Published March 16, 2022
UB will welcome to campus 22 outstanding doctoral scholars as part of the university’s VITAL program to increase the number of faculty from traditionally underrepresented populations in North America.
The Visiting Future Faculty or VITAL program, a three-year pilot program developed by the Office of the Provost and the Office of Inclusive Excellence, brings these scholars to UB from March 28 to April 1 to expose them to research and teaching opportunities at UB and to support them as the next generation of faculty.
VITAL participants will engage with UB faculty and students, meet other scholars in the program and learn about the many advantages of living in Western New York.
“The VITAL program is about building relationships to foster the diverse universities we seek,” says Despina Stratigakos, vice provost for inclusive excellence. “As a flagship of SUNY, the nation’s largest comprehensive system of higher education, the University at Buffalo has a leadership role to play in driving forward these changes.”
VITAL creates the opportunity for UB faculty and students to meet diverse doctoral students from universities across North America and to learn about emerging research in different fields, according to Stratigakos.
“It also provides a platform for UB faculty and administrators to mentor VITAL scholars as they enter the critical final years of their studies and to provide guidance as they look ahead to faculty careers,” she says. “We are so eager to welcome the first cohort to Buffalo — we have been looking forward to their arrival for months!”
Eligible students are ABD candidates in doctoral programs in any field who intend to pursue academic careers and who are available to visit UB during Visiting Future Faculty Week.
During their four-day visit, the VITAL scholars will take part in events organized by their host departments, such as workshops and public lectures, where they will share their scholarship. They also will take part in tours of UB research centers; meet with UB leaders, faculty, staff and students; see Buffalo attractions; and participate in social events.
In addition to building a diverse faculty pipeline, the VITAL program provides opportunities for UB graduate students, as well as for program participants, Stratigakos says. For instance, it gives UB graduate students the chance to meet and engage with the diverse scholars participating in the program, thus expanding their academic networks and facilitating future collaborations.
“Building those networks is especially important for historically underrepresented students at UB, who may not experience substantial diversity among their cohorts,” Stratigakos says.
And for the visiting future faculty, their experiences at UB, which will include receiving substantial feedback on their work and becoming part of a new peer group, will provide the scholars encouragement and support as they enter the final leg of their doctoral studies. This is often a time, Stratigakos notes, when graduate students feel discouraged by the long road to the doctorate, and the program will offer them a chance “to recharge, feel valued and be inspired,” making VITAL alumni “ambassadors for UB for years to come.”
The program will also help the visiting scholars build a network of mentors and collaborators — as well as strengthen their peer networks — to support them as they continue to pursue their career goals and academic aspirations.
The 2022 VITAL Scholars
Sarah Alamdari, chemical and biological engineering, University of Washington.
Alamdari is a data scientist for the Biomedical Machine Learning Group at Microsoft Research New England. Her research interests lie broadly at the intersection of biology, machine learning and molecular level design. She was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and an NSF Data Science National Research Trainee. Among her numerous awards are an MIT Rising Star, and a Husky 100. She is passionate about increasing diversity in the computational molecular research space through mentorship and outreach, and she is a co-organizer of the COMSEF Scholars REU program.
Rafael Alfena Zago, economics, University of Oklahoma.
With a background in international relations and economics, Alfena Zago conducts research in applied microeconomics, mainly focused on topics in the fields of development and labor economics. He combines unusual data with quasi-experimental methods to study a range of issues of great public policy interest, such as the impact of improved public infrastructure on urban crime, the impact of international migration on local labor markets, and the impact of ride-sharing services on traffic deaths. At present, much of his work focuses on his native country of Brazil, an emerging market economy that is home to approximately 3% of the world’s population and offers a huge amount of relatively unexplored, high-quality data.
Isabel Anadon, sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Anadon is an American Bar Foundation/National Science Foundation Doctoral Fellow in Law and Inequality. Her research examines the intersection of punishment and migration with a focus on race and ethnicity, and the sociology of law. She earned an MS in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an MPP from the University of Chicago, and a dual BA in anthropology and psychology from the University of Notre Dame.
Bi'Anncha T. Andrews, urban and regional planning, University of Maryland-College Park.
Over the years, there has been a renewed interest in investing in historically distressed neighborhoods in the inner city. This economic escalation has contributed to increasing rates of displacement following redevelopment in forms commonly known as gentrification. As gentrification and displacement rapidly reshape neighborhoods across the U.S., low-income, Black, single mothers are forced to grapple with the rising cost of housing, the physical transformation of their communities, and the intentional displacement of their own families to make way for more affluent households.
