CHASS Welcomes 36 New Faculty Members

This new team started teaching this fall

Interdisciplinary building

CHASS Interdisciplinary Building.

Meet CHASS’ 36 new faculty members:

Ilana Bennett

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Ilana Bennett

Ilana Bennett, assistant professor of psychology, earned her Ph.D. in lifespan cognitive neuroscience from Georgetown University in 2009.  Her research seeks to advance our understanding of neurocognitive aging by examining age-related differences in the way we acquire, retain, and retrieve information, and identifying the neural substrates that underlie these learning and memory processes using a combination of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).  Her work has attracted funding from the National Institute on Aging, including a current Pathway to Independence Award.




Emily Rapp Black

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Emily Rapp Black

Emily Rapp Black, assistant professor of creative writing, received her M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Texas-Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. Prior to earning her master’s degree, she studied feminist theology, 19th century philosophy, and disability studies at Harvard University. A former Fulbright Scholar, she received her B.A. in religion from St. Olaf College and studied Hebrew and biblical studies at Trinity College-Dublin. She has published two memoirs – “Poster Child” (BloomsburyUSA, 2006) and “The Still Point of the Turning World” (The Penguin Press, 2013), which was a New York Times bestseller. Her essays and articles have appeared in many publications, including the Sun, O the Oprah Magazine, Redbook, VOGUE, Salon, Slate, the Lenny Letter, The New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Los Angeles Times.




Xóchitl C. Chávez

ChASS New faculty

Xóchitl C. Chávez

Xóchitl C. Chávez, assistant professor of music, earned her Ph.D. in 2013 from UC Santa Cruz in cultural anthropology. She is a scholar of expressive culture and performance, specializing in indigenous communities from southern Mexico and transnational migration. Her current work and ethnographic documentary short, “Booming Bandas of Los Ángeles,” focuses on second-generation Zapotec brass bands in Los Angeles County. Chávez is a recipient of the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Smithsonian Institution Postdoctoral Fellowship. She has also collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution as a digital curator and content specialist for the Smithsonian Latino Center Mobile Broadcast Series and as a linguistic presenter for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.




Gerald L. Clarke Jr.

ChASS New faculty

Gerald L. Clarke Jr.

Gerald L. Clarke Jr., assistant professor of ethnic studies, received his M.F.A. in studio arts with an emphasis in painting and sculpture from Stephen F. Austin State University located in Nacogdoches, Texas, in 1994. As an enrolled member of the Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians, he served on the Cahuilla Tribal Council as vice chairman as well as the Southern California representative to the California Association of Tribal Governments. His work examines issues related to contemporary Native American existence. His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and is included in several prominent museum collections, including the Autry Museum of the American West, the Heard Museum, and the Eiteljorg Museum. In 2007, he was awarded the Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship. He recently was an artist in residence at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.




Allison Hedge Coke

ChASS New faculty

Allison Hedge Coke

Allison Hedge Coke, professor of creative writing, earned her M.F.A. from Vermont College/Norwich University. She is the 2016 Library of Congress Witter Bynner Fellow and editor of “Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas, Effigies, and Effigies II.” She has authored several books. Her interests include: poetry, poetics, long form, translation, creative nonfiction, manuscript orchestration, documentary film, interdisciplinary and hybrid works, theater, performance, narrative medicine, migration, mathematics in sacred sites, material culture, built environment (including mound culture), encoding, the environment, ethics, peace, choreographed resiliency and its effect on language and literature, labor, community engagement, youth/elder empowerment, oratory, coincidences and similarities in language, philosophy, and material cultures.




Joab Corey

ChASS New faculty

Joab Corey

Joab Corey, assistant professor of teaching in economics, earned his Ph.D. in economics from West Virginia University. He served for the past seven years as a lecturer in the Department of Economics and was a member of the Excellence in Economics Education faculty in the Stavros Center for the Advancement of Free Enterprise and Economic Education at Florida State University. He specializes in teaching large-section principles of economics and introduction to economics classes, where he uses interactive demonstrations, video clips, pop-culture examples, student-designed economics T-shirts, and occasional acrobatics to create an enthusiastic student learning environment. While at FSU, he received  the Transformation Through Teaching award, the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society Service in Excellence Teaching Award, and the Florida State University Undergraduate Teaching Award.




