Press Release: A New Generation of Exceptional, Interdisciplinary Scholars Joins Faculty as CUNY Graduate Center Looks Toward 50th Year

Poised for its 50th Anniversary next year, the CUNY Graduate Center is adding to its already renowned faculty 12 senior-level professors who will help set the tone for the institution’s next era as a national leader in doctoral and graduate-level education.

“At a time in which other universities have frozen or slowed their hiring, we have grown substantially,” says Graduate Center Provost Chase Robinson.

Eight of the newly appointed professors begin this fall, one next January, and three in the fall of 2011. They are:
Juliette Blevins (Linguistics), one of the world’s leading phonologists, an expert and advocate for endangered and aboriginal languages;

Susan Buck-Morss
(Political Science), internationally renowned theorist, past Guggenheim Fellow, and longtime Cornell professor of government;
Kandice Chuh (English), a prominent figure in Asian American studies, known for her theory of “subjectless discourse”;
Alexander Gamburd (Mathematics, coming in fall 2011), expert in number theory, probability, and quantum chaos, winner of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers;
Ruth Wilson Gilmore (Earth and Environmental Sciences), well-known geographer and community activist from USC, current president of the American Studies Association;
Peter Godfrey-Smith (Philosophy, coming in fall 2011) from Harvard University, a leading scholar in the philosophy of biology and philosophy of the mind;
Uday Singh Mehta (Political Science), Clarence Francis Professor in the Social Sciences at Amherst College, whose recent work focuses on war, peace, and nonviolence;
Alva Noë (Philosophy, coming in fall 2011), a philosopher from UC Berkeley doing groundbreaking work on perception and consciousness;
Paul Julian Smith (Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages), member of the British Academy, a wide-ranging critic whose work spans literature, film, fashion, and media;
Bryan S. Turner (Sociology), one of the most respected sociologists of religion, who was Alona Evans Distinguished Visiting Professor at Wellesley College;
Roderick Watts (Social Welfare), a psychologist who combines cutting-edge research, theory, and a commitment to social justice, known for his work with African American youth;
Douglas Whalen (Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, coming in spring 2011), a world-class scientist in the fields of speech and phonetics, from the Yale-affiliated Haskins Laboratory.
(See below for full bios.)
Many of the new faculty recruits -- who come from institutions such as Amherst, Cornell, UC Berkeley, Cambridge, Harvard, Wellesley, and USC -- are being appointed to the rank of Distinguished Professor or Presidential Professor. All are full, tenured professors.

All of the new hires represent a significant level of support from CUNY’s central administration. In addition, seven of the twelve appointments form part of a major initiative for renewal and interdisciplinary innovation in the humanities and the humanistic social sciences further supported (along with the Central Administration and the Graduate Center) by the Mellon Foundation, which gave $2.41 million toward three interdisciplinary committees: the Committee for Science Studies, the Committee for the Study of Religion, and the Committee for the Study of Globalization and Social Change.

“This reflects a commitment on the part of the Graduate Center to complement its preexisting disciplinary strengths with scholars who are undertaking the most significant interdisciplinary work,” says Robinson, who acknowledges the enlightened leadership from CUNY in making faculty funds available for this new generation of talent. “It’s a partnership between the Graduate Center, the central administration, and the Mellon Foundation that has created these interdisciplinary committees and filled them with exceptional scholars,” says Robinson.
The Mellon funding of $2.41 million is being invested in a variety of complementary ways to deepen the research culture of the Graduate Center. These include hiring high-level post-docs in conjunction with the centers, paying higher stipends for students, defraying costs for public-programming activities related to the centers, and buying out some of the teaching time of other CUNY faculty, so they can come to the Graduate Center as visiting scholars.

Founded in 1961 as the City University’s doctorate-granting institution, the Graduate Center earned a national and international reputation for graduate education in many disciplines in the social sciences and humanities, in a relatively short time. The essence of the school’s success is a nationally unique consortial structure in which faculty are drawn from a pool of 1,800leading scholars based on CUNY undergraduate campuses, augmented by a core ofprofessors who are based solely at the Graduate Center. The new appointments fall into the latter category, which has grown by 50 percent in the last 10 years, now numbering approximately 150.