While low-income, Black women are arguably the most vulnerable to the social and economic pressures that accompany gentrification, single, Black mothers are understudies in gentrification scholarship; hence knowledge about their vulnerability, and outcomes during and post displacement, are unclear.
In addition, few studies have considered the barriers that Black mothers face in accessing social services and informal social supports post-displacement.
Andrews' dissertation research aims to fill an established evidence gap on gentrification and displacement, including the impact that it has on single-family households and where families go post-displacement, and provide an in-depth outlook of the consequences associated with displacement and the residual trauma experienced by Black women during the displacement process.
Andrews says the purpose of her research is to generate a body of evidence that will enable improvement in social services, provide early intervention points that limit the number of vulnerable families forcefully displaced from their homes, and enable development of urban planning policies and practices that fosters sustainability among individuals and households that are at risk when new development occurs.
Waheed Awotoye, oral biology, University of Iowa.
A trained dentist, Awotoye's research focuses on understanding the contributions of genetic factors to the risk of craniofacial birth defects. His study of nonsyndromic cleft lip with or without cleft palate (nsCL/P), Aggressive Periodontitis and Hereditary gingival fibromatosis in the African population has resulted in novel discoveries that he hopes will translate into therapeutic advancements to alleviate the burden of these defects on public health.
Erica Banks, sociology, Northwestern University.
Banks’ work focuses broadly on women and their experiences within the criminal legal system. Her research centers on formerly incarcerated Black women and how they experience economic, familial and mental reverberations of incarceration over their life course after being released from prison.
She approaches her work from a Black feminist and intersectional perspective. In particular, Banks treats Black women as the ultimate experts of their experiences, highlights the importance of intra-racial and intra-ethnic comparisons, and roots the basis and the implications for her work in advocating on behalf of Black women and other marginalized people, as well as reshaping the way scholars frame the reentry process.
Zachariah Berry, organization and human resources, Cornell University.
Berry studies organizational behavior at the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell. His research focuses on morality at work, with a particular emphasis on passion and loyalty.
Richard Burgess, organization and human resources, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Burgess’ research centers around leadership, team dynamics and diversity. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and both an MBA and MS in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University.
Samuel Byiringiro, nursing, Johns Hopkins University.
Byiringiro‘s research interests include cardiovascular health outcomes, health systems strengthening through quality improvement, and community engagement in research. He earned a BS in nursing from the University of Rwanda and an MS in global health delivery from the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda.
Gladys Camacho-Rios, linguistics, University of Texas at Austin.
An L1 speaker of the South Bolivian variety of the Quechua language, Camacho-Rios is a community-based language researcher and a published author in Quechua. Her fieldwork involves documenting monolingual Quechua as it is spoken by elderly people in rural towns in Bolivia. Her research interests in linguistics include Quechua phonology, the grammar and semantics of the verbal morphology, and morphosyntax.
Beyond that, she is a language activist, leading the Linguistics Summer School Bolivia since 2016. The aim of her community service initiative is to foster a pioneering new group of native speakers documenting and describing their native languages in their communities of origin.
Casidy Campbell, global gender and sexuality studies, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Campbell’s research focuses on the fullness of Black girls’ personhood and seeks to understand how Black girls use the same digital technologies that often efface them to assert their quotidian perspectives.
She is currently a DISCO (Digital Inquiry, Speculation, Collaboration, and Optimism) Network Graduate Scholar, a member of the Digital Inequality Lab, and a former 2021 Community of Scholars Fellow at the Institute of Research on Women and Gender.
Lynnora Grant, materials and design, Rice University.
Grant's research focuses on the mechanics of sintering 3D-printed ceramics. Prior to her PhD, Lynnora obtained a BS in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University. Grant is a recipient of the NSF-GRFP (2017) and Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship (2019).
Ashley Gripper, urban and regional planning, Harvard University.
Gripper's research is transdisciplinary and uses mixed methods to investigate the associations between urban agriculture, mental health, spirituality and collective agency within Black communities. She designed and is the principal investigator on a grant-funded, IRB-approved study that employs spatial, qualitative, epidemiologic and psychometric methods to understand these impacts.
Her work highlights the historical and sociopolitical factors, such as structural and environmental racism, that have impacted and influenced Black agriculture in the United States. The first aim is a descriptive epidemiologic study assessing the association of neighborhood demographics with the number of community gardens at the block group level. This study shows that both Black and low-income neighborhoods have a greater concentration of community gardens compared to non-Black and higher income areas. This work serves as an introduction to the landscape of agriculture in Philadelphia and begins to lay the groundwork to understand how collective agency and community resistance might occur in the city’s Black and immigrant communities.
