Home » Announcing the ACM Mellon Academic Leadership Fellows

Announcing the ACM Mellon Academic Leadership Fellows

Announcing the ACM Mellon Academic Leadership Fellows April 18, 2023

Above: Ten ACM faculty at eight ACM colleges have been designated as ACM Mellon Academic Leadership Fellows, funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation.

Ten ACM faculty at eight ACM colleges have been designated as ACM Mellon Academic Leadership Fellows for two-year terms beginning in June 2023. Funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Mellon Foundation, the ACM Mellon Academic Leadership Fellows Program is meant to familiarize humanities faculty with academic leadership at the highest level through immersion in the workings of upper-level academic administration on each host campus.

Meet the ACM Mellon Academic Leadership Fellows

The newly appointed Academic Leadership Fellows are tenured ACM faculty who have demonstrated leadership capabilities, a commitment to diversity and inclusive equity, and the potential to have a transformative impact through leadership at their current or future institutions. As contributors to senior leadership discussions, each Fellow will lead a discrete project or portfolio of responsibilities as identified by the host college’s senior leadership team.

“The ACM is grateful to the Mellon Foundation for the generous funding that makes these fellowship experiences possible,” said Sonya Malunda, ACM President. “Leadership development for faculty, staff, and students has emerged as a central priority within the ACM’s new strategic plan. This initiative will significantly advance that aspiration among this initial cohort of faculty leadership fellows, and we are very excited about working with these emerging faculty leaders.” 

Through these experiences, the ACM Fellows will develop leadership skills and capacities, gain a better understanding of institutional cultures and the complexities of academic leadership, and explore how their backgrounds in and commitments to diversity and inclusive equity can enhance their leadership potential. The host colleges will benefit by building leadership pipelines among faculty with demonstrated commitments to enhancing the diversity of experience and inclusivity of educational outcomes on their campuses.

“Now more than ever, colleges need strong academic leaders who can think strategically and apply an equity lens to their work. The ACM Mellon Academic Leadership Fellows program will help Macalester and other ACM member institutions build and support a cohort of faculty who are well prepared to lead on new and emerging challenges facing our campus communities,” said Suzanne Rivera, President of Macalester College.

“This opportunity—and especially the community of Academic Leadership Fellows I will enter—will allow me to gain new perspectives about leadership in higher education as well as the skills to plan, design, and implement systemic change in a liberal arts setting,” said Mary Unger, Associate Professor of English and Chair of the English Department at Ripon College.

The fellowships provide the colleges partial funding for two years of each Fellow’s salary and benefits. Fellows also receive a reduced teaching load, mentoring by senior ACM and external faculty colleagues, and leadership development workshops and convenings in collaboration with the ACM’s peer colleges in the Associated Colleges of the South and New York Six.  

Academic Leadership Fellow Duchess Harris, Professor of American Studies at Macalester, where she has taught since 1994, says she looks forward to working on the college’s strategic plan and exchanging ideas with other Fellows. “This cohort of Fellows will allow me to see how this work is done at other institutions,” she said. “I hope to share, and I hope to learn.”

Meet the ACM Mellon Academic Leadership Fellows

Ron Watson

Associate Professor, Health & Society and Political Science
Beloit College

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Ron Watson foregrounds the social determinants of health in all of his work and centers key humanistic questions about how individual identities, beliefs, and cultural practices play into people’s lived experiences and possibilities for social mobility. He works closely with students interested in working in public health and other community-based health professions. In addition to political science courses like Comparative Health Systems, he also teaches a sophomore and senior seminar in Health & Society and works closely with many Health & Society majors to plan their next steps after Beloit. Additionally, Watson advises students who run the Beloit Public Health Initiative, a student-led, legally registered nonprofit that does public health work in the community.

Ross Elfline

Associate Professor of Art History
Carleton College

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After earning a degree in economics at Grinnell College, Ross Elfline worked in museum education and research at various museums in the Chicago area. Elfline earned a master’s degree in Modern Art History, Theory, and Criticism from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, concentrating on critical design strategies of the recent past. Elfline completed their doctoral work at UCLA, working primarily with Miwon Kwon and Sylvia Lavin and completed a dissertation on the Italian Radical Architecture group Superstudio (active 1966-79). Elfline also worked at the Getty Research Institute and taught at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena before joining the Carleton faculty in 2009.

Meira Z. Kensky

Joseph E. McCabe Professor of Religion and Director of Advising
Coe College

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Meira Z. Kensky’s first book, Trying Man, Trying God: The Divine Courtroom in Early Jewish and Christian Literature, was published by Mohr Siebeck in 2010, and was the inspiration for a conference on “The Divine Courtroom in Comparative Perspective” at Cordozo School of Law in New York. Currently, she is working on her second book, Go To Hell: Vicarious Travel with Peter and Paul in Earliest Christianity, under contract with Wm. B. Eerdmans, and a second book for Mohr Siebeck, Isopsychos: The Figure of Timothy in Early Christian Literature. She was the recipient of Coe College’s C. J. Lynch Outstanding Teacher Award, in 2013, and currently serves as Coe College’s Director of Advising. In Fall 2018, she was in residence as a teaching fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago as the co-director of the Associated College of the Midwest’s Newberry Seminar in the Humanities.

