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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Faculty 2004: New Profs Grace Campus

The Wednesday before UMass opened its doors for the fall classes, Anita Miller was already at school with newly hired faculty members, trying to get them acquainted with each other and their new place of work.

Much like a student orientation, the day was filled with speeches from faculty and students, a mass of paperwork, and what are hoped to be some helpful conversations between veteran and freshman faculty.

“It’s an overwhelming day,” Miller, assistant vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, admits. “My hope is that it is one step; that it gives them some information.”

In the current academic year UMass Boston has hired 27 new faculty members, 26 of which are on the tenure track and one tenured, nearly all of who started in the fall. The current influx of new hires is part of the university’s effort to replace some of the near-100 faculty who took early retirement in June 2002 and December 2003.

“There’s an ebb and flow of hiring,” says Miller. “So of some of the people that have left, some have been replaced, and we are continuing on our track to continue to replace the numbers.”

In addition to the 27 hired for this year, Provost Paul Fonteyn announced at the convocation breakfast that he plans to hire 35 new tenure track or tenured faculty members for the next academic year ’05-06.

Though the search for next year’s new faculty begins this fall, Miller says, some departments may have started as early as a few weeks ago, depending on when their annual conference is. “Lots of recruitment is done at professional organizations,” she said. The university also places ads in publications like The Chronicle of Higher Ed, in which, as Miller says, “The big advertising is done.”

According to Miller, of the 26 tenure track faculty hired in academic year ’04-05, 75 percent are women and 47 percent are minorities. “We’ve made a commitment to being a very diverse institution, so I think that shows that we are trying to do something to help the diversity of our faculty.”

One new faculty member who teaches courses in Women’s Studies is a former journalist, and native of Bangladesh. Another recent hire was born in Guyana and has degrees in both business and psychology, and now teaches courses in the latter department. Both professors say that part of the reason they were drawn to this university was the diversity of the student body here, and the university’s commitment to the urban mission. Another new faculty member, also a professor of psychology, added that the location of the university in the city of Boston, a hub of many different cultures, is what interested him.

One thing Miller made sure to emphasize in her orientation was the students, and their often very busy lives. “We talk about the diversity of our students; the fact that you have other demands on your time, and you more often than not have a job, and/or a family and/or other lives,” she said. “[T]here’s a real emphasis made about who our students are [and] what our students need.”

FACULTY 2004: Meet The New Crew

There are over 800 professors at UMass Boston. Here are three of the newest ones.

Elora Chowdhury, Women’s Studies

Elora Chowdhury attributes her decision to pursue an education in Women’s Studies to her parents. “Both my parents encouraged me to study Women’s Studies,” and when she began taking classes, she says knew she had made the right decision.

“Once I started studying women’s studies,” the assistant professor said, “there was never any question about it, because it made me think in a way that was difficult, but eye-opening.”

Born in Bangladesh, Chowdhury moved to the states after high school to go to the College of Wooster in Ohio, where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies. “Although it is in rural Ohio, it has a very diverse student body,” she said.

Chowdhury continued her education at Clark University in Worcester. As she spent two years there pursuing her master’s degree, Chowdhury also taught two introductory level classes in the subject.

After receiving her master’s degree from Clark, Chowdhury went back to Bangladesh, where she became a journalist. “I wrote features on various issues having to do with gender and development and culture,” she said.

She also worked with a nonprofit women’s organization called Naripokkho that led a campaign against acid-violence in Bangladesh. Her work with Naripokkho led to her decision to go back to Clark University, this time for a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies. There she wrote her dissertation on transnational women’s movements, focusing her research on the campaign against acid-violence.

While pursuing her Ph.D., Chowdhury moved to New York City and began working for the Ford Foundation, a philanthropic organization that focuses on community development, strengthening democracy, and improving social justice. “I was primarily a researcher for them, but I also worked on a particular project for them called Replenishing Democracy,” she said. “That project is aimed at supporting progressive, campus-based student organizations around the country.”

She also helped them set up the Summer Institute, which focuses on training student leaders in organizing social movements. “There’s a lot talk about how the younger generation is apathetic and not participating politically, but I would say that they are, but it’s a matter of recognizing them into the networks and connection with other kind of organizations,” she said. “[T]hat could strengthen the student’s participation and make them more effective.”

