People Notes January 2022


Trevena Bennett is the new Tisch College of Civic Life coordinator for athletics. In this role, she will promote, plan, implement, and evaluate civic and community engagement in the Athletics Department. She will also serve as the connection between student-athletes at Tufts and Tisch College programs.


Uma Arora, GBS23, a Ph.D. candidate in mammalian genetics at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, received a National Institutes of Health F31 Fellowship for her project “Defining the effect of centromere/kinetochore associations on genome instability.”

Jody Azzouni, professor of philosophy, was recently a guest on Sean Carroll’s Mindscape podcast talking about “what is and isn’t real.” Carroll asks in his introduction, “Are numbers real? What does that even mean? You can’t kick a number. But you can talk about numbers in useful ways, and we use numbers to talk about the real world. There’s surely a kind of reality there. On the other hand, Luke Skywalker isn’t a real person, but we talk about him all the time. Jody Azzouni is one of the leading contemporary advocates of nominalism, the view that abstract objects are not ‘things,’ they are merely labels we use in talking about things. A deeply philosophical issue, but one that has implications for how we think about physics and the laws of nature.”

Susan Barahal, director of the Art Education Program and senior lecturer in the Department of Education, was named  Higher Education Art Educator of the Year by Massachusetts Art Education Association.

Michael Beckley, a professor political science, had his article, co-written with Hal Brands, “China Is a Declining Power—and That’s a Problem” named the #1 Best Long Read in Foreign Policy for 2021.

Tatiana Chudakova, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, had her book Mixing Medicines: Ecologies of Care in Buddhist Siberia published recently by Fordham University Press.

Natasa Dragovic, a Norbert Wiener Assistant Professor in the mathematics department, co-hosted 10 high school students from around the U.S. to take part in the 14th International Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad in mid-November, held in person in Colombia and virtually as well. The Olympiad’s U.S. team traveled to Boston for the event, and was supervised by the U.S. chapter of AAO, including Dragovic, who serves as president. The American team earned 10 medals, including four gold, five silver, and one bronze, competing against more than 300 high school students from 48 countries. Dragovic, who specializes in probability, focusing on intersection of stochastic geometry and dynamical systems, participated in the same competition as a high school student in her native Serbia. “As a participant, it brought me many good memories and friendships—friends I’m still in touch with—and I want to make sure others have similar good experiences,” she said. She credits the program with helping her gain admittance to MIT as an undergraduate student. “While I don’t do astronomy professionally anymore, I wanted to use the knowledge I have working with young people to help the Tufts community here.” Dragovic is also a member of the mathematics department’s outreach committee and serves as a faculty advisor for the Directed Reading Program, which pairs undergraduate and graduate students to work on a project for a semester.

Lorgia Garcia-Peña, Mellon Associate Professor in the Department of Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora, was named a 2021 Freedom Scholar by the Marguerite Casey Foundation. Freedom Scholars awards represent a commitment to scholarship relevant to movements led by Black and Indigenous people, migrants and queer people, poor people and people of color. The awards also recognize the role that scholars play in cultivating and nurturing movements for justice and freedom.

Justin Hollander, professor of Urban and Environmental Policy, had his article “Why NFTs Matter to Urban Planning” ranked #10 on Planetizen’s list for most popular articles on the site in 2021.

Peter Probst, professor in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, co-edited National Museums in Africa, published on August 13, 2021 by Routledge.

Fernando Salinas-Quiroz, assistant professor in Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, has been designated as an OMEP Representative in the United Nations for 2022. The OMEP is the World Organization for Early Childhood Education. OMEP representatives in the United Nations system work to strengthen the global defense of the rights of children from birth to 8 years of age; to give visibility to the organization’s positions in terms of early childhood well-being, care, and education; to influence decision-making at the highest levels, and establish collaboration and participation with influential actors in public policies aimed to children.

Brian Schaffner, Newhouse Professor of Civic Studies, was a coauthor on one of 37 books chosen for “Outstanding Academic Titles” for 2021 by Choice. His book, Hometown Inequality: Race, Class, and Representation in American Local Politics, was selected as one of the best scholarly titles (books and digital resources) reviewed in the past year.

Chantal Zakari, professor of the practice at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, has a solo show at Kingston Gallery in Boston titled The Bookshop is Open. The show presents a 25-year span of artists’ books and printed ephemera and runs through January 16. Kingston Gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m.

Tufts Dining received the Best Campus Dining Award presented by Food Allergy Research & Education in November. Tufts Dining has increased the ease with which students with food allergies can dine on campus, including the Fresh at Carmichael program, which aims to make the entire unit free from gluten, peanuts, and tree nuts. Tufts Dining is currently working with Kitchens with Confidence to certify the unit and expects that process to be complete by Spring 2022.


Amber Asumda, A22, Devan Venkataraman, A22, and Jay Yi, A22, were awarded the Paul and Elizabeth Montle Prize for Entrepreneurial Achievement by the Derby Entrepreneurship Center at Tufts in recognition of the undergraduate students’ passion, knowledge, and skillset in the field of entrepreneurship. The winners were selected after the students completed a screening process and interviews with a panel of Tufts faculty judges.

Abby Kiesa, research and deputy director of CIRCLE, was cited in a recent Teen Vogue piece about how Republican voter suppression efforts could alienate young Republican voters.

Gilbert Metcalf, professor of economics, is interviewed in the latest episode of Environmental Insights: Discussions on Policy and Practice from the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, a podcast produced by the Harvard Environmental Economics Program. In the interview, Metcalf argues for pragmatic climate change policies that can withstand political divisions in Washington.


Peter Bendix, A08, was promoted to senior vice president and general manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Michelle Kwan, F11, a former Olympic figure skating star, was nominated by President Biden to serve as U.S. ambassador to Belize, the White House announced on December 15.

Bridget Irish, J92, executive director and president of Cotting School, has been selected to join the Massachusetts Association of Approved Special Education Schools board. Irish has served at the Cotting School since 2006. Prior to working at Cotting, Irish spent a significant part of her career working in the financial services industry and serves in volunteer roles with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Aaron Tartakovsky, A12, co-founder and CEO of Epic Cleantec, a San Francisco-based onsite water reuse firm, notes that his company successfully closed a $9.4 million financing round recently. The company has pioneered an approach to treat and reuse water in buildings and will use the funding to expand geographically and deepen its portfolio of technology offerings. Tartakovsky and Epic Cleantec were winners of the 2017 Tufts $100k New Ventures Competition in the general/high-tech ventures track.

Michael Teichberg, A06, was promoted from Miami director to also cover Broward County, Florida for the Jewish National Fund USA, a nonprofit organization supporting the development of northern and southern Israel, provider of pro-Israel advocacy, and offering tours to Israel. In this role, he will run the local chapters of its affinity groups for lawyers, doctors, and real estate professionals. In 2021, Michael founded the SoFlo-Israel Tech Innovation Entrepreneurship Council, an invitation-only networking group for south Florida tech founders and investors to connect with Israel’s ecosystem. The group has 12 partner organizations and over 80 members to date.