In 2009, the Graduate Center added to its faculty the brilliant philosopher and logician Graham Priest; Herman Bennett, renowned historian of the African diaspora; American schools expert Wendy Luttrell, coming from the Harvard Graduate School of Education; labor sociologist Ruth Milkman, formerly director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UCLA; anthropologist Gary Wilder, winner of a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship; anthropologist and historian Fernando Coronil from the University of Michigan, where he was director of the Center of Latin American Studies; Jesse Prinz, an expert in the philosophy of psychology and proponent of experimental philosophy; and Julie Skurski, also from the University of Michigan, who is doing important anthropological-historical work on Venezuela and Cuba.

The Graduate Center

The Graduate Center is the primary doctorate-granting institution of the City University of New York (CUNY). The school offers more than 30 doctoral programs, as well as a number of master’s programs. The Graduate Center is also home to more than 30 interdisciplinary research centers and institutes and offers an extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events. Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at

Bios of 2010-2011 faculty appointments (beginning fall 2010 unless otherwise noted):

Juliette Blevins, professor of linguistics, is a world-class phonologist and an advocate for endangered and minority languages, with expertise in Austronesian, Australian Aboriginal, Native American, and Andamanese languages. Her first book, Nhanda, an Aboriginal Language of Western Australia, was based on work with the last speakers of the language which has now become extinct. Her book Evolutionary Phonology (Cambridge University Press, 2004) explores the nature of sound patterns and sound change in human language and presents a new theory synthesizing results in historical linguistics, phonetics, and phonological theory. As a senior research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Blevins has worked on a range of major projects, from continued description of the Yurok language of northwestern California, to the role of analogy in grammar, to the reconstruction of proto-languages of two distinct language groups of the Andaman Islands. A major discovery by Blevins is an ancient link between Proto-Ongan of the south Andaman Islands and Proto-Austronesian, spoken six thousand years ago in Taiwan. Professor Blevins holds a Ph.D. in linguistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has taught at the University of Texas, Austin; the University of Western Australia; Stanford University; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Leipzig.
Susan Buck-Morss, professor of political science, is an interdisciplinary thinker and a prolific writer of international reputation; her nomination as distinguished professor will soon go for consideration to the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York. Her most recent book, Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009), offers a fundamental reinterpretation of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic by linking it to the influence of the Haitian Revolution. Her books The Origin of Negative Dialectics: Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, and the Frankfurt Institute (Macmillan Free Press, 1977) and The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (MIT Press, 1989) have been translated into several languages and have been called “modern classics in the field.” Other publications include Thinking Past Terror: Islamism and Critical Theory on the Left (Verso, 2003) and Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (MIT Press, 2000). A longtime professor at Cornell University’s Department of Government, Buck-Morss was also a member of Cornell’s graduate fields in Comparative Literature, History of Art, German Studies, and the School of Architecture, Art, and City and Regional Planning. She is on the editorial boards of several journals and has been an invited lecturer at dozens of universities worldwide. Her numerous international awards and fellowships include a Getty Scholar grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She holds a Ph.D. in European intellectual history from Georgetown University.
Kandice Chuh, professor of English, is a prominent figure in Asian American studies. She is known for her theory of the field as a “subjectless discourse” that is alternative to the politics of identity. In Imagine Otherwise: On Asian Americanist Critique (Duke University Press, 2003), which won the 2004 Lora Romero Prize from the American Studies Association, Chuh argues for reframing Asian American studies as a study defined not by its subjects and objects, but by its critique. Her current work extends this to examine aesthetic theory and U.S. minority discourse with an emphasis on post-identity subjectivity. She is also coeditor, with Karen Shimakawa, of Orientations: Mapping Studies in the Asian Diaspora (Duke University Press, 2001), which uses the themes of transnationalism, globalization, and postcoloniality to consider various embodiments of the Asian diaspora. Chuh comes to the Graduate Center from the University of Maryland, where she was associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of English, winning awards for teaching and faculty service. Her courses have included Asian American literatures, twentieth-century American literature, feminist theory, critical race theory, and law and literature. She has published numerous essays in journals and edited volumes and lectured widely. She holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Washington.
Alexander Gamburd, who will join the faculty in fall 2011 as a presidential professor of mathematics, specializes in spectral problems in number theory, probability, and combinatorics. His recent work concerns expander graphs, which are highly connected sparse graphs with wide-ranging applications in computer science and mathematics, and his research has resolved major conjectures in proving expansion for Cayley graphs by using recently developed tools from arithmetic combinatorics. This work has a number of applications, in particular in quantum computation theory of quasi-crystals and distribution of prime numbers in non-abelian groups.  In 2008, he won a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on a beginning scientist or engineer. He currently holds grants for his work in expander graphs from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation’s Early Career Development Program. Gamburd, who comes to the Graduate Center from the University of California–Santa Cruz, has given dozens of presentations at universities, institutes, and seminars and has published widely. He has received the Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, the von Neumann Early Career Fellowship at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, and other fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, and the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques. Gamburd holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University.
Ruth Wilson Gilmore, professor of geography in the Ph.D. Program in Earth and Environmental Sciences, is known as an activist as well as an intellectual and is currently president of the American Studies Association (ASA). She examined how political and economic forces produced California’s prison boom in Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (University of California Press, 2007), which was recognized by ASA with its Lora Romero First Book Award. Gilmore’s wide-ranging research interests also include race and gender, labor and social movements, uneven development, and the African diaspora. She comes to the Graduate Center from the University of Southern California, where she taught courses in race and ethnicity, economic geography, and political geography, was the founding chair of the department of American studies and ethnicity, and won the USC-Mellon Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Mentoring. She also works regularly with community groups and grassroots organizations and is known for the broad accessibility of her research. She holds a Ph.D. in economic geography and social theory from Rutgers University.

