(From upper left) Professors Jill Fish, Suhas Arehalli, Elizabeth Engle, Taylor Okonek, Sumeet Patwardhan, Jean-Marie Maddux, Phil Rivera, Rothin Datta, Myrl Beam, Stotra Chakrabarti, and Lela Pierce.

Eleven new tenure-track faculty members representing a broad range of disciplines will be joining Macalester in the coming months. They are: Jill Fish, Psychology; Suhas Arehalli, Computer Science; Elizabeth Engle, Economics; Taylor Okonek, Statistics; Sumeet Patwardhan, Philosophy; Jean-Marie Maddux, Psychology (Neuroscience); Phil Rivera, Biology; Rothin Datta ‘16, Political Science; Myrl Beam, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Stotra Chakrabarti, Biology; and Lela Pierce ‘08, Art and Art History. 

Professor Fish is a counseling psychologist who is focused on identity, human development and well-being, with a particular emphasis on Native people. Her most recent research examined the use of digital storytelling as an intervention tool to promote identity and wellness among Native people in Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth. She also focuses on Indigenous strength-based research that looks at how to support resilience among Native populations. Dr. Fish will be teaching courses on cultural psychology and Indigenous healing and well-being. She grew up on the Tuscarora Nation outside of Niagara Falls, New York and earned her doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Minnesota, her MA in mental health counseling at the University at Buffalo, and her BA in psychology and philosophy from Niagara University. 

Professor Arehalli is a computer scientist whose work intersects with three fields of study: psychology, linguistics, and computer science, particularly artificial intelligence and natural language processing. His current research focuses on properties of languages called syntactic constraints, which are essentially rules about how we structure language that have nothing to do with meaning. Dr. Arehalli’s work aims to understand how humans learned those rules and compares that to how artificial systems learn them in order to understand the kinds of structures that we build to achieve that capacity. He will be teaching courses in the core computer science curriculum, including data structures and algorithms, as well as courses on natural language processing and computational and cognitive modeling. From Twentynine Palms, Calif., Dr. Arehalli earned his MA and Ph.D in cognitive science from Johns Hopkins University and his BS in computer science and mathematics from University of California, San Diego. 

Professor Engle is an expert in labor and public economics who studies the efficacy of programs and policies aimed at improving the lives of low-wage workers in the U.S. Her most recent research examined the 2013 expansion of the Fair Labor Standards Act to include protections for home care aides and how it affected workers, home care agencies, and older adults receiving care. Dr. Engle plans to teach Principles of Economics, as well as an overview of labor economics in the U.S called Working in America. She grew up in Dayton, Ohio and Aurora, Colorado and earned her BA in classics at Davidson College and her Ph.D in economics at Harvard University, where she received six Certificates of Distinction in Teaching.  

Professor Okonek is a specialist in statistical demography with a focus on survival and survey statistics. Her current research focuses on developing statistical methods for estimating under-five mortality rates in low- and middle-income countries, the results of which aid United Nations organizations in allocating limited resources. She recently developed a new approach for government agencies and other official statistics entities to align national and subnational estimates gleaned from different methodologies. Dr. Okonek will teach introductory courses in statistics, as well as upper-level courses on Bayesian statistics, survival analysis, and statistical theory. Originally from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, she earned her doctorate in biostatistics from the University of Washington and a BA in mathematics and religion from St. Olaf College. 

Professor Patwardhan is an expert in ethics, feminist philosophy, and social and political philosophy, with additional research interests in Indian moral and political philosophy. His research explores how the context of a close interpersonal relationship should change our theorizing about common moral concepts. Dr. Patwardhan’s current focus is on consenting and blaming, arguing that in close relationships, it takes more to respect each other’s consent and to blame each other appropriately than in more distant relationships. He will teach courses in moral, social, and political philosophy. From Chandler, Arizona, Professor Patwardhan earned his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Michigan and his BA in philosophy and minor in poetry writing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Professor Maddux is a behavioral neuroscientist who is trained in experimental psychology. Her most recent research looked at the relationship between alcohol use and nicotine use and which nicotinic acetylcholine receptors modulate behavior, essentially trying to answer the question: If you are someone who uses nicotine, does that change how you react to an alcohol cue? She plans to teach behavioral neuroscience and a new senior seminar called The Neuroscience of Reward. From the Bronx, New York, Professor Maddux earned an MA and Ph.D in psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University and a BS in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. She was a postdoctoral research fellow at Concordia University in Montreal from 2012-15 and an assistant professor at Lake Forest College since 2016.  

