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Swarthmore Welcomes New Faculty, Head Coaches to Campus

White flowers in foreground with Clothier bell tower obscured in the background

This fall, 11 Swarthmore faculty members begin tenure-track appointments across the disciplines, one professor embarks on a one-year distinguished faculty appointment, and the College welcomes a pair of new head coaches.

Faculty members receiving tenure-track appointments:

Sabeen AhmedAssistant Professor of Philosophy Sabeen Ahmed
Ahmed’s research is concerned with questions at the intersection of race, law, and state violence examined through a critical-genealogical lens. Her current scholarship rethinks the historical and material operation of white supremacy as an intrinsically imperial project. After receiving her Ph.D. in philosophy from Vanderbilt University in 2020, Ahmed held a two-year Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship as a legal humanities scholar in the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ahmed will teach Aesthetics and Political Resistance in the fall and Philosophy of Law in the spring.

“Any social and political philosophy concerned with contemporary issues must be interdisciplinary at its core if it is to address the complex matrices of power that render particular peoples vulnerable to (manufactured) precariousness. Given my commitment to making these matrices of power visible in both my teaching and my scholarship, I’m thrilled to be joining a college environment that takes such interdisciplinary thinking seriously.”

Itzue Caviedes-SolisAssistant Professor of Biology Itzue Caviedes-Solis
Proud to be born and raised in Iztapalapa, Mexico City, Caviedes-Solis is an evolutionary and conservation biologist with an expertise in herpetology. Her research program has a strong fieldwork component, and it focuses on the ecology, evolution, and conservation of tropical frogs in Middle America and Southeast Asia. A scientist committed to evidence-based teaching, particularly through active learning, Caviedes-Solis has a strong passion for science communication and diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM.

She is currently working on a children's book about frogs, and she is one of the co-organizers of the Global Women in Herpetology book project, a compilation of short stories from women from 50 countries and regions. Her mentorship philosophy is based on open communication and mutual respect and understanding. She consciously promotes a sense of community and empathy in her work environment and leads with an ethical example.

Wambura FobbsAssistant Professor of Psychology Wambura Fobbs
As a behavioral neuroscientist with training in psychology and biology, Fobbs has always been interested in understanding the neural and psychological basis of motivated behaviors, especially those related to feeding and decision making. After earning her Ph.D. from the University of Washington, she completed postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health, American University, and Washington University in St. Louis. Her lab at Swarthmore will study how different dietary experiences impact behavior and cognition through their actions on the brain. Through teaching students about psychological research methods and behavioral neuroscience, she hopes to inspire confidence and enthusiasm in students and help them be empowered consumers and creators of scientific knowledge.

“I am excited to join a liberal arts institution where I can encourage interdisciplinary thinking and continue to incorporate discussions of identity and inclusive practices into my science courses.”

Fiona O'DonnellAssistant Professor of Engineering Fiona O'Donnell
O’Donnell’s research is motivated by the goal of sustainability in the built environment. With a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, her research focuses on novel and sustainable materials in structural engineering. She is currently investigating mass timber at the intersection of material mechanics, computational modeling, and probabilistic methods. O’Donnell aims to prepare students for lifelong learning by empowering them with the confidence and skills to think critically and communicate effectively.

“I’m thrilled to be at Swarthmore College, where I have the opportunity to participate in engineering education infused with the liberal arts, while performing collaborative research with gifted and engaged students.”

Maria Pía OliveroAssociate  Professor of Economics Maria Pía Olivero
Olivero’s scholarship is at the intersection of macroeconomics and international economics. She focuses on how imperfections in financial markets impact monetary and fiscal policy, the international transmission of crises, and the spillover effects of domestic policies to foreign countries. Her most current research, which already involves several Swarthmore students, aims to understand how underserved communities access informal credit markets and the role of these informal credit markets in lowering poverty rates and improving income distribution.

Her work has been published in the Journal of Monetary Economics; the Journal of International Economics; Economic Inquiry; the European Economic Review; the Journal of Money, Credit and Banking; the Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control; and the Canadian Journal of Economics. Olivero has taught several courses in macroeconomics, international economics, and money and finance at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. She has mentored undergraduate and Ph.D. students doing empirical and theoretical research. She is originally from Argentina and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Duke University in 2003 and 2005, respectively. She was an associate professor at Drexel University from 2005 to 2021.

