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Whitman College faculty members who received tenure and promotion to full professor for the 2018-19 academic year answered questions about their areas of expertise, their inspiration, and the things they can't live without. Edited excerpts follow.

A portrait of Barry BalofBarry Allen Balof
Professor of Mathematics

Areas of Specialty: I'm a mathematician. I split my research time between graph theory and enumerative combinatorics. My training is in partially ordered set theory, so I look at different ways we can order sets and what that says for us. Graph theory deals with connectivity of networks. Enumerative combinatorics looks at number sequences for the most part is what I look at, how they show up in different areas of mathematics and are there links between the different areas of mathematics that tie those together.

1. What are you most proud of? The relationships I've forged with students over the course of the years that I've been here. I knew going into graduate school that I wanted to work at a liberal arts institution, and seeing my students' success in various areas, not necessarily all mathematical, but going on enjoying success and applying their Whitman education other places, that's what brings me pride. That's what I enjoy most about the position here.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? I take my inspiration from lots of other areas and so, I think some of my colleagues in graduate school, my Ph.D. adviser who's now passed away unfortunately, but I draw inspiration from him. I draw inspiration from my colleagues in my department every day. I really enjoy working with them, and we get a lot done. I think that our department is very student focused and very collegial.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? I enjoy Netflix when I work out at the gym. So, I'll get on the elliptical or whatever and just enjoy binge watching series when I'm exercising. I do enjoy that.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? Quick. 

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane?  Three decent bridge players and a deck of cards. That's my other guilty pleasure is playing bridge. So, if I had three people with whom I could play and play it pretty continuously that would keep my sanity there.


A portrait of Jessica Cerullo

Jessica A. Cerullo
Associate Professor of Theatre

Areas of specialty: I came here as a performer. I've been an actress most of my life, and that has taken me also into playwrighting. My area of expertise is really in performance and it's also in a particular way of approaching work through something called the Michael Chekhov technique. I also work a lot with a contemplative approach to art making, so, a lot of movement, a lot of meditation, a lot of authentic expression.

1. What are you most proud of? In a really broad way I guess I'm most proud of moments when I can do work where I can put my whole self into it. Sometimes that expresses itself in different ways. I just edited this book of Michael Chekhov's lessons, and there was this big part pulling me to really do this in a way that these books have been edited like this before, but actually saying, "No you're going to do this as you would do it. As a person who is a practitioner of this work, someone who has this work inside her body." Suddenly the book took this shape where the footnotes in the book, for example, aren't my voice. Instead, I went into the archives and I allowed Chekhov to kind of footnote himself through time so the book itself feels a bit like breadcrumbs being dropped and followed here and there.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? The students inspire me the most.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? It's going into the studio by myself. I need three hours in this space with my cushion, the iPod jack and my notebook. That is the guilty pleasure, time and space in the studio.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? Maybe patient. I think patient.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane? My voice, a really sharp provolone cheese and a glass of wine.


Portrait of Arielle Cooley

Arielle Marie Cooley 
Associate Professor of Biology

Areas of Specialty: I'm a biologist and I study the evolution of biological diversity. I'm interested in finding the kinds of genes and the kinds of mutations in the DNA that allow new traits to evolve. I do that work in a group of South American flowering plants called Monkey Flowers, which are flowers not monkeys, but they have all kinds of different colors and they're closely related, which means that they've gained these different color traits in a pretty short amount of time. So, it's fairly rapid evolution, which makes it interesting to study.

