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Southwestern Welcomes Four New Faculty Members

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    New faculty members joining Southwestern in fall 2014 are (l-r) Hazel Nguyen, Debika Sihi, Jethro Hernandez-Berrones and Jacob Schrum.

New professors to teach business, computer science and history

Ever since he was a student at Southwestern, Jacob Schrum wanted to return and teach at his alma mater.

That dream is becoming a reality this fall as Schrum, who graduated from Southwestern in 2006, joins the faculty as an assistant professor of computer science. He will be teaching the introductory computer science class as well as an elective on functional programming.

Schrum is one of four new tenure-track professors who are joining the Southwestern faculty this fall. The others are Jethro Hernandez-Berrones, assistant professor of history; Hazel Nguyen, assistant professor of business; and Debika Sihi, assistant professor of business.

Schrum was one of the first students to participate in the Paideia program at Southwestern, and he said the program’s emphasis on collaborative student-faculty research encouraged him to pursue research as an undergraduate. The intercultural learning component of Paideia inspired him to study abroad in Germany and also add German as a second major along with computer science.

“Southwestern and its faculty members are what inspired me to pursue my Ph.D.,” said Schrum, who is the nephew of former Southwestern University President Jake Schrum.

Schrum just finished his Ph.D. in computer science at The University of Texas at Austin, where he earned the Computer Science Department’s Teaching Assistant Excellence Award for the Fall 2012 semester. His specialty is artificial intelligence, and he has won the grand prize in an international competition to design simulated agents with human-like behavior.

While he was in graduate school, Schrum kept in touch with his professors from Southwestern and came back to campus on several occasions to give guest lectures about his research or talk to student groups.

“I wanted to keep close ties to Southwestern because I had a lot of good memories and in case an opportunity to work there came up,” Schrum said.

Such an opportunity presented itself when Suzanne Buchele, associate professor of computer science, left the faculty at the end of 2013 to pursue teaching and missionary work in Ghana. Coincidentally, Buchele served as Schrum’s academic advisor when he was a student at Southwestern.

“I was extremely lucky in that Suzanne felt pulled back to Ghana after her initial experience there as a Fulbright Scholar,” Schrum said. “I was aware of her plans to leave Southwestern, and paid close attention to the details so that I would be able to apply for the position that I knew would be available once she left. In this regard, I was incredibly lucky, but I suppose luck favors the prepared.”

The Functional Programming elective that Schrum will be teaching is the same course he took from Walt Potter, a computer science professor who was also the advisor for his honors thesis.

“I’m hoping to follow in his footsteps and teach the course in a way that will be as interesting and exciting for my students as it was for me when I took the version of the course offered by him,” Schrum said.

Schrum is married to a Southwestern classmate, Elissa (Lewis) Schrum, and the couple is expecting their first child in September.

“That should make my first semester even more interesting,” Schrum said.

Debika Sihi has been teaching in the Business and Economics Department of for the past two years as a visiting professor and was the recipient of the 2014 Teaching Award for a visiting or part-time faculty member. She will continue teaching classes in e-marketing and business research and writing.

“I am delighted to be returning to Southwestern as a tenure-track faculty member,” Sihi said. “I enjoy the collaborative culture at Southwestern that fosters scholarship and teaching. I am most excited to continue working with Southwestern students.”

Sihi earned her Ph.D. in marketing from UT-Austin, as well as an undergraduate degree in business and a master’s degree in public accounting. Her research focuses on the link between marketing and a firm’s stock market value.

Hazel Nguyen just completed her Ph.D. in finance at the University of Arkansas. She also has an MBA and an M.S. in information systems from Boston University.

Nguyen will be teaching courses on entrepreneurship and investments, and will be taking over the Financial Analyst Program, which trains students to manage a portion of the university’s endowment.

Nguyen said she was attracted to Southwestern because of its focus on the holistic development of students, the close relationship between students and faculty, and its engagement with the community. “I value very much the human aspect of business, and I believe Southwestern provides the best environment for that,” she said.

Nguyen is a native of Vietnam and earned her undergraduate degree in electronics engineering from Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology. Her research focuses on the behaviors of firms and their executive officers.

Jethro Hernandez-Berrones will be teaching courses on the history of medicine and the history of Latin America. He recently completed his Ph.D. in the history of health sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, where his dissertation focused on the medical profession in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution.

Hernandez-Berrones is a native of Mexico and earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City.