Chowdhury continues her research on transnational women’s movements, and the Naripokkho campaign against acid-violence. She is also working on turning her dissertation into a book.

Chowdhury said she was excited to come to UMass, in particular because of its devotion to the urban mission, the faculty, but most of all the students. “I found them [the students] to be really engaged,” she said. “I like the fact that many of the students here have very complex lives: they’re working, they’re raising families, they’re juggling school with other interests, which makes for a more enriching experience in the classroom.”

John Perez, Psychology

“I interviewed at a number of different places,” John Perez, assistant professor of Psychology, divulges about his recent job search.

“They would always say that the department was very collegial and the faculty are great,” he said. “But what was unique about UMass was the first thing they mentioned was, ‘we have fantastic students here.'”

Before coming to UMass this fall, Perez was pursuing a post doctorate fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). “I was doing research on depression prevention, looking at how interventions that teach people skills how to manage their mood, prevent people who are at high risk of depression from becoming clinically depressed.” Specifically, Perez focused on the prevention of post partum depression, and an internet-based study on how to quit smoking while averting withdrawal depression.

Perez, a native of Anaheim, California, says that he got interested in psychology during high school, when an adult friend of his began talking to him about different personality types. “Talking about personality assessment tools and how to categorize people on dimensions such as introversion and extroversion,” he said. “I was really fascinated about how these categories could describe behavior.”

After completing a double major in Psychology and Spanish at the University of Notre Dame, Perez decided to take a break from his school education to get some real life education, so he began teaching at his old high school in California. There he taught Spanish, ESL, and coached the freshman football team.

While teaching, Perez began pursuing his master’s in Psychology at California State University, Fullerton. As one of the degree requirements for Clinical Psychology, Perez needed to participate in a year-long internship. He did this at Florida Mental Health Institute in Tampa. “The internship focused on public sector psychology,” he said. “It really deals a lot with underserved, multi-cultural populations. It is very much like the mission here at UMass Boston.”

Perez is currently teaching one graduate course, Developmental Psychopathology II, which looks at disorders of adulthood. In the spring he will teach a course on Abnormal Psychology. He is also continuing research that he started at UCSF, which looks at the relationship between spirituality, religiousness, and mental and physical health. “Right now I am working on a study with some collaborators from Stanford looking at the relation between religious or spiritual experiences and people with HIV,” he said. “What I am more interested in is how these types of beliefs really affect people’s mood states, like depression, and how it helps them to cope with things like HIV.”

Roxanne Donovan, Psychology

“I was always interested in people’s behavior, especially regarding racism,” Assistant Professor of Psychology, Roxanne Donovan says of her first interest in Psychology. “It was always intriguing and sad to me that people could act in ways that could be detrimental to another person based on external characteristics.”

Born in Guyana, located on the northeastern coast of South America, Donovan says her birthplace is one of the reasons she studies culture. When she was 10, her family moved to New York City, where she remained until she went to college to study business at the University of Miami.

“I had a whole different life before I came to psychology,” she said. With a bachelor’s degree in business, and four years experience interning at AT&T in college, Donovan worked sales and negotiations for AT&T in New York.

After working at AT&T for five years, Donovan realized that big business was not for her. “I had an epiphany that money isn’t everything, and I wanted to go where my heart was, which has always been psychology,” she said.

She began taking classes at Rutgers College, located four minutes from where she was living in New Jersey. Once she had enough credits for a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she went to the University of Connecticut for graduate school. Donovan did a required internship at the University of South Florida, Tampa before receiving her Ph.D. in Psychology.

During her internship she did a lot of therapy work, but says that her favorite was couples therapy because “it’s just really nice helping people to learn how to listen to each other and to find out what they have in common again,” she said.

While looking for a teaching position, Donovan knew what she wanted. “As a psychologist of color it was really important to me that we had a place that mentors students of color, would support my research because I look at stereotypes of black women, and had the kind of environment where I would feel comfortable and this [UMass Boston] was it,” she said.

Donovan is currently pursuing two lines of research. The first deals with stereotypes of women and how the stereotypes can affect the way therapists treat their patients. Her second line of research looks at mental health disparities and how people of different ages, genders, and races are treated and diagnosed based on these different factors. “My research shows that things are changing, but we still have a long way to go,” she said.