1. What are you most proud of? I guess I don't necessarily think of myself in that way. I feel like I'm a really lucky person. When I think of proud, I think of having overcome an insurmountable obstacle or something like that, and I'm certainly a person who works hard and cares deeply about a lot of things, so I guess you could put those down in terms of qualities about myself that I value. So, I'll rephrase your question. What are qualities about myself that I value: Hard work and caring deeply about things.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? A good friend of mine from college with whom I took general chemistry in my freshman year went on to become a lawyer. Now she is doing work in New Mexico and she is doing a mix of different kinds of work, including pro-bono work for immigrant children. I think she has always inspired me as somebody who is very practical, very kind and has made her life's work to work on something that she finds both intellectually interesting, but also really good for the world.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? Probably chocolate. It's not that inventive, but I mean I eat a lot of chocolate. And novels. My partner is a musician who loves to read about science in his spare time. I'm a scientist who almost never reads about science in my spare time. I pretty much read novels, Harry Potter, that sort of genre. Once I start it's hard for me to put it down so I try not to read novels during the academic year.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? I think my mother would sum me up as focused. As a child, I rarely knew where I was when she was driving me around town because I would be so focused on the book that I was reading. For a long time I thought I was forgetful, but my mother observed actually you get focused to a fault. And that can be very useful in science, but it can also be kind of something to watch out for. You can get so honed in on one small thing that you forget what's around you, so that is, thanks to my mother, something I'm more aware now.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane? Paper and pencil. I'm someone who likes to write and draw and put down my thoughts in words and pictures. So that's probably two things, and then my daughter.


A portrait of Robert Scott Elliott

Robert Scott Elliott
Professor of English

Areas of specialty: I am a novelist who also writes and publishes short stories and essays. I teach creative writing courses in various genres and levels, in addition to literature courses and the senior seminar.

1. What are you most proud of? My wife Jenna, and sons, Gus and Harper. My next novel.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? I am inspired by artists of all mediums and stripes who steer by their own lights, create their own atmospheres and increase the quality of our suffering.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? Winding down, and, when time allows, binge-watching a good television series. Also, caramel, almond and sea salt Kind Bars.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? Introspective; sillier, stranger and edgier than people think.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane? Flyrod, fly reel (with line and leader), fly-tying material. If I have these items, and the fishing is good, there's a very good chance I'd refuse rescue.


A portrait of Adam Gordon

Adam Gordon
Associate Professor of English

Areas of Specialty: Within the English department I teach early American literature. I also cover a lot of intro to poetry classes. I teach Encounters from time to time. I just taught a class on American protest literature. My area of specialty in terms of writing and research is 19th century American literature.

1. What are you most proud of? I think I'm most proud of my teaching, of the environment that I'm able to cultivate in the classroom. I think it's something I always cared about, but gotten stronger at as I've taught for longer. It's important for me to cultivate classroom environments where students feel really comfortable speaking, offering their opinions, and some of my best classes are the ones where I'm talking less and students are actively debating with one another.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? There are plenty of people I admire, but they're just so obvious. I suppose I admire academics like bell hooks who have kind of walked an academic, public intellectual line and also with a sense of social justice slant to their work. While education, teaching, critical writing and critical reading skills in its own right are certainly important, on the kind of the publishing research side of things I think I admire people who have been able to invest their research agendas with a sense of social vocation.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? I'll give you two. I'm an avid collector, so in some ways my research interests and my hobbies are very closely aligned. I collect records, and I've actually been trying to make spreadsheets of them lately so that I'll have a solid grasp of it. I think I have something like 500 to 1,000 records, so music is a pleasure of mine. Collecting physical artifacts themselves is also a pleasure of mine, and this goes for book collecting also. My office is overrun with books, but also my house is overrun with books. I also love Netflix. I spend so much time reading that I'm perfectly happy to go home and watch way too much Westworld.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? Curious. Maybe bookish. I think curiosity is a good way to kind of get at a bunch of the various outlets that curiosity takes.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane? A packed iPod of some sort, so a healthy dose of music. Probably a book shelf with a bunch of books on it, which again is not one item and maybe some coffee, though that's pretty much what my normal life is like I suppose. Reading, listening to music, drinking a lot of coffee.


David H. Kim
Associate Professor of Music

Areas of Specialty: I specialize in the historically-informed performance of keyboard repertoire. The most obvious feature of this is that I'm interested in different kinds of pianos, the overwhelming majority of the core piano repertory was conceived on/for a keyboard instrument that differs from today's commonly-found pianos.