Professor Rivera is a behavioral neuroimmunologist who studies how the immune system affects cognition, learning and memory. His current research examines how sex differences in the immune system impact the susceptibility or resilience to addiction, which has large implications for the field of psychoneuroimmunology. Dr. Rivera will be teaching cellular biology, cell molecular neuroscience, and a new course called psychoneuroimmunology. He grew up in Zaragoza, Spain and Otero County, New Mexico and earned his Ph.D in Integrative Biology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and his MS in chemistry and BS in biology from New Mexico State University. 

Professor Datta is a political theorist who studies the production of value and subjectivity under capitalism through the work of Karl Marx and Michel Foucault. His current research examines the relationship between theoretical scholarship, power, and what it means to actually change the world. Dr. Datta plans to teach an introduction to political theory course called Decolonizing the Canon, which will explore the ways in which questions of colonialism, race, gender, and sexuality have always lurked in the background of the canon of political theory even if they have been ignored. He also plans to teach a course called Racial Capitalism about the ways in which capitalism fundamentally structures our understanding of race and racism in contemporary American society. From New Delhi, India, Professor Datta is completing his Ph.D political science at Johns Hopkins University and earned his BA in political science at Macalester College.  

Professor Beam is an expert in queer and trans social movements, as well as critical race theory, political economy, cultural studies, and critical theory. His first book, Gay Inc.: The Nonprofitization of Queer Movements, was published in 2018. Dr. Beam is currently working on a project called After the Tipping Point, which examines contemporary trans movements for justice through a collection of nearly 100 oral histories. He also recently published an article for the Oral History Review looking at best practices for conducting trans oral history projects, which are experiencing a boom. A visiting assistant professor at the college since 2020, he teaches Critical Prison Studies and Abolition Feminisms: Race, Gender, Sexuality,  as well as core classes in the WGSS department. Previously a tenured professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, Professor Beam earned his Ph.D in American studies at the University of Minnesota and his BA in comparative American studies at Oberlin College. 

Professor Chakrabarti is a behavioral ecologist and conservation biologist who studies the fundamentals of large mammal behavior along with their interactions with humans. His current research that includes multiple students and collaborators, encompasses diverse species and systems – from lions and wolves to elephants, deer and beavers across North America, East Africa and India. He uses a range of field and analytical techniques to understand animal behavior, and how that can inform better coexistence practices. Professor Chakrabarti will teach Animal Behavior, Wildlife Monitoring Techniques, Wildlife Conservation and an introductory level course on Ecology & Environment. He has been a visiting professor at Macalester since 2021, and received the Educator of the Year Award in 2021-2022.  From the state of West Bengal, India, Professor Chakrabarti first came to Minnesota as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota. He has a Ph.D in wildlife science from Forest Research Institute University, India, an MS in wildlife science from the Wildlife Institute of India, and a BS in zoology, botany and chemistry from Presidency College, Kolkata. 

Professor Pierce is a practicing interdisciplinary artist in sculpture, installation, performance, painting and printmaking. Her current body of work explores the geometry of transformation and how that pertains to the body and the mind. Professor Pierce has also been engaging with the West African concept of Sankofa, which means “to retrieve” in the Twi language of Ghana and also refers to the image of a bird that is moving forward and reaching back for knowledge of the past. She will be teaching sculpture, 3D design, and art activation, which bridges the gap between performance art and three-dimensional objects. From Marine on Saint Croix, Minnesota, Professor Pierce earned her MFA in interdisciplinary art and social practice at the University of Minnesota and her BA in studio art at Macalester College.

May 12 2023

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