Peter Godfrey-Smith
will join the faculty of the Ph.D. Program in Philosophy in fall 2011. A professor of philosophy at Harvard University since 2006, his main research interests are in the philosophy of biology and the philosophy of mind. His work also extends to pragmatism (especially concerning John Dewey), the general philosophy of science, and areas of metaphysics and epistemology. Godfrey-Smith is the author of three books, Complexity and the Function of Mind in Nature (Cambridge University Press, 1996); Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science (Chicago University Press, 2003); and Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection (Oxford University Press, 2009). Before coming to Harvard, he taught at Stanford University and at the Research School for Social Sciences of the Australian National University. A native of Sydney, Australia, Godfrey-Smith received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, San Diego. He has been an associate editor of the journal Biology and Philosophy and currently sits on the editorial board of Philosophy of Science.

Uday Singh Mehta,
distinguished professor of political science, is a renowned political theorist whose work encompasses a wide spectrum of philosophical traditions. He has worked on a range of issues including the relationship between freedom and imagination, liberalism’s complex link with colonialism and empire, and more recently, war, peace, and nonviolence. He is the author of two books, The Anxiety of Freedom: Imagination and Individuality in the Political Thought of John Locke (Cornell University Press, 1992) and Liberalism and Empire: Nineteenth Century British Liberal Thought (University of Chicago Press, 1999); the latter won the J. David Greenstone Book Award from the American Political Science Association in 2001 for the best book in history and theory. In 2002, he was named a Carnegie Foundation scholar. He is currently completing a book on war, peace, and nonviolence, which focuses on the moral and political thought of M.K. Gandhi. He received his undergraduate education at Swarthmore College, where he studied mathematics and philosophy. He has a Ph.D. in political philosophy from Princeton University. Mehta comes to the Graduate Center from Amherst College, where he was the Clarence Francis Professor in the Social Sciences.

Alva Noë
has been appointed distinguished professor of philosophy and will join the faculty in fall 2011. He is a writer and philosopher at UC Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Center for New Media. For the last fifteen years his philosophical practice has concerned perception and consciousness. His current research focus is art and human nature. Noë is the author of Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness (Hill and Wang / Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009) and Action in Perception (The MIT Press, 2004). Varieties of Presence, a new book, will be published by Harvard University Press in 2011. The central idea of these books is that consciousness is not something that happens inside us -- not in our brains, or anywhere else; it is something we do. Noë was educated at Columbia (B.A.), Oxford (B.Phil.), and Harvard (Ph.D.). He has held visiting positions at the Institut Jean-Nicod, a CNRS lab in Paris; the Oxford Center for Neuroscience at Oxford University; the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin); the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University; and the Department of Logic and the Philosophy of Science at UC Irvine. Before joining the Berkeley faculty, he was an assistant professor at UC Santa Cruz. Noë is philosopher-in-residence at the Forsythe Company (a leading European contemporary dance company based in Frankfurt and Dresden). He is also a member of Motion Bank, an interdisciplinary dance research project in Frankfurt.