“I am so excited to be joining Swarthmore! I feel so fortunate to teach our students. They are smart, they are compassionate, they are hard workers, and they are committed to making the world better!”

Susanne SchwarzAssistant Professor of Political Science Susanne Schwarz
Schwarz's current research agenda explores themes in American political development, with an emphasis on the historical political economy of the U.S. South. Her book project traces the political development of Southern carceral institutions in the post-Civil War era. However, her research interests span a wide variety of topics, including gender-based violence, women in politics, and voter-mobilization efforts. Schwarz received her Ph.D. from the department of politics at Princeton University and her master’s in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Marshall Smith IIIAssistant Professor of  Modern Languages & Literatures, French & Francophone Studies, and Black Studies Marshall Smith III
Smith works at the intersections of postcolonial theory and queer theory. Smith’s research highlights the “cultural production born out of the entanglements of landscapes, human bodies, and other relational ecologies on the hemispheric ‘American’ post-plantation. This ‘extended circum-Carib(being)’ as a continual process includes the U.S. Coastal South (including New Orleans) in this archipelagic geographical configuration.”

Smith’s pedagogical interests include race formation during the Enlightenment Period, creolization and cross-cultural encounters in the Americas, transnational Haitian and Haitian diasporic literature, comparative Francophone/Anglophone Caribbean and African American literature(s), and transnational Black queer geographies. They have studied at the Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne (CCFS) and the Université de Mons (Belgium), and they were alecteur d’anglais at Université Paris Diderot (Paris VII).

Smith quotes Édouard Glissant when thinking about working with Swarthmore students this fall:  “Diversity is not the melting pot, the pulp, the mishmash, etc. Diversity is differences that encounter each other, adjust to each other, oppose each other, agree with each other, and produce the unpredictable. Standardization is certainly a danger, but the very idea of the tout-monde helps to combat this danger.”

Tracey StewartAssistant Professor of Music Tracey Stewart
Stewart’s research focuses on music, identity, and power in relation to continental African and African diasporic communities in the past and in the present day. She approaches music and performance practice as modes of power and mobility and salient historical documents. Stewart examines the social and political complex of colonial histories and the ways that they are influential in the lives of present-day marginalized communities. Her research has been presented during annual meetings of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora, the Charles Town International Maroon Conference, the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies Lecture Series. Stewart is an alumna of the Fulbright Student program and the Carter G. Woodson Institute’s fellowship program. She holds a Ph.D. in music and an M.A from the University of Virginia, and a B.A. in music from Howard University.

“I want my work to encourage people to think collectively, thoughtfully, and consistently about music as it relates not only to struggle and survival, but equally, if not more importantly, how it relates to joy, hope, and success in our pasts, presents, and futures. The beauty and poignancy of our cultural expressions are not predicated solely on painful pasts."

Joseph TowlesAssociate Professor of Engineering Joseph Towles
Towles holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. Working as a postdoctoral fellow, then a research scientist, and eventually a research assistant professor in neuromuscular biomechanics in the Sensory Motor Performance Program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and in the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department at Northwestern University, Towles led projects on how to restore hand function following cervical spinal cord injury and hemiparetic stroke, using experimental and computational techniques in biomechanics.

His research interests include neuromuscular biomechanics and educational practices in engineering. His teaching interests extend to solid mechanics, neuromuscular biomechanics, dynamical systems and control, and engineering design.

Isaiah WoodenAssistant Professor of Theater Isaiah Wooden
Wooden, a director-dramaturg, critic, and scholar of 20th- and 21st century African American art, drama, and performance, earned his Ph.D. in theater and performance studies at Stanford University. 
Prior to joining Swarthmore, Wooden taught courses on the history, theory, and practice of theater at Brandeis University. He has directed new and canonical works in the U.S. and abroad, including plays by Kia Corthron, Eisa Davis, Lorraine Hansberry, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Lynn Nottage, Robert O’Hara, A. Rey Pamatmat, Natsu Onoda Power, and Nilaja Sun.
Wooden has also contributed numerous articles and essays to scholarly and popular publications, including The Black Scholar, Journal of American Drama and Theatre, Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Modern Drama, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, Theater, Theatre Journal, and Theatre Topics. His current research explores the interplay of race and time in post-civil rights Black expressive culture. He serves on the governing council for the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, the executive board of the American Theatre and Drama Society, and the editorial boards of Imagined Theatres, PAJ, and Theatre Topics.