1. What are you most proud of? Winning my fantasy soccer league.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? I've been into Vermeer's work recently.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? Supporting Arsenal Football Club, although it's never really a pleasure.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? Hopefully nothing too awful.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane?  Google, Amazon and a piano.


Paul Luongo

Paul Luongo
Associate Professor of Music, also named a Paul Garrett Fellow

Areas of Specialty: My primary areas are orchestra conducting and music history. In music history I focus particularly on the America orchestra in the 19th century.

1. What are you most proud of? Anytime you ask me it will be our most recent concert. It's a process to come together as a community to have this one unified goal and to work toward that so every time we get to the end of a concert, there's just this communal pride in what we got to.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? I don't think there's one specific person that I want to name. I keep thinking about facets of so many different people. There are mentors from previously in my life, my parents. Students inspire me constantly. I think everybody brings something to the table. I've got a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old at home and they constantly, unexpectantly, do something that inspires me.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? Any candy that's in arm's reach of the chocolate variety. If it's out of arm's reach it'll be within arm's reach soon.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? I would hope there would be more than one word to me, but sometimes a significant word that I think somebody might use as part of who I am would be driven. I hope there would be other words in there, but that's one of the words that would be there.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane?  I'll go with one specific score. I think I would enjoy having the score to Beethoven's seventh, and even though it's cruel to my family, I'm going to ask them to come with me. And some candy corn, and I'll be OK.


A portrait of Lydia McDermott

Lydia M. McDermott
Associate Professor of Composition in General Studies

Areas of specialty: I direct the Center for Writing and Speaking (CoWS). My Ph.D. is in composition and rhetoric, so I also teach classes that overlap with rhetoric. I also have a certificate in gender studies, so I teach in gender studies as well. My research has two branches, one is ooking at rhetoric of sex and gender as it relates to sexual health, and the other is writing studies, specifically for non-native English speakers.

1. What are you most proud of? I think I'm probably most proud of how well the CoWS is doing. It's transformed completely since I first got here, and is well used and students know about it. I think I'm most proud of that.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? My late father.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? Cocktails.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? Supportive.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane? My three children.


A portrait of Erin PahlkeErin Pahlke
Associate Professor of Psychology

Areas of specialty: I focus on kids and adolescent understanding of gender and race and how it influences their outcomes. So related to that I spend a lot of time thinking about issues surrounding socialization. I study parental socialization in terms of issues like race. I've done stuff on colorblind ideology and the way in which white parents talk about race with their families and racial socialization in terms of African-American and Latino families, and also aspects related to how kids learn about sexism, sometimes in terms of thinking about what happens in schools and then thinking about educational outcomes like understanding how discrimination can impact educational outcomes.

1. What are you most proud of? I'd say I'm most proud of the ways in which I've been able to help people to figure out what they want to do in their future. At Whitman one of the joys of this job is seeing students over the course of their time here find their passion and dig into it and go.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? My Ph.D. mentor. Her name is Becky Bigler. She's amazing in that she has this passion and love for research and doing good through research that is just the coolest thing I've ever seen. She shows up in a room and you can't help but get excited about research and the way in which research can make the world better and that really inspires me and I try to keep that going.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? Terrible mystery novels.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? Passionate.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane? Terrible mystery novels, running shoes and headphones for podcasts.


Chris Petit

Christopher Petit
Professor of Theatre

Areas of Specialty: I'm a theatre maker. That's mostly what I consider myself. I'm a director and I'm trained as an actor, so I teach acting and directing.

1. What are you most proud of? I'm most proud of my kids. That's the truth. I think they're turning into exceptional people and that makes me very happy. I'm proud of who they're turning out to be.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? It changes all the time. I could easily name four people that would probably be four different people in another year. I can say that I'm inspired by my spouse: her artistry, her diligence and her see-it-throughness.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? Evening cocktails.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? What would I want it to be? Consistent.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane?  A good hat. A guitar or ukulele. A companion.