Paul Julian Smith,
an internationally recognized literary critic in Hispanic cultural studies, has joined the Graduate Center as distinguished professor of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian literatures and languages. Elected a fellow of the British Academy in 2008, his interests are wide-ranging and interdisciplinary. His Writing in the Margin (Oxford University Press, 1988) was the first systematic application of poststructuralist critical theory to literature of the Spanish Golden Age, and The Moderns: Time, Space, and Subjectivity in Contemporary Spanish Culture (Oxford University Press, 2000) was a groundbreaking examination of Spanish urban space. As the Spanish film critic for the British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound magazine, Smith has written dozens of reviews and, as the author of Desire Unlimited: The Cinema of Pedro Almodóvar (Verso, 1994 and 2000), earned a reputation as the major world scholar on the films of the Spanish director. Smith went beyond the field of cinema in Contemporary Spanish Culture: TV, Fashion, Art, and Film (Polity, 2003) to examine cultural areas that receive less academic attention; and his 2007 work Spanish Visual Culture: Cinema, Television, Internet (Manchester University Press) explores emotion, location, and nostalgia in each of these media. His most recent book is Spanish Screen Fiction: Between Cinema and Television (Liverpool University Press, 2009). Smith’s research also focuses on Mexico, including a book on the groundbreaking film Amores Perros (BFI, 2003). He was a Juror at the Morelia Film Festival in Mexico in 2009, is a regular contributor to Film Quarterly, and is one of the founding editors of the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge.

Bryan S. Turner,
presidential professor of sociology, is one of the world’s leading sociologists of religion; he has also devoted significant attention to sociological theory, the study of human rights, and the sociology of the body; in Vulnerability and Human Rights (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), he presents an interdisciplinary dialogue with the literature of economics, law, medicine, philosophy, political science, and religion. His current research involves the role of religion in contemporary Asia and the changing nature of citizenship in a globalizing world. Turner has written, coauthored, or edited more than seventy books and more than two hundred articles and chapters. The Body and Society: Explorations in Social Theory (Sage, 2008), first published in 1984, is in its third edition. He is also an author or editor of The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology, The Blackwell Companion to Social Theory, and The Sage Handbook of Sociology. He is a founding editor of the journals Body & Society, Citizenship Studies, and Journal of Classical Sociology. Turner comes to the GC from Wellesley College, where he was Alona Evans Distinguished Visiting Professor; he is also professor of social and political thought at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Leeds and has been awarded the Doctor of Letters from both Flinders University in South Australia and the University of Cambridge.
Roderick Watts, professor of social welfare, combines cutting-edge research and a strong theoretical framework with a commitment to social justice. His work encompasses liberation psychology, manhood development, and sociopolitical development theory; for the past few years he has been investigating the connection between a person’s awareness of injustice and his or her willingness to act on this awareness. Trained in clinical and community psychology, he has worked with many nonprofit and community-based organizations, in particular in the area of African American youth development, and has been continuously involved in men’s group work for twenty years. He is coeditor of Human Diversity: Perspectives on People in Context (Jossey-Bass, 1994), which offers practical guidelines on conducting diversity-conscious and diversity-sensitive projects and research, and he contributed to the book Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and Community Change (Routledge, 2006). Watts’s teaching interests include program evaluation, African American psychology, consultation, and qualitative research methods. He comes to the GC from Georgia State University, where he coordinated the joint clinical-community psychology program. He was recently visiting professor of psychology at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and he also has been on the faculties of DePaul University and Yale University’s School of Medicine. He holds a Ph.D. in clinical-community psychology from the University of Maryland.
Douglas Whalen will join the faculty of the Ph.D. Program in Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences in the spring 2011 semester; his nomination as distinguished professor will soon go for consideration to the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York. As current vice president of research at the Yale-affiliated Haskins Laboratories, where he has been a researcher for 30 years, he is one of the world’s leading scientists in the fields of speech and phonetics. The central theme of Whalen’s research is the interrelation of speech perception and speech production, and how the two constitute a single system and cannot be understood in isolation from one another. His work addresses a wide variety of populations (from developing infants being raised in different language environments to adult speakers of American English and Native American languages) and techniques (including behavioral approaches, MRI, ultrasound imaging of the tongue, and electromyography). He was recently a program officer at the National Science Foundation, overseeing two major programs, Documenting Endangered Languages and Cognitive Neuroscience, and is the founder and president of the Endangered Language Fund, a foundation sponsoring research on the documentation of dying languages. Whalen also serves as associate editor of the Journal of Phonetics, and in 2008 he was elected a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the discipline. He received his Ph.D. from Yale University.    

Submitted on: OCT 1, 2010

Category: New Appointments to the GC | Press Room