“I am tremendously excited to join and contribute to the vibrant artistic and intellectual community at Swarthmore. I look forward to working with students and colleagues to imagine and make new worlds.”

Anna YangAssistant Professor of Chemistry Anna Yang
While earning her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and as a recipient of Cottrell Postdoctoral Fellowship at Northwestern University, Yang developed a love for teaching and research. Her expertise lies in organic materials with an emphasis on designing materials for environmental remediation such as water purification. She is interested in designing small pieces of organic building blocks that can dynamically assemble into larger organic molecules with certain shapes and sizes. Those assembled molecules will have built-in functions and can respond to external stimuli to change physical and/or chemical properties. 

“I am very excited to immerse myself into the authentic and vibrant culture of the Swarthmore community, to work with many brilliant colleagues, and to develop interpersonal relationships with many students teaching organic chemistry this fall.”

Faculty members receiving distinguished faculty positions:

Koop LammertsmaJulien and Virginia Cornell Visiting Professorship in Chemistry Koop Lammertsma
Lammertsma received his chemistry education in the Netherlands and was a postdoctoral fellow at University College London, the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, and the University of Southern California, upon which he began his academic career at the University of Alabama. In 1996, he moved to the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to focus his research on phosphorus until his retirement in 2016. He has since been a distinguished visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

“I am delighted to be at Swarthmore College and to have the opportunity to contribute to advancing sustainability in chemistry. The enthusiasm of the College and the quality of the students are highly motivating, as I already experienced firsthand as an examiner in 2018. I am looking forward to an exciting year.”

In addition, the College welcomes new head coaches in women's basketball and golf:

Dawn GrantHead Women's Basketball Coach Dawn Grant
Grant, who served as the interim women’s basketball coach during the 2021-22 season, joined the faculty as the full-time head coach in May. As interim coach, Grant led the Garnet to a 14-11 overall record with a 10-10 conference mark. The team narrowly missed out on securing the final postseason spot in the Centennial Conference, and finished with a winning record for the first time since the 2013-14 season.

A graduate of The City College of New York (CCNY), Grant was inducted into the CCNY Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997. At CCNY, Grant received a bachelor’s degree in management and administration and a master’s degree in secondary education mathematics. In 2006, she graduated from Long Island University with a master’s degree in educational administration.

Grant comes to Swarthmore from Delaware County Community College where she was head women’s basketball coach. She previously served as a mathematics teacher in the East Ramapo Central School District, head girls’ basketball coach at Spring Valley High School, and head boys’ basketball coach at Pomona Middle School.

"Being elevated to head coach was validation that the players and the administration at Swarthmore believed in me,” says Grant. “I am truly invested in ensuring that my players have a great student-athlete experience and that they are respected contenders in our conference."

Tana ThomasHead Golf Coach Tana Thomas
Thomas will be the eighth men's golf coach in the program's history, and will help oversee the future addition and development of a women's golf program. With 19 seasons as a NCAA Division-III golf coach, Thomas spent the last six seasons leading the men's and women's programs at Cabrini University. Before Cabrini, Thomas coached at Immaculata University, Northern Arizona University, and Smith College. 

Thomas is a nine-time conference Coach of the Year. Under her guidance, the Cabrini men's team captured three consecutive AEC Championships and appeared in the 2022 NCAA Championship Tournament for its fifth NCAA appearance in program history and first since 2017. Thomas started Cabrini's women's program in 2017.

Thomas was named the Colonial States Athletic Conference Coach of the Year four times and Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year twice. Graduating from Arizona State University, Thomas was a standout junior and collegiate player, representing California in the Junior America's Cup and competing in the USGA Girls National Championship twice. She was a member of the 1990 NCAA Championship-winning Sun Devils, the program's first NCAA title. 

“My hope is to provide a platform for our golfers to achieve their highest level in all areas of their college experience. I'm excited to have the resources to introduce them to skills that will change their lives forever on the golf course and in life. It is my pleasure to be a part of this intensely important period in a young adult's journey toward adulthood.”

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