Academics

Fresh faces: a cross-section of the College’s new faculty

Sixty-two new faculty members joined departments in the College of Arts & Sciences this summer. Meet six.

Six of the newest faculty hired by College of Arts & Sciences departments.
Among the newest faculty hired by College of Arts & Sciences departments are, top row, left to right, Kennet Flores, Aalyia Sadruddin and Malia Blue; bottom row, Gabriel Bump, Fenaba Addo and Gedas Bertasius.

Fall semester is a time of beginnings at Carolina, especially for the newest faculty hired across campus.

Departments in the College of Arts & Sciences welcomed 62 full-time and temporary faculty members, who add expertise in a variety of fields, including creative writing, petrology, machine learning and many more.

Here’s a look at six of those new hires.

Addo

Fenaba R. Addo

Fenaba R. Addo is an associate professor in the public policy department.

She researches debt and wealth inequality with a focus on families, relationships, higher education and economic strain as social determinants of health and well-being. Addo has also studied the role that consumer and family policies play in reinforcing these relationships.

Addo has published extensively on the role of debt and debt management in young adulthood and within relationships. “I have also investigated family, financial strain and debt-related consumer policies as a social determinant of health,” she said. “My research program on racial disparities in student loan debt has contributed to larger discussions within our society on postsecondary value and racial wealth inequality.”

With an interest in bridging social demography with economic equality, Addo has published on racial disparities in student debt, older Black women and wealth and the millennial racial wealth gap. She also analyzes ways that societal inequalities stem from historical legacies of racial exclusion and discrimination and how they are reproduced over time.

Addo was on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s faculty before joining Carolina. She holds a doctoral degree in policy analysis and management from Cornell University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Duke University.

Much of her work focuses on the transition to adulthood. “That period coincides with the ages of many of my students,” she said. “I encourage students to draw upon their experiences to contextualize course content and grow as scholars; I get excited and motivated to learn from them and evolve as an educator and researcher through this process of shared learning and co-teaching.”

Bertasius

Gedas Bertasius

Gedas Bertasius is an assistant professor in computer science.

His research on computer vision includes video understanding, object detection in video and data-driven sports analytics. “My research aims to teach computers how to perceive visual data such as images and videos,” he said. Bertasius also researches machine learning in areas such as human behavior modeling, multimodal deep learning and transfer learning.

“I love thinking about challenging research problems,” Bertasius said. “I’m excited to see how computer vision technology that we develop gets applied to real-world problems like self-driving cars, autonomous robots, and augmented and virtual-reality devices.”

Prior to joining the faculty, Bertasius was a postdoctoral researcher at Facebook AI. He earned a doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics from Dartmouth College, where he was a varsity basketball player.

Bertasius grew up in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital city. He played basketball for various national teams, including a U-18 squad that won a silver medal at the 2008 International Basketball Association’s European Championships.

“I was drawn to UNC because of its excellent students and many collaboration opportunities within the computer science department,” he said. “I am also a big basketball fan, so joining a school with rich basketball traditions is exciting.”

Malia Blue

Malia Blue

Malia Blue joins the exercise and sport science department as an assistant professor.

Blue’s research on cardiometabolic health focuses on identifying disease risk factors, developing exercise intervention strategies and improving overall health and wellness of racial and ethnic minority populations. “I hope to support diversity and inclusion in exercise science by conducting my research in more diverse samples and collaborating with a wide range of students, academics and practitioners,” she said.

She also investigates the relationship between body composition, performance and injury risk in different athletic populations.

Blue earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science and master’s and doctoral degrees in exercise physiology from Carolina before spending the past year teaching at High Point University. “UNC is home to me,” Blue said. “It’s exciting to be in an environment with motivated, successful researchers working on innovative research. It’s the kind of academic circle I want to be in.”

She previously worked as director of community health for Gaston County Schools and as a clinical trials coordinator at Carolina’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center.

“I am passionate about helping individuals obtain the knowledge and skills to live a healthier lifestyle. I’m motivated to extend traditional exercise physiology concepts to diverse populations who are often underrepresented in exercise science,” Blue said.

