Twenty-two faculty members spanning the disciplines join Whitman’s ranks for the 2017-18 academic year. Who are they? Many new arrivals took a few minutes out from getting situated, attending receptions—and from learning about course planning, student engagement, teaching strategies, library services, technology options and employee benefits, among other topics covered during their orientation earlier this week—to pose for a photo and/or answer some questions about themselves. Edited excerpts of their responses follow. (Note: the job title of "instructor" for those with an asterisk by their name will change to "assistant professor" once the paperwork for their doctorate is finished; they have already successfully defended their dissertation.)
Aarón Aguilar-Ramírez '12*
Instructor of Spanish
Immediately before Whitman: Completed my Ph.D. at Northwestern University.
Area of specialization: U.S. Latina/o literary and cultural studies. My current project focuses on the representations of inter-ethnic Latina/o cultural exchange in migrant narratives.
Looking forward to: Meeting new colleagues and building community with old and new Walla Walla friends.
What most people don't know about you: I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico.
O’Donnell Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics and Race and Ethnic Studies
Immediately before Whitman: Taught at Mardin Artuklu University in Turkey.
Area of specialization: Social and political philosophy. I am finishing a book manuscript tentatively titled Totalitarian Space and the Destruction of Aura.
Looking forward to: Taking part in the lively learning environment at Whitman. I am also excited about occasional hikes to the Blue Mountains.
Visiting assistant professor of biology and biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology
Immediately before Whitman: Postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside.
Area of specialization: Insect venom proteomics and functional analysis. Currently investigating the role of adenosine deaminase in Ampulex compressa (wasp) venom action.
Looking forward to: Small class size and engaged students conducive to a more effective learning environment than found at larger universities.
What most people don't know about you: My current roommate is a rabbit named Nibbler.
Visiting assistant professor in film and media studies and rhetoric
Immediately before Whitman: Instructor at DePaul University.
Looking forward to: Teaching curious and engaged students, seeing local sights and enjoying the community.
What most people don’t know about you: I was raised as an “Army brat,” moving around to a lot of different places.
Visiting assistant professor of German and gender studies
Immediately before Whitman: Completed my Ph.D. at the University of Oregon.
Area of specialization: Literary and cultural animal studies; German literature and culture from the 19th century to today; and gender studies.
Looking forward to: Getting to know my colleagues and students, collaborating on projects (such as a reading group on animal studies and/or ecocriticism), going on hikes, exploring the area and trying local wines.
What most people don't know about you: I worked as an assistant nurse for many years during my undergraduate degree and M.A. in Germany.
Assistant women’s basketball coach
Immediately before this job: Part-time assistant women’s basketball coach at Whitman.
Area of specialization: Basketball and strength and conditioning.
Looking forward to: Meeting many new faces and having the ability to invest even more in the women basketball players on our team.
What most people don't know about you: I have a potentially outlandish goal of visiting every country in the world. I also have the tendency to whistle Christmas songs throughout the entire year.
Visiting assistant professor of anthropology
Immediately before Whitman: Completed my Ph.D. in anthropology at Columbia University.
Area of specialization: The anthropology of the future, economic anthropology and Greece. The basic question posed in my dissertation is why a society adopts certain resources over others for thinking about and acting on the future and how this affects that society’s experience of the present.
Looking forward to: Getting more exposure to other disciplines and developing a more interdisciplinary approach to my teaching and research by interacting with students and colleagues from across fields of study.
What most people don’t know about you: I’d like to develop my boxing skills.
Oleski Miranda Navarro
Visiting assistant professor of Spanish
Immediately before Whitman: Completed my Ph.D. in Hispanic studies in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Area of specialization: Latin American racial essays; cultural studies, marginality, identity and emotion.
Looking forward to: Teaching Whitman students and being part of the college community.
What most people don't know about you: I am goofy and I like to tell jokes. I am also a musician and enjoy playing guitar.
Assistant professor of economics
Immediately before Whitman: Completed my Ph.D. at the University of Florida.
Area of specialization: Economics of education and health economics.
Looking forward to: Collaborating with students.
What most people don’t know about you: I’m really into musicals and basketball, but not basketball musicals.
Visiting assistant professor of sociology
Immediately before Whitman: Completed my Ph.D. in environmental sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Area of specialization: The intersection of watershed science, environmental justice and water politics. I study how ideas about local waters are formed, the conflicts they produce and how they enable or disable particular forms of participation. My current research expands upon my dissertation, examining more closely collaborative and participatory management practices as they interface with tribal nations in the American West.
Looking forward to: Meeting and learning from new scholars, expanding my already interdisciplinary interests and teaching. The students I met during my interview were fantastic and I am excited to learn with them.
What most people don't know about you: I have an identical twin sister. She is an acupuncturist and is building a house in White Salmon, Washington. And I adore her!
Angel Ruiz Blanco*
Visiting instructor of Spanish
Immediately before Whitman: Completed my Ph.D. at University of California, Davis.
Area of specialization: Language and law along with Spanish for the professions. I am working on a manual to prepare lawyers to represent Spanish-speaking clients.
Looking forward to: Living in Walla Walla, working close to the community and helping to prepare my students for the global market. Walla Walla has a large Spanish-speaking population and I hope to create programs that will help to bridge the language gap.
What most people don't know about you: I was a swim coach for 12 years in Spain as well as an attorney, and I remain active to practice law in Spain.
Visiting associate professor of mathematics
Immediately before Whitman: Instructional support coordinator at Walla Walla Community College.
Area of specialization: Algebraic number theory.
Looking forward to: Interactions with the student population.
Ana Maria Spagna
Johnston Visiting Instructor of English
Immediately before Whitman: Assistant director of the low-residency master of fine arts in creative writing at Northwest Institute of Literary Arts on Whidbey Island, Washington.
Area of specialization: Creative nonfiction. I've written seven books, including The Luckiest Scar on Earth (Torrey House Press, 2017), a novel for young people about a 14-year-old snowboarder, and Uplake, a collection of essays coming out in 2018 from University of Washington Press.
Looking forward to: Working with students and colleagues in person rather than online, being near a swimming pool and a library and exploring the Blue Mountains.
What most people don't know about you: For many years, I carried a chainsaw for a living, maintaining hiking trails for the National Park Service.
Visiting assistant professor of chemistry
Immediately before Whitman: Completed my Ph.D. at University of California, Irvine.
Area of specialization: Organic chemistry.
Looking forward to: The smaller, more personal department and city.
What most people don’t know about you: I'm able to play music through my hearing aids, causing me accidentally to ignore people sometimes. This is different from when I would actively ignore my sister growing up by turning my hearing aids off on purpose.