilton College, in upstate New York; while at Hamilton, she spent one year in the French department and another year in the Comparative Literature department. Julie received her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. Her Comparative Literature dissertation was titled Tongue Ties: Manifestations of Solidarity in Francophone Literature 1932-2009. She also earned her MA from Penn in CompLit, and she received her BA in CompLit and Russian from Hamilton College. Julie has published articles in The International Journal of Francophone Studies and Women in French Studies. As she revises her dissertation into a manuscript, Julie is narrowing her study of francophone literary solidarity to focus on the particularly fruitful period from 1950 to 1970, when so many francophone regions of the world were struggling for independence. In addition, Julie is working on a co-authored book project titled Alternative Solidarities: Black Diasporas and Cultural Alliances During the Cold War. With Julie Tolliver’s appointment, Modern and Classical Languages is strengthening the Francophone culture and literature component of our French program. Julie will also contribute to the World Cultures and Literatures undergraduate and graduate programs.

Moores School of Music

Troy Bennefield, assistant professor


Troy, a native of Alabama, has degrees from the University of Alabama (music education) and the University of Oklahoma (percussion performance). He is currently completing a DMA in wind conducting at OU. He served as band director at Alpharetta High School in Georgia for five years before beginning graduate work. During his time in Georgia, he was also principal timpanist in the Rome Symphony Orchestra. Troy has been published in The Instrumentalist, a national journal devoted to band, and has presented clinics at various music conferences.


Kirsten Yon, associate professor 


Kirsten, who grew up in Michigan, came to us from Texas Tech, where she taught on the string faculty since 2003. Her degrees in violin performance are from the University of Michigan, Cleveland Institute, and Rice University Shepherd School, where she earned her Doctor of Musical Arts. She enjoys an active performing career that includes recitals and concerts throughout Texas, the United States, and abroad. In October of this year, she will travel to Brazil to participate in the annual Nathan Schwartzman String Festival. We are also impressed that she brought with her a full class of students this fall.

Department of Philosophy

Christopher Mag Uidhir, assistant professor


Dr. Christy Mag Uidhur specializes in Philosophy of Art & Aesthetics. His Ph.D. is from Rutgers. From there, he went on to a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at Cornell and to a tenure-track position at City College in New York. He has a very active research program. An edited collection, Art and Abstract Objects, is under contract with Oxford University Press. He is also at work on a monograph, The Attempt Theory of Art, in which his goal is “to show what follows from taking intention dependence seriously as a substantive necessary condition for something’s being art.” And he has published a healthy number of articles and book chapters, among them: “Photographic Art: An Ontology Fit to Print,” “The Paradox of Suspense Realism,” and “Comics and Collective Authorship”. He is broadening our curriculum this semester with a new upper-level undergraduate course in Philosophy of Film.

Department of Political Science

Elizabeth Simas, assistant professor 


Dr. Simas earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis in 2011and a bachelor degree in Political Science from Santa Clara University in 2005. She will be teaching graduate and undergraduate courses on American politics. Her research focus is on US legislative elections and voting behavior with future research to look especially at partisan bias and the impact of candidate's religion. She has several publications to her credit, including articles in the American Journal of Political Science and the Journal of Politics.

Ling Zhu, assistant professor


Dr. Zhu began her studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, China where she earned a bachelor degree in Law in 2002 and a master’s degree with honors in International Relations and Public Affairs in 2005. She received a master’s degree in Political Science from Purdue University in 2007 and a Ph.D. in the same field from Texas A&M University in 2011. Dr. Zhu will be teaching in the Master of Public Administration Program as well as in the Political Science Department. Her research focuses on health disparities, comparative social policies and how democracies incorporate marginal groups, as well as public management theory. She writes for journals in political science, public administration/management, and public health. Her future research will explore how local service delivery organizations deal with their external environment and how institutional characteristics of service networks affect socially/economically marginalized groups in democracies.

Department of Psychology

Candice Alfano, associate professor  


Dr. Alfano earned her master’s degree in developmental psychology from Florida International University and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Maryland College Park. She was a post-doctoral research fellow at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Her previous appointment was an assistant professor of psychology and pediatrics at George Washington University. She has also served as the director of the Child and Adolescent Anxiety Program at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer L. Tackett, associate professor

jennifer t

Prof. Tackett completed her Ph.D. in clinical psychology with minors in statistics, behavior genetics, and personality at the University of Minnesota. Originally from east Texas, she is also a graduate of the Texas Academy of Math and Science and of Texas A&M University. She completed her clinical internship at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center and has clinical experience with both child and adult populations. Her previous appointment was as an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, where she had previously held an affiliate scientist position at the university’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Her research is grounded in an interest of the many personality characteristics that exist early in life and their influence on later behavioral development.

Michael Zvolensky, professor  


Michael J. Zvolensky joins the University of Houston as the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Professor in the department of psychology and as director of the Anxiety and Health Research Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from West Virginia University in 2001 and previously held a distinguished professorship at the University of Vermont. An expert on anxiety disorders, Zvolensky has focused much of his research on the relationship between anxiety and addiction. His research cuts across basic and applied work in the area of anxiety and substance use disorders. He utilizes two interrelated and convergent research approaches: one is basic research on emotional vulnerability and the second is clinical extensions of that basic research in the form of theoretically driven psychosocial intervention strategies. He has been especially involved in better understanding the role of cigarette smoking in terms of the etiology and maintenance of panic psychopathology, and at the same time, the role panic vulnerability factors may play in smoking cessation.  He has published over 300 scientific articles and received a variety of early contribution to the field awards from professional organizations. His research has been continuously funded by the National Institute of Health since receiving his doctoral degree.

Department of Sociology

Shayne Lee, associate professor


Shayne has quickly emerged as a leading interpreter of contemporary American religion and culture and has been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, The Atlantic, and various other periodicals. He received his PhD in sociology from Northwestern University in 2002. Shayne's first book T.D. Jakes: America's New Preacher (NYU Press, 2005), analyzes the rise of a prominent African American spiritual leader as a metaphor for changes in the black church and contemporary American religion. His second book Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace (NYU Press 2009) uses theory of religious economy to study the appeal of celebrity preachers. Shayne's most recent book Erotic Revolutionaries: Black Women, Sexuality, and Popular Culture (in press) navigates the uncharted spaces where social constructionism, third-wave feminism, and black popular culture collide to locate a new site for sexuality studies that is theoretically innovative, politically subversive, and stylistically chic. Shayne's next book project is a study on black clergywomen.