Gabriel Bump

Gabriel Bump

Gabriel Bump is an assistant professor of creative writing in the English and comparative literature department.

His debut novel, “Everywhere You Don’t Belong” (Algonquin Books), was a New York Times Notable Book of 2020, won a raft of awards, including the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, and is being adapted for a TV series. He has also published short stories.

Bump, who grew up in Chicago’s South Shore community, received a bachelor’s degree in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a master’s degree in fiction from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

“The writing history at UNC is intimidating,” Bump said. “The brilliance formed here: Thomas Wolfe, Randall Kenan, Jenny Offill, to name a few. And the current cohort of writers and scholars. This is a special place. Every day, I can’t believe my dumb luck.”

Along with teaching an introductory workshop and a 300-level stylistics class on writing antiheros, Bump plans to teach a wide range of courses, from screenwriting to novel writing to prose poems. “I want to give students exposure to as much inspiration as possible. Young writers should try out different genres and styles, see what clicks, see what makes their blood pump faster,” he said.

Bump will continue writing. “When I’m writing something new, getting into it, falling into a strange artistic trance, few experiences can match that. It’s fun! Teaching makes me a better writer. Writing is a solitary practice. The classroom, that small creative community, is an exciting and motivating space.”

Flores

Kennet Flores

Kennet E. Flores is an assistant professor in the earth, marine and environmental sciences department.

In places such as Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Ecuadorian Andes and the central Appalachians, Flores researches fluid-rock interaction, rock formation and tectonic evolution. He examines processes that control the evolution of active margins or areas on the edge of continents where subduction, such as an oceanic plate sliding under a continental plate, occurs.

He answers questions like: How are critical elements distributed and cycled in the Earth, and how do geological processes influence topography, climate and biodiversity?

Before arriving at Carolina, Flores was on faculty at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and was an associate research scientist at the American Museum of Natural History. Flores obtained a doctoral degree in geosciences and environment and a master’s degree in earth sciences from the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. He also earned a licentiate and a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Costa Rica.

“I was born and raised in rural Costa Rica, surrounded by nature, spectacular landscapes and active tectonics,” Flores said. “That early contact with nature was the starting point of my passion for earth science, which grew while completing my degrees in Costa Rica and Switzerland. Since arriving in the United States, I transformed that passion into a professional career, focusing on understanding fundamental processes in earth sciences and the academic development of new professionals in this field.”

Carolina’s outstanding student body and faculty influenced his decision to work here, Flores said. “I’m also arriving at a key time when three units merge into a single interdisciplinary department. The merge will position us among the country’s leading earth sciences departments.”

Sadruddin

Aalyia Sadruddin

Aalyia Sadruddin is an assistant professor in the anthropology department.

In the year prior to joining Carolina’s faculty, Sadruddin was a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. She earned a doctoral degree in anthropology from Yale University, a master’s degree in sociology of health and medicine and a bachelor’s degree from South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

As a medical anthropologist, she has research and teaching interests in health, demographic change and care in post-conflict societies. “Over the last decade, I have conducted ethnographic research on aging and late-life care practices in Rwanda,” Sadruddin said. “Telling this story from the perspective of women and men over age 70, I illustrate the challenges that come with aging in a country where many lives have been lost and connections between generations disrupted due to mass violence and refugeeism.”

She has traced how elderly Rwandans navigate everyday life, such as dealing with the passage of time, taking care of themselves and preparing for death. “My research reveals the intricate ways that members of one generation are managing to rewrite the social script of reconciliation,” Sadruddin said.

With a book in progress, Sadruddin said that anthropology has taught her that there is always room to dig deeper. “I find motivation in writing about the diverse ways in which ordinary people deal with the twists and turns of life and with the joys and sorrows of existence. The stories and experiences of the Rwandans with whom I work consistently encourage me to think and write with depth.”

Sadruddin said that she looks forward to growing Carolina’s medical anthropology major, proposed by Professor Michele Rivkin-Fish in 2019, with colleagues in the medical sciences, public health and anthropology.

The Well will also feature some new faculty in Carolina’s various schools in an upcoming edition.