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View of fall color at the Bell Tower. Photo by Donn Young.
(photo by Donn Young)

New faculty members in the 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. A cluster hire is a creative approach involving 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 are:

  • Malia Blue (fall ’21, health and wellness), department of exercise and sport science.
  • Lisa Calvente (fall ’21, health and wellness), department of communication.
  • Shannon Gonzalez (fall ’21, health and wellness), department of sociology.
  • Brandi Brimmer (fall ’21, U.S. slavery), department of African, African American and diaspora studies.
  • Sophie McCoy (spring ’22, health and wellness), department of biology.
  • Desire Kedagni (summer ’22, health and wellness), department of economics.

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. “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 added.

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.

Learn more about the new faculty members:

Blue, an assistant professor of exercise and sport science, received a B.A. in exercise and sport science, an M.A. in exercise physiology and a Ph.D. in human movement science from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on components of cardiometabolic health with a special interest in racial and ethnic minority populations. The Well recently highlighted her work here.

Calvente, an assistant professor of communication, received a B.A. from City University of New York at Brooklyn College and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in communication studies from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her primary areas of research are Black diaspora and African American culture, Latinx culture, performance studies and media studies.

Gonzalez, an assistant professor of sociology, received a B.A. in English from Tougaloo College, an M.S. in leadership of nonprofits and NGOs from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin. She studies Black feminist theory, criminology, policing/police violence, community and urban sociology, and race, gender and class.

Brimmer, an associate professor of African, African American and diaspora studies, received a B.A. in history from Spelman College, and an M.A. in African American studies and a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of California at Los Angeles. 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.

McCoy will join UNC’s department of biology from Florida State University. She received an undergraduate degree in chemistry from Brown University and a Ph.D. in ecology and evolution from the University of Chicago. She studies community and functional ecology in a changing world.

Kedagni will join UNC’s department of economics from Iowa State University. Kedagni received undergraduate degrees in economics and statistics from the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, a master’s in statistics and applied economics from ISSEA, Yaounde in Cameroon and a master’s in economics from the University of Montreal, with a Ph.D. 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.






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