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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Leading Thinkers: New Faculty Joining A&S

The College of Arts and Sciences welcomes 11 new professors this fall.

Sept. 7, 2021, by A&S News Staff

Dean Karin Ruhlandt of the College of Arts and Sciences welcomes these new faculty members. Rising stars in their fields, they bring unsurpassed scholarship and innovative instruction to help students prepare to take on the challenges of today and the future.

“I am delighted and proud that this talented and diverse group of scholars has joined us this fall,” says A&S dean Karin Ruhlandt. “Each of them brings contemporary perspectives and expertise that will enhance the liberal arts experience for students in the College and further strengthen A&S’ areas of focus, especially in intercultural competency and social justice.”

Meet A&S’ new faculty:

Portrait of Channelle Benz.

Chanelle Benz G’12

Assistant Professor

English (Creative writing)

“My pedagogical focus is twofold: to develop cohorts of writers who support and challenge each other with rigor and generosity, and to construct courses that examine texts that run counter to master narratives, especially those which engage with issues of gender, place and race.”

  • M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Fiction, Syracuse University
  • Specialization: Fiction, creative writing, contemporary literature, Black voices
  • Previous position: Assistant professor of English at Rhodes College
  • Key honor/award: Longlisted for the 2020 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel and the 2019 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

Portrait of Mariaelena Huambachano

Mariaelena Huambachano

Assistant Professor

Religion and Native American and Indigenous studies

“My teaching philosophy is informed and shaped by my cross-cultural experience as a Native Peruvian Indigenous scholar who has lived from a young age in Aotearoa, New Zealand, the home of the Indigenous Māori culture. Focusing on the richness and breadth of cultural diversity and humility, I seek to address environmental and food justice issues, providing my students with a vibrant, inclusive, collective and creative learning environment."

  • Ph.D. in international business majoring in global sustainable development, University of Auckland, New Zealand
  • Specialization: Indigenous studies, environmental studies, food security/sovereignty, Indigenous research methodologies, Indigenous philosophies of well-being and public policy.
  • Previous position: Assistant professor, civil society and community studies, School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Key honor/award: Presidential diversity postdoctoral fellowship, Brown University

Portrait of Delali Kumavie.

Delali Kumavie

Assistant Professor


(Photo credit: Ben Cleeton)

“I aim to cultivate the critical reading, writing, and thinking tools that allow my students to assess and intervene in the ongoing histories and struggles against systems of oppression, slavery, subjugation, and colonialism in our world. I believe that literary inquiry and study help students to understand the structures of domination and oppression, and their continuing presence in our lives today. As a result, I design my classrooms as a space to develop critical thinking, experiment with learning and writing, debate ideas, and discover ways of being in the world.”

  • Ph.D. in English, Northwestern University
  • Specialization: African and African diasporic literature, critical race theory, studies in science and technology
  • Previous position: Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University
  • Key honor/award: Carter G. Woodson Predoctoral Fellowship, 2018-2020; Gwendolen M. Carter and Kofi Annan Fellowship

Headshot of Nathan Madarieta.

Ethan Madarieta

Assistant Professor


(Photo credit: Ben Cleeton)

“Each of my classes incorporates forms of embodied, experiential pedagogy as a way of cultivating a learning environment that facilitates the relationships needed for engaging in the demanding but necessary work of critical self-reflection and social analysis. I encourage students to be bold in their analyses so as to contend with the ongoing violent legacies of slavery, colonialism, and dispossession in their many forms. I teach the importance of relationality in knowledge production and identify pedagogy as a methodology for political, social, and self-transformation.”

  • Ph.D. in comparative literature, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Graduate minor in Latina/o studies; Certificate in Holocaust, genocide, and memory studies)
  • Specialization: Latin American and Latina/o/x literature; Pan-American Indigenous literatures; Latina/o/x studies; Indigenous studies; memory studies; gender and sexuality studies; queer theory; performance studies; critical race and ethnicity studies
  • Previous position: Assistant professor of English and program for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz
  • Key honor/award: SUNY Prodig Scholar

Portrait of Mirna Skanata.

Mirna Mihovilovic Skanata

Assistant Professor


“Throughout my career, I have developed novel technologies to tackle questions at the interface of physics and life. As I transition into the next stage of my career, I look forward to tapping into the diverse scientific community at Syracuse University, with the goal of forging collaborations across departments and institutes.”