Daniel D. Schindler
Associate Professor of Theatre

Areas of specialty: I'm a scenic designer and scenic painter by training.

1. What are you most proud of? My children.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? My wife.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? Anything chocolate.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? Kind. I hope that they would describe me as kind.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane? A decent collection of books, pencils and paper and music.


Portrait of  Lisa Uddin

Lisa Marie Uddin
Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Culture Studies, also named a Paul Garrett Fellow

Areas of Specialty: I teach and research modern contemporary art and visual culture. I also do stuff on U.S. architecture and urbanism, and think a lot about race and space. When I think of my area in terms of Whitman, what my area of specialty is, I think about it increasingly as teaching people how to look at, think about and respond to art.

1. What are you most proud of? Pride is not a familiar emotion to me. I get excited about things. I am drawn to things and people. I am curious about things. But all of those seem kind of more active and in the moment. Being proud of something feels like it's done and dead and nothing is ever done and dead to me. So, I don't really know what I'm most proud of cause I don't sit there and survey stuff that would maybe be the condition of possibility for feeling a sense of pride. Instead, I'm just in it.

2. Who is the person that inspires you the most? I'd say I do find my parents to be very inspiring in so far as they have lived a life of fortitude. I'm also routinely and intensely inspired by my cats for their ability to see and sense things that I can't. I look at my cats looking all the time and I get goosebumps doing it, which is sort of strange, but very true for me.

3. What is your guilty pleasure? America. It's the combination shame of being a resident here and benefitting from all the things that the U.S. produces and has to offer. Also, amidst the shame, the fact of my joy and happiness about many American things including my family, my friends and my intellectual life. Even some institutions and culture.

4. If your friends and family could sum you up in a word, what would it be? I'm thinking about a memory when my parents sent me to test to see if I was gifted or not. I'm not, instead the woman who tested me offered the assessment that I was inconsistent. And so, my family for years thereafter would describe me as inconsistent in a loving, lighthearted way. So, inconsistent is the word that comes to mind only because it's like the haunting memory. But in terms of today, just one word -- I'm going to go with radiant.

5. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items must you have in order to remain sane? Sand, sun and surf.


Additional promotion recipients were:

  • Janis Breckenridge, Professor of Spanish
  • Patrick R. Frierson, Professor of Philosophy
  • John "Jack" Iverson, Professor of Foriegn Language and Literatures (French)
  • Susanne M. Altermann, Senior Lecturer of Biology
  • Amy Dodds, Senior Lecturer of Music
  • Michele K. Hanford, Senior Adjunct Instructor of Sport Studies
  • Ray ‘Skip' Molitor, Senior Lecturer of Sport Studies
  • Brien R. Sheedy, Senior Adjunct Instructor of Sport Studies

The following faculty were named to an endowed chair or professorship:

  • Sharon Alker, Mary A. Denny Professor of English and General Studies
  • Heidi E. M. Dobson, Spencer F. Baird Professor of Biology
  • Moira I. Gresham, Nathaniel Shipman Associate Professor of Physics
  • Denise J. Hazlett, Hollon Parker Professor of Economics and Business
  • Michelle Y. Janning, Raymond and Elsie DeBurgh Chair of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology
  • Douglas Henry Juers, Carl E. Peterson Endowed Chair of Science and Professor of Physics
  • Albert W. Schueller, Mina Schwabacher Professor of Mathematics
  • Robert Charles Sickels, Alma Meisnest Chair of Humanities and Professor of Film and Media Studies
  • Nicole Simek, Cushing Eells Professor of Philosophy and Literature; Associate Professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures (French) and Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Patrick K. Spencer, Grace F. Phillips Professor of Geology
  • Zahi Zalloua, Cushing Eells Professor of Philosophy and Literature; Professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures (French) and Interdisciplinary Studies