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The Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity supports scholars from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in higher education. Meet the newest cohort of fellows.

Carolina Postdoctoral
Clockwise from top left: Ganga Bey, Kimberly Jenkins, Musa Manga, Senay Yitbarek, Julian Rucker and Sean Matharoo. (Image courtesy of UNC Research)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is pleased to announce the 2020-2022 Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity fellows.

The fellows began their appointments on July 1, and as program participants each receives a paid, two-year post-doctoral position in his or her department, additional funds for research, professional development and networking opportunities, and a unique opportunity to work closely with a faculty mentor in their respective discipline.

CPPFD is one of the oldest diversity fellowship programs for postdoctoral scholars in the nation, and it receives strong support and recognition across the University and peer institutions. The program was launched in 1983 as part of a continuing commitment to enhance culturally diverse, intellectual community and support scholars from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in higher education. More than 190 scholars have participated to date, leading to more than 60 faculty hires here at Carolina.

“Regular faculty searches often do not yield diverse hires,” says Sibby Anderson-Thompkins, interim chief diversity officer and director of CPPFD. “This program serves as an important pathway to the professoriate here at Carolina, supporting academic departments in their efforts to attract, develop and hire historically underrepresented scholars.”

Over the last five years, 19 fellows have been hired directly into the faculty at Carolina at the conclusion of their fellowships, and the program has successfully placed 100% of its fellows into tenure-track positions. In July, the UNC College of Arts & Sciences hired three new faculty from the program: Jacob Lau in women’s and gender studies, Danielle Purifoy in geography and Annette Rodriguez in American studies. Recruiting of fellows is carried out on a national basis, historically attracting scholars predominantly from the social sciences and humanities, but with growing exposure to all fields.

According to Anderson-Thompkins, recruiting diverse faculty in STEM disciplines presents unique challenges. “The absence of diverse faculty is frequently attributed to the ‘leaky pipeline’ or competition for the ‘few’ competitive candidates or too much research overlaps with faculty mentors,” she says. “However, the barriers that impede building a diverse faculty in the hard sciences can also be attributed to institutional structures, policies and unconscious bias that impact access and recruitment efforts.”

As part of the Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good’s strategic plan’s first initiative, Build Our Community Together, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz is supporting the hiring of underrepresented faculty, especially in disciplines with clear disparities, by investing funding in two additional CPPFD fellowships per year. This additional funding has enabled the program to expand the fellowship and focus more on recruiting STEM scholars than ever before.

The 2020 CPPFD Fellows are:

Ganga Bey, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, department of epidemiology

A social epidemiologist, Ganga Bey’s work draws on her passion for social science and centers on advancing theoretical frameworks for health disparities research through strengthening the integration of social, social psychological and biological approaches in epidemiologic methods. Her research currently focuses on understanding psychosocial and epigenetic mechanisms that influence disparate aging rates between dominant-status and marginalized persons. She aims to develop novel measures that capture the identity processes to mediate the effects of chronic stress stemming from social adversity on cardiovascular health and identify additional points of intervening on the health consequences of structural inequity.

Bey holds a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of Massachusetts.

Kimberly Jenkins, UNC School of Medicine, department of allied health sciences

Kimberly Jenkins’ research examines the development of grammar and its intersection with cognitive skill in typically and atypically developing dual language learners, particularly children acquiring Spanish and English. Additionally, she studies assessment and treatment of language disorders in culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Her current work systematically examines the acquisition of grammatical skill in Spanish-English dual language learners longitudinally. The overarching goal of her research is to increase the knowledge base regarding the diverse language profiles of dual language learners, inform theoretical perspectives with respect to dual-language learning and determine the most efficacious treatment approaches to facilitate language learning in dual language learners with language disorders.

Jenkins holds a Ph.D. in speech and hearing sciences from Indiana University, Bloomington.

Sean Matharoo, UNC College of Arts & Sciences, department of romance studies

Sean Matharoo’s research responds to the Anthropocenic period — or the commencement of significant human impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems — energy crisis and the need to transition to alternative energy sources. He examines how French- and English-language speculative literature, media and philosophy may contribute to the decolonization of petroculture. The idea of petroculture presupposes that the capability of rationality unique to humans is a sufficient reason to exploit nonhuman nature. During his CPPFD fellowship, Matharoo will elaborate and update his thesis into a book, which is provisionally titled “The Damned of the Anthropocene: Performatively Modeling Energy Aesthetics for a New Structuralism.”

Matharoo holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of California, Riverside.

Musa Manga, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, department of environmental sciences and engineering

Manga is a sanitation and environmental engineer whose research focuses on the planning, monitoring and improvement of sanitation and sludge management practices in the Global South. His research has an emphasis on pathogen and fecal hazard tracking in communities; life-cycle costing of water and sanitation programs; development, optimization and application of sustainable human excreta; wastewater and solid waste management technologies and strategies to achieve effective pathogen inactivation; and resource recovery.

Manga holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Leeds.

Julian Rucker, UNC College of Arts & Sciences, department of psychology and neuroscience

Julian Rucker is interested in investigating the psychological factors shaping perceptions of, and motivations for, reducing racial inequality across several societal domains. His primary research examines how the lay tendency to associate racism with interpersonal biases, or with the structural disadvantage of racial groups, influences beliefs about societal racial inequality. His work also examines perceptions of racial progress in the U.S. and the psychological factors predicting and influencing vast overestimates of societal progress toward Black–white economic equality.

Rucker holds a Ph.D. in social psychology from Yale University.

Senay Yitbarek, UNC College of Arts & Sciences, department of biology

Senay Yitbarek’s research focuses on the community ecology of infectious diseases, with a focus on understanding how microbial interactions are shaped by host population structure. In his work, he combines experimental evolution approaches with mathematical modeling. He is also a postdoctoral fellow at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and is the current president of the Black Ecologists organization within the Ecological Society of America.

Yitbarek received his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Before joining Carolina, Senay was an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

By UNC Research 

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