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Southwestern Welcomes Five New Faculty Members

  • News Image
    L-R: Dustin Tahmahkera, Kenneth Mello, Reggie Byron and Patrick Hajovsky. (photo by Lucas Adams)
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    Molly Jensen

New professors offer expertise in Latin American art, Native American studies, Judaism and more

An art history professor, a communication studies professor, two religion professors and a sociology professor are among the new faculty members who will be on campus this fall.

Several aren’t new to Southwestern, though.

Patrick Hajovsky is returning to Southwestern this fall as a tenure-track assistant professor of art history. He was a visiting assistant professor at Southwestern in 2007-08.

Hajovsky holds a new position in Latin American Art History that Southwestern was able to fund initially with a $200,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

Hajovsky specializes in pre-Columbian and colonial-period art of Latin America. This fall, he will be teaching a class on ritual landscapes in Meso- and South America, and another focusing on audience and spectatorship in colonial Spanish America.

“Having four full-time faculty members in art history will make it possible for the department to rely almost exclusively on full-time faculty rather than part-time faculty, so we will do a much better job of following students through their four years, and into graduate schools,” said Thomas Howe, chair of Art History in the Department of Art and Art History.

Howe noted that while the curriculum in the department covers a substantial amount of the “core” of Western art, it is also able to offer curriculum in a wide range of non-Western areas such as east Asian art, pre-Columbian art and, post-Conquest Latin American art.

“These both represent areas where substantial professional opportunities and competition exist in international careers for this coming generation,” Howe said.

Hajovsky received his undergraduate degree in anthropology/drawing from the University of North Texas and his M.A. and Ph.D in art history from the University of Chicago. He said he is looking forward to “settling down, seeing some projects to completion, and making friends” upon his return to Southwestern this fall.

Molly Jensen is returning to Southwestern this fall as a tenure-track assistant professor of religion and philosophy. She has been at Southwestern since 2002 as a part-time and then visiting instructor/assistant professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy. 

“Whenever I had the opportunity over the last several years (between having children and working for non-profits in Austin), I would teach at Southwestern,” Jensen said.

This fall, Jensen will be teaching two sections of Introduction to Judaism and a Religion and Literature course.

Her research focuses on religion and society. “I like to explore the intersection of belief and culture,” Jensen said. “I am especially interested in the role of religious language, images, and practices in political and social movements.”

Jensen said she is currently studying prophetic imagery in contemporary food gardening efforts of Jewish and Christian communities.

Jensen earned undergraduate degrees in religion and English from Centre College in Kentucky. She earned a master of theological studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School and completed her Ph.D. in religion, ethics and society from Vanderbilt University while she was teaching part-time at Southwestern. 

“My class at the time gave me a standing ovation when I returned from defending my dissertation,” Jensen said. “They were so encouraging! I look forward to supporting my colleagues and students in their efforts and to celebrate the milestones and successes with them.”

Kenneth Mello also will be joining the Department of Religion and Philosophy this fall as an assistant professor of religion and philosophy. He will be teaching courses in native traditions of North America.

Mello joins Southwestern from the University of Vermont, where he held a joint appointment in the Religion Department and the Native American Studies Program. His research focuses on defining “religion” in native traditions, which manifests itself differently than in the dominant “Western” traditions. For example, he is researching both basket weaving and running as rituals for Native Americans.

Mello received his undergraduate degree in religion and philosophy from Colgate University. He also earned a master’s degree in religious studies from Colgate, as well as a master’s degree in American Indian studies from the University of Arizona. He earned his Ph.D. in Native American religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“These two new additions to the Religion Program expand the areas of expertise and course offerings significantly,” said Program Chair Laura Hobgood-Oster. “We are extremely excited about the opportunities they will provide to our students.  

The newest professor in the Communication Studies Department also will add to Southwestern’s expertise on Native Americans. Dustin Tahmahkera is joining the Southwestern faculty from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he was a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in American Indian Studies during 2008-09.

Tahmahkera is a citizen of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma. He received a B.A. and M.A. in English from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls and a Ph.D. in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University. After receiving his Ph.D., he spent a year working as the interim director of American Indian Studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Tahmahkera will be teaching the Introduction to Communication Studies class this fall. His research focuses on representations of native peoples in television, film and music. He spent the past year as a postdoctoral fellow transforming his dissertation on “Representations of Redface: Decolonizing the American Situation Comedy’s Leading ‘Indians’” into a book manuscript.

Reginald Byron, the newest member of the Anthropology and Sociology Department, joins Southwestern from The Ohio State University, where he expects to receive his Ph.D. in sociology. He earned a B.A. in psychology from the State University of New York at Geneseo, an M.A. in psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an M.A. in sociology from The Ohio State University. 

Byron will be teaching courses in Social Problems and Globalization. His research focuses on workplace inequality and discrimination.