The goal of her current research is to show City Council officials and the Mayor’s Office how urban agriculture benefits the health of residents.
Margaret Ikape, physics, University of Toronto.
Ikape is a PhD candidate in the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, David A Dunlap Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto. She was born in Nigeria, where she received an undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy. She completed a master's degree at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, AIMS, Cameroon, before beginning graduate studies in Toronto.
Her interest in astronomy started at a very young age and that interest has been sustained by the numerous unknowns in the universe. Her current work tries to understand the nature of the first stars using simulated data.
Debrielle Jacques, psychology, University of Rochester.
Jacques' broad research interests combine adult psychopathology, parenting and family processes, and child psychopathology. Specifically, she is interested in how mental illness, addiction and traumatic experiences among parents affect caregiving, parent-child interactions and child well-being.
She also is interested in studying how children cope with and navigate potentially traumatic environments and the effects these strategies have on children’s long-term psychological development.
Prior to matriculating at Rochester, she received an MA in psychology from Rutgers University and a BS in psychology from Penn State.
Justin Lund, anthropology, University of Oklahoma.
Lund (Navajo) focuses his work at the intersection of genomics, anthropology and Indigeneity. Lund uses academics and research to elevate Native American and other Indigenous voices.
Josh Manitowabi, Indigenous studies, Brock University.
Manitowabi is Potawatomi of the Black Bear clan. He completed his honors BA at McMaster University with a major in history and a minor in Indigenous studies. He was a recipient of the Harvey Longboat Major Graduate Scholarship at McMaster in 2016. He was also a Joseph Bombardier Doctoral Scholar from 2018 to 2021 at Brock University. He completed his MA in cultural anthropology at McMaster University, where he was also a teacher assistant in the Indigenous Studies program.
His current research includes integrating Indigenous knowledge and oral history within contemporary education systems. He will be critiquing Great Lakes Anishinabek history within contemporary historiography.
Oluwafunke Brinda Ogunya, English, Florida State University.
Ogunya specializes in African American literature and cultural studies. Her research interest focuses on Black women’s fiction, African/Africana folklore and Motherhood.
Bruno Saconi, nursing, University of Pennsylvania.
Saconi is a predoctoral student at Penn Nursing, and a dual master’s degree student in statistics at Wharton. He holds an MS degree from The Pennsylvania State University and a BSN from Universidade de Brasília (Brazil).
His research interests include sleep and chronic pain symptom management, with a focus on the use of behavioral treatments among veterans with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) comorbid with chronic pain.
Ligia Schmitd, oral biology, University of Michigan.
A PhD candidate at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Schmitd is an internationally trained dentist specializing in oral medicine who has held teaching positions in her home country.
She is a clinician-scientist developing translational research in the field of oral cancer. More specifically, her research focuses on molecular mechanisms of cancer and tumor microenvironment interactions, and on how this knowledge can be used to advance patient care.
Payton Small, psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara.
Small is a social psychologist whose research program broadly focuses on pushback against diversity initiatives and the downstream consequences of such pushback on minoritized group members.
He also studies multiracial individuals’ experiences with identity denial and the impact of such experiences on racial identification processes.
In the fall, he will join the faculty of the Psychological Sciences Department at Vassar College.
Rashad Williams, urban and regional planning, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Williams' research and teaching leverage oppositional social theory, particularly within the variegated areas of Black political thought, to satisfy three questions confronting the field of urban planning in particular, and perhaps the fields of urban affairs more generally.
The first concerns the extent to which a serious confrontation with the intellectual contributions of the Black radical tradition requires a fundamental reordering of the concepts through which we narrate urban histories and processes in the United States. Williams argues that the concepts of racial planning, the racial state and racial capitalism might, in certain cases, better reveal connections between race, class and urban planning than the standard, and somewhat obfuscatory, rational planning/equity planning or efficiency/equity model.
The second question concerns what can and should be done within urban contexts once we recognize the causal significance of white supremacy as a sociopolitical system and its enduring consequences for our primary areas of concern (urban inequalities in housing, environmental quality, transportation, wealth, policing, among others). In what is the first article on the subject of reparations within the field of urban planning, Williams has proposed that we begin to intellectually develop a tradition of reparative planning.
The third question concerns the evaluation of reparative planning as an unfolding movement across American municipalities and regions.