Ryan Bañagale

Director of Performing Arts and Associate Professor of Music
Colorado College

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Ryan Raul Bañagale is Director of Performing Arts and Associate Professor of Music at Colorado College. He offers classes on a range of American music topics, including musical theatre, jazz, popular music, folk music, and media studies. His first book, Arranging Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue and the Creation of an American Icon (Oxford University Press, 2014), focuses on the ongoing—and surprising—life of Gershwin’s iconic Rhapsody in Blue over the course of the ninety years since its inception. He is co-editor of “We Didn’t Start the Fire”: Billy Joel and Popular Music Studies (Lexington Books) and editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Arrangement Studies (Oxford University Press). He currently sits on the editorial board of the George Gershwin Critical Edition and will be editing at least three separate arrangements of Rhapsody in Blue. His research also appears in journals such as Jazz Perspectives and the Journal of the Society for American Music.

Marion Hourdequin

Professor of Philosophy
Colorado College

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Marion Hourdequin specializes in environmental philosophy. Her research and teaching interests also include ethics, philosophy of science, and comparative philosophy. Prof. Hourdequin’s current research focuses on climate ethics, climate justice, the social and ethical dimensions of solar geoengineering, and relational approaches to environmental ethics. She is the author of Environmental Ethics: From Theory to Practice (Bloomsbury, 2015) and editor, with David Havlick, of Restoring Layered Landscapes (Oxford, 2016). Hourdequin is Vice President/President Elect of the International Society for Environmental Ethics and serves as an Associate Editor for two journals, Environmental Values and Environmental Ethics.

Constance Kassor

Associate Professor of Religious Studies
Lawrence University

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Constance Kassor teaches courses on Buddhist thought and Asian religious traditions. Her research primarily focuses on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, and her forthcoming book, Accounting for Awakened Awareness, explores the philosophy of the 15th-century Tibetan scholar Gorampa Sonam Senge. She has spent several years living with Buddhist communities in India and Nepal, and she regularly offers courses at Lawrence University that involve travel to these countries. Kassor is also interested in issues related to women and gender minorities in Buddhist traditions, as well as the intersections of Buddhism, race, and justice. In addition to her scholarly publications, she has written for Lion’s Roar and Tricycle and has recently published an audio course on Asian religious traditions for The Great Courses and Audible.

Duchess Harris

Professor of American Studies
Macalester College

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An interdisciplinary scholar of contemporary African American history and political theory, Duchess Harris’ work has focused on events of Black political importance that have largely been ignored or neglected. She has authored, co-authored, or edited five academic books and numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. Harris is particularly proud of her work on The Duchess Harris Collection, a series of 120 books for students in grades 4-12 that address issues of race, gender, and class in America. Harris was also a founding member of the American Studies department and served as chair for eight years, including as its inaugural chair. Harris is the recipient of the 2021 Thomas Jefferson Award. The award was established in 1961 by the Robert Earll McConnell Foundation to honor members of the Macalester community who exemplify the principles and ideals of the third President of the United States. Harris was selected by a committee of past Jefferson Award winners.

Andrea Kaston Tange

Professor of English
Macalester College

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Andrea Kaston Tange has been fascinated with Victorian fiction since, as a ten-year-old, she was duly impressed by Jane Eyre daring to take on her Aunt Reed–and winning. Her research has focused in various ways on questions of identity in the period: from the relationship between domestic architecture and middle-class-ness (Architectural Identities: Literature, Domesticity, and the Victorian Middle Classes, University of Toronto Press, 2010) to explorations of how the consolidation of the British empire required the active participation of children and impacted their lives (Children and Empire series, Routledge Press, 2012). Her current book-length project, Imagined Encounters: Palimpsests of Victorian Travel, examines how illustrating journalists, colonial settlers, and tourists, understood and represented themselves and others as they traveled the globe. Her most recently developed courses have focused on race in the Victorian period and include archival and digital projects that give students experience with many facets of research, writing, and editorial work.

Mary Unger

Associate Professor of English and Chair of the English Department
Coordinator of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program
Ripon College

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Mary Unger’s research interests include twentieth-century American literature, recovery work, women’s reception practices and reading communities, middlebrow literature, literature of the Midwest, gender and sexuality studies, critical race theory, and pedagogy. Her recent work can be found in Reception, MELUS, and Legacy. In 2020, Unger was honored to receive the David D. Anderson Award for Outstanding Essay in Midwestern Literary Studies from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature for her essay, “The Book Circle: Black Women Readers and Middlebrow Taste in Chicago, 1943-1953,” published in the peer-reviewed journal Reception.

Louis Epstein

Associate Professor of Music – Musicology
St. Olaf College

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Louis Epstein is a historical musicologist whose research ranges from early twentith-century French music to digital mapping to the science of teaching and learning. His book, The Creative Labor of Music Patronage in Interwar France, reveals how collaborations between a variety of patrons and composers informed the distinctive sounds of French classical music between the world wars. Epstein has received fellowships and researching funding from the Fulbright Program, the French Embassy, the Georges Lurcy Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. An experienced teacher, from 2021-24 Epstein is serving as Co-Director of St. Olaf’s Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts. He is currently a co-founder and associate editor of Open Access Musicology, a collection of freely available scholarly essays intended for use in undergraduate classrooms that is published in a dynamic, digital format by Lever Press. Before coming to St. Olaf, Epstein taught at Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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