Westmont's finest get even finer
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This fall, Westmont welcomes four new professors to campus: Carmen McCain in the english department, Elizabeth Gardner in the communication studies department, Jonathan Mitchell in the physics department, and Serah Shani in the anthropology department.
McCain, who completed her doctorate in African Languages and Literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, grew up in Nigeria and previously taught at the Kwara State University there. She also wrote a weekly column for the Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust. Trained in African literature, film, and postcolonial culture, McCain’s primary area of research is on Hausa-language literature and film in northern Nigeria. This year, she will be teaching Writers in Conversation, which will take a look at transnational literature, as well as Topics in World Literature, which will focus primarily on Nigerian literature.
McCain hopes that by exposing her students to a wide variety of literary traditions, they will be able to expand their horizons and gain a broader understanding of other cultures. In the future, she hopes to teach an introductory course on African literature or speculative fiction from the Global South.
“I am really impressed by how smart, open-minded, and social my students are,” says McCain of her first impressions of teaching at Westmont. “I’m not sure I’ve ever taught classes where so many students are so engaged and discussion-oriented.”
Gardner, a graduate of Houghton College, previously taught Public Speaking, Rhetorical Criticism, and Argumentation and Oral Communication at the University of Maryland. She is also currently finishing up her doctorate in communication studies there. While Gardner’s primary area of research focuses on social change and the rhetorical construction of childhood, she is teaching public speaking this fall.Gardner says that if she could reverse roles and become a student for a day, the class she’d most want to crash would be any of Dr. Spencer’s courses: “I’ve been hearing a lot about [them], and seeing my students traipsing around in sheets, to boot,” she says. “So if I could switch places, I’d be pretty interested in taking one of his classes.”
Professor Mitchell, who joined the physics department, was previously a tenured professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at UCLA. A Westmont alum himself, Mitchell completed his master’s degree and doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago. At Princeton, he is an Einstein Fellow as well as a W.M. Keck Foundation Fellow. Mitchell’s research focuses primarily on planetary phenomena such as Earth’s paleoclimate.
“When I was a student here, the debate was just beginning about global warming and global change. It’s really heated up, so to speak, in the intervening 20 years. I’m excited to bring that expertise here.”
Shani, the anthropology department’s newest professor, holds three master’s degrees: Sociology of Health and Medicine, International and Trans cultural studies, and Anthropology and Education. Born in Kenya, she attended Daystar University’s undergraduate school before getting her degrees from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Columbia. Shani also fluently speaks five languages: English, Swahili, Maasai, Kisii and Kikuyu. Her research ranges from transnational migration to the African diaspora, and she has lectured on such topics at many prestigious colleges, inlcuding Yale, Cornell, and Columbia.
This semester, Shani is teaching an introductory course on cultural anthropology, as well as applied anthropology and a class on peoples and cultures. Anthropology minors are in for a major treat.
With the arrival of new faculty—each bringing new perspectives and skill sets to their respective departments—Westmont students are in for an even more diverse and enriched learning experience.