  • Ph.D. in physics, Brown University
  • Specialization: Biophysics, in vivo imaging, systems neuroscience
  • Previous position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Physics, New York University
  • Key honor/award: The New York Academy of Sciences Magazine, cover story (Spring 2016 issue)

Portrait of Warrick Moses.

Warrick Moses

Assistant Professor

Art and Music Histories

“I am deeply committed to an interdisciplinary teaching approach, one that helps students develop the critical skills necessary to interrogate music as a cultural practice. I look forward to working collaboratively with community members in fostering an inclusive environment of learning and discovery that emphasizes social justice and social difference perspectives.”

  • Ph.D. in African and African American studies with a secondary field in ethnomusicology, Harvard University
  • Specialization: Racial and linguistic identity in popular music; hiphop studies; music of the African diaspora; Afrofuturism and African futurities.
  • Previous position: Postdoctoral researcher with the CIPHER Hiphop Initiative hosted by University College Cork, Ireland, and funded by the European Research Council
  • Key honor/award: Dissertation Completion Fellowship, Harvard University, 2017

Portrait of Karin Nisenbaum.

Karin Nisenbaum

Assistant Professor


“I will continue to work on a manuscript about post-Kantian moral perfectionism, which says our good, ultimately, is realizing our true nature. My aim is a new way to think about the ethical outlook developed by some post-Kantian thinkers, and to show how their views might enable us to address some of the problems confronting contemporary neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism. During the spring, I will teach a graduate seminar on Kantian and post-Kantian ethics. I look forward to discussing some of the ideas I am working out in the book with students and colleagues.”

  • Ph.D. in philosophy, University of Toronto
  • Specialization: Kant, German Idealism, 19th- and 20th-century Jewish thought
  • Previous position: Assistant professor, Department of Philosophy, Boston College
  • Key honor/award: Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship for Advanced Researchers 2019–2022

Corrine Occhino 1x1.jpg

Corrine Occhino

Assistant Professor

Languages, Literatures and Linguistics (A&S) and Teaching and Leadership in the School of Education

“I am excited to relocate the Multimodal Language Lab to Syracuse and continue my work on language processing and organization in signed and spoken language. I look forward to training the next generation of scholars in ethical and inclusive research practices, and to growing the presence of ASL on the SU campus.”

  • Ph.D. in linguistics, University of New Mexico
  • Specialization: Signed languages, multimodal language, phonology, language processing, language variation and change
  • Previous position: Assistant Research Professor, Center on Culture and Language at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Key honor/award: Society of Family Planning research grant: “Reproductive Health Experiences of Deaf Women: A Mixed Methods Study”

Portrait of Ruth Opara.

Ruth Opara

Assistant Professor

Art and Music Histories

“My pedagogy emphasizes critical thinking, creativity, and diversity. As a teacher, I strive to help students see how they can interact with Africa, Black Atlantic and other world cultures through music. I do this by creating a learning environment that facilitates collaboration between me and students, grounds itself in mutual respect and trust, and provides students with new avenues for communication.”

  • Ph.D. in musicology, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Specialization: Music in Africa and the production of knowledge, music and the global woman, music and gender, Black Atlantic music, African music and transnational encounters
  • Previous position: Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Department of Music, Columbia University
  • Key honor/award: Currently writing Music, Motherhood, and Transnationalism: The Igbo, Nigerian Perspective

Portrait of Ivan Pechenezhskiy.

Ivan Pechenezhskiy

Assistant Professor


“I'm looking forward to building a superconducting quantum device research group and setting up the lab space by bringing together my academic and industry experiences in the field. I believe that understanding students' aspirations and dreams is the key to help them realize their fullest potential along any career path they choose.”

  • Ph.D. in physics, University of California, Berkeley
  • Specialization: Quantum information science, condensed matter physics
  • Previous position: Senior Quantum Engineer at Seeqc, Inc.
  • Key honor/award: Improving quantum test infrastructure at Seeqc, Inc.

Portrait of Yiming Zhao.

Yiming Zhao

Assistant Professor


“I work in convex geometric analysis, where geometric intuitions guide mathematical abstractions. I believe we can make mathematics less daunting for our students by engaging them more in the class and visualizing examples and concepts whenever possible. In all my classes, I aim to foster an environment in which students learn not only the knowledge, but more importantly how to make discoveries on their own.”

  • Ph.D. in mathematics, New York University
  • Specialization: Convex geometric analysis, partial differential equations,
  • Previous position: Assistant professor at St. John’s University
  • Key honor/award: P.I., three-year NSF grant