Cluster of New Faculty to Study Health in Communities of Color, U.S. Slavery

A cluster of new faculty members hired in UNC’s College of Arts & Sciences will work across disciplines to study health and wellness in communities of color.

Six faculty are part of the Health and Wellness in Communities of Color cluster hire. Such clusters involve hiring diverse faculty across multiple departments who will conduct interdisciplinary research on a broad theme.

In addition, two faculty will focus on issues of U.S. slavery and will work closely with the health and wellness faculty.

The new faculty, their hiring dates and focus are:

  • Malia Blue ’12 (fall 2021, health and wellness), an assistant professor of exercise and sport science. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science from UNC, she also earned a master’s in exercise physiology in 2014 and a doctorate in human movement science in 2020 from the University. Her research focuses on components of cardiometabolic health with a special interest in racial and ethnic minority populations. UNC’s The Well website recently highlighted her work.
  • Lisa Calvente ’02 (MA) (fall 2021, health and wellness), an assistant professor of communication. Calvente received a bachelor’s degree from City University of New York at Brooklyn College and then a master’s and a doctorate, in 2008, in communication studies from UNC. Her primary areas of research are Black diaspora and African American culture, Latinx culture, performance studies and media studies.
  • Shannon Gonzalez (fall 2021, health and wellness), an assistant professor of sociology. Gonzalez received a bachelor’s degree in English from Tougaloo College, a master’s in leadership of nonprofits and NGOs from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin. She studies Black feminist theory, criminology, policing and police violence, community and urban sociology, and race, gender and class.
  • Brandi Brimmer (fall 2021, U.S. slavery), an associate professor of African, African American and diaspora studies. Brimmer received a bachelor’s degree in history from Spelman College and a master’s in African American studies and a doctorate in U.S. history from UCLA. Her research focuses on the history of enslaved and free Black people in the American South, emancipation, Reconstruction, Black women’s political thought, and African American marriage and family.
  • Sophie McCoy (spring 2022, health and wellness), who will join UNC’s department of biology from Florida State University. McCoy received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Brown University and a doctorate in ecology and evolution from the University of Chicago. She studies community and functional ecology in a changing world.
  • Desire Kedagni (summer 2022, health and wellness), who will join UNC’s department of economics from Iowa State University. Kedagni received bachelor’s degrees in economics and statistics from the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, a master’s in statistics and applied economics from ISSEA, in Yaounde, Cameroon, and a master’s in economics from the University of Montreal, with a doctorate in economics from Pennsylvania State University. Kedagni’s research interests are in econometrics, causal inference and development economics and also include labor economics and economics of education.

The searches for an additional faculty member in psychology and neuroscience studying health and wellness, and a faculty member in history studying U.S. slavery will continue into next year.

“We are delighted to have these new faculty with diverse talents, backgrounds, research interests and experiences joining our Carolina community, and we look forward to facilitating their ability to work together across disciplines,” said Dean Terry Rhodes ’78. “We also will be connecting these new faculty members with other scholars in the college and across campus to assist in creating appropriate interdisciplinary synergies.”

Rhodes said that after considering thoughtful feedback from the college community, and in keeping with the goal of enriching diversity, she and her senior leadership team determined that this cluster hire was the right direction for prioritizing hiring for the college.

“These new faculty are doing innovative, high-impact work that will diversify and enhance the college’s research, teaching and public outreach missions,” she said.

The cluster-hire faculty members have had monthly informal get-togethers since August that have been facilitated by Karla Slocum, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion in the college. The gatherings will help them get to know one another, discuss their work and form a community. The goal is also to connect and orient the new faculty to a range of instructional, research, community and leadership resources especially relevant to their area of work in order to ensure support for their careers at Carolina.

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