People Notes October 2019


Michelle Connolly has joined Tufts as retail manager of Commons Marketplace, Hotung Cafe, and the SMFA Cafe. Connolly returns to Tufts after a year with Canteen as a customer service manager. 

Abdul-Malik Merchant has joined Tufts University Chaplaincy as the Muslim chaplain. Merchant has served as associate imam at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury since 2016. He spent ten years of intensive study, both at Umm al-Qura University and privately with respected scholars, earning a bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies with a concentration in dawah and Islamic culture. Continuing his studies, he is currently enrolled in a master’s program at Boston University in theology and social work. 

Jennifer Howe Peace has joined Tufts as interim university chaplain. Previously she was associate professor of interfaith studies at Andover Newton Theological School, where she co-founded and co-directed an interfaith center. She is the founding co-chair of the Interreligious and Interfaith Studies program unit at the American Academy of Religion (AAR), and in 2017 launched an AAR-affiliated Association for Interreligious / Interfaith Studies. She was also a visiting associate professor at Harvard Divinity School, where she continues to serve as senior consultant to the Pluralism Project. She also previously was a faculty consultant for the Bridging Faith Traditions Program at Yale Divinity School.  An interfaith organizer and educator since the 1990s, she is a founding board member of the United Religions Initiative, a founding leader of the Interfaith Youth Core, a founding member of the Daughters of Abraham book groups, and director of the Interreligious Center for Public Life. Author of numerous articles, essays and chapters on interfaith cooperation, she most recently co-edited Interreligious/Interfaith Studies: Defining a New Field. In addition, she is co-editor of My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation and series editor for Interreligious Studies in Theory and Practice for Palgrave. A graduate of Connecticut College, she earned a master’s in theological studies from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in historical and cultural study of religions from the Graduate Theological Union.

Steve Tortora has joined Tufts as chef manager of the new SMFA Cafe. He previously worked at Boston University.


Madina Agénor, Gerald R. Gill Assistant Professor of Race, Culture, and Society in the Department of Community Health, has been appointed to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Committee on Prevention and Control of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in the United States. The purpose of the committee is to examine the scientific literature on the burden, causes, prevention, and control of STIs in the United States and provide direction for future public health programs, policies, and research on STI prevention and control.

Michael Beckley, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, has been awarded the best article of the year in the field of international security from the American Political Science Association for his article “The Power of Nations: Measuring What Matters,” was published in International Security.

Marina Umaschi Bers, professor and chair of the Eliot Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, and her DevTech Research Group have received the Military Child Education Coalition’s 2019 Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award for their community partnership with the Norfolk, Virginia, school district that introduced computer science to elementary public schools.

Mimi Kao, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology, and Ani Patel, a professor in the Department of Psychology, have been awarded a major grant from the National Institutes of Health as part of the Sound Health Initiative, an NIH-Kennedy Center partnership in association with the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant will support Kao and Patel’s research studying rhythm perception in songbirds.

Britta Magnuson, assistant professor of diagnostic sciences and assistant director of biostatistics and experimental design at the School of Dental Medicine, has been appointed a vice chair of the Tufts Health Sciences Institutional Review Board. She has served as a member of the board since 2014 and was the 2018 recipient of the Louis Lasagna, MD Outstanding Institutional Review Board Member Award. 

Kelly Ohlrich, MG18 (MBS), M22, executive director of the Sharewood Project at Tufts, has received a $10,000 Myra Kraft Community MVP award in recognition of her outstanding leadership of the program, led by graduate health-care students from the Tufts School of Medicine, as well as volunteer family medicine physicians, interpreters, and undergraduate volunteers. 

Sarah Luna, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, has been honored by the Society for Cultural Anthropology for her article “Affective Atmospheres of Terror on the Mexico–U.S. Border.” The 2019 Cultural Horizons Prize was awarded by a jury of doctoral students for the best article appearing in the previous year of Cultural Anthropology. Luna’s article is described as a “poignant and haunting account” of the way rumors of violence have created atmospheres of terror in the Mexican border city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas. Luna followed the lives of sex workers and American missionaries in a prostitution zone. “The result is a beautifully written ethnography of how rumors of violence shaped affective atmospheres of terror, very much grounded in the individual lives of Luna’s interlocutors,” according to the jurors.

Megan McMillan, professor of the practice at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, (SMFA) and Murray McMillan have an exhibition on view at the New Bedford Art Museum entitled Some Things We Can Do Together, through November 17. The exhibition includes almost a dozen videos, photographs, and sculptures, and includes several new works by the artists. 

Jean Phuong Pham, EG21, chief operating officer of VietChallenge Accelerator, has won a Women in STEM Scholarship, awarded by MPOWER Financing, through a competition that supports international women who aim to leverage their STEM degree to benefit society or the planet. Pham, who is pursuing a dual master’s degree in innovation management and human factors engineering at the School of Engineering, describes the mission of VietChallenge as enabling “Vietnamese-founded startups around the world to tap into a supportive global network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and ecosystem builders.”


Irina Dragan, assistant professor of periodontology and director of faculty education and instructional development at the School of Dental Medicine, together with Kalp Juthani, D20, in August moderated the first-ever 2019 European Dental Hack-a-thon in Berlin, Germany, at the Association for Dental Education in Europe annual meeting. 

Anjuli Fahlberg, lecturer in sociology, contributed an opinion piece, “Another fire is raging in Brazil — in Rio’s favelas,” in the September 6 Washington Post. “While the cause of Amazon’s blazes is still in dispute,” she writes, “the fires burning in Rio’s favelas are a direct result of [Governor] Witzel’s harsh public security policies, which advocate constant and increasingly deadly invasions by heavily armed police into poor, mostly black and brown residential neighborhoods controlled by drug gangs.”

Mary Jane Shultz, a professor of chemistry, has received a grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences for chemical physics research on “Ultranano, Single-Atom Catalysts Applied to Energy-Related Challenges.” The project aims to advance understanding of molecular-scale dynamics at surfaces containing ultranano scale oxide particles.  

Chantal Zakari, professor of the practice at the SMFA, has work on view at Mesa Community College, Mesa, Arizona, through November. She and Mike Mandel, an SMFA lecturer, also have their work They Came to Baghdad (Eighteen Publications, 2013) included in Bookworks exhibition at the Tufts University Art Galleries through December 17.


Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, an associate professor of political science, had his book, Defending Frenemies: Alliance Politics and Nuclear Nonproliferation in US Foreign Policy (Oxford University Press, 2019). In it, he examines how successive U.S. presidential administrations employed inducements and coercive diplomacy toward Israel, Pakistan, South Korea, and Taiwan over nuclear proliferation.


Peter M. Haymond, F86, F94, was recently nominated to serve as U.S. ambassador to Laos. He currently serves as chargé d’affaires at the United States Embassy in Bangkok. Over nearly thirty years in the U.S. Foreign Service, Haymond has advanced United States policy in Asia through his work as director of the State Department’s Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs, counsel general at the United States Consulate in Chengdu, China, and deputy chief of mission at the United States Embassy in Vientiane, Laos. He also served as division chief in the Office of Energy and Commodities in the Bureau of Economic and Energy Affairs at the Department of State and as Arabian Peninsula Officer in the Office of the Counterterrorism Coordinator.

Meron Langsner, G11, an award-winning playwright, theater and performance scholar, educator, and fight director and movement specialist, has joined the cohort of the 2019/2020 Southampton Arts Audio Podcast Fellows at Stony Brook University, where he will be developing a podcast under the guidance of leaders in the field.