Alejandra Dubcovsky

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Alejandra Dubcovsky

Alejandra Dubcovsky, assistant professor of history, earned her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. Her research interests include early America, especially the American South and Spanish borderlands, history of Amerindians, and the history of communication and information. Her first book, “Informed Power: Communication in the Early American South” (Harvard University Press, 2016), maps the intricate, intersecting channels of information exchange in the early American South, exploring how people in the colonial world came into possession of vital knowledge in a region that lacked a regular mail system or a printing press until the 1730s. She has also published several articles on these topics in Ethnohistory, The William and Mary Quarterly, Native South, and Common-place.  She is researching the multiple fronts of Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713).




Luca Ferrero

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Luca Ferraro

Luca Ferrero, professor of philosophy, earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has been a Humanities Fellow and visiting assistant professor at Stanford University, and an NEH Summer Fellow at Princeton University. He works on the nature of diachronic agency, intentions, constitutivism, practical reasoning, and personal identity. His most recent work has been published in Noûs, Philosophical Studies, Philosophers’ Imprint, Inquiry, Philosophical Issues, Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, Journal of Ethics, and in several book collections. He is the editor of the Philosophy of Action section of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and is a founding board member of the International Society for the Philosophy of Agency.




Alfonzo Gonzales

ChASS New faculty

Alfonzo Gonzales

Alfonzo Gonzales, associate professor of ethnic studies, received his Ph.D. in political science from UCLA in 2008. He is a theorist of Latino and Latin American politics with a research agenda focused on issues of migration control, migrant social movements and the politics of race in liberal democracies. His underlying concern is to understand how Latino migrant and refugee social movements influence policy, and the politics of migration control from the ground up.  In addition to writing his award-winning book “Reform without Justice: Latino Migrant Politics and the Homeland Security State” (Oxford University Press, 2013), he spearheaded an international conference on migrant detention and Latino asylum seekers through the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at UT Austin in 2016.




Sarojini Hirshleifer

ChASS New faculty

Sarojini Hirshleifer

Sarojini Hirshleifer, acting assistant professor of economics, earned her Ph.D. in economics from UC San Diego in 2016. Her research interests span the fields of development, labor, and behavioral economics. Specifically, her research focuses on understanding and alleviating the behavioral and human capital constraints to higher productivity and better decision-making. This involves designing and testing interventions that have the potential to help people overcome biases and optimize complex production processes. A complementary thread in her research aims to understand how to increase the efficiency of learning and human capital accumulation across the lifecycle, and thus support higher labor force participation.




Brent Hughes

ChASS New faculty

Brent Hughes

Brent Hughes, assistant professor of psychology, received his doctorate in social psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2012. His research explores the phenomenon of motivated cognition, under which goals and needs guide individuals’ thinking toward their desired conclusions. These motives range from the need to feel good about oneself and the desire to affiliate with others, pervasively shape cognition and decision-making, and exert harmful consequences on real-world outcomes. His research program examines these questions using a broad array of methods from social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and behavioral economics. A central goal is to provide integrative models of motivated cognition that provide new insights into its role in shaping maladaptive behavior, and interventions that “nudge” motivation so as to reduce harmful outcomes.




John Jennings

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John Jennings

John Jennings, professor of media and cultural studies, received his M.A. in art education in 1995 and an M.F.A. in studio with a focus on graphic design in 1997 from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is an interdisciplinary scholar who examines the visual culture of race in various media forms, including film, illustrated fiction, and comics and graphic novels. Jennings is also a curator, graphic novelist, editor, and design theorist who’s research interests include the visual culture of hip hop, Afrofuturism and politics, visual literacy, horror and the EthnoGothic, and speculative design and its applications to visual rhetoric.





Anthony Russell Jerry

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Anthony Russell Jerry

Anthony Russell Jerry, assistant professor of anthropology, holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His primary research interests are in theorizing the relationships between race and citizenship, and investigating the influence that regional discourses of race and racism have on citizenship practices and overall access to citizenship. He is the recipient of a Fulbright Garcia Robles Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, and a University of California Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship. He has worked in the Costa Chica region of Mexico for more than 10 years. His work also explores the impacts of issues of migration, immigration, racism, and citizenship on first-generation youth and youth of color in the U.S.-Mexico border region.




Noel Peyera Johnston

ChASS New faculty

Noel Peyera Johnston

Noel Peyera Johnston, assistant professor of political science, earned his Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. His research explores the structure of compliance in the global political economy. With particular focus on foreign investment and international trade, his research touches on topics such as international institutions, globalization, development, and the politics of international property rights. From 2013 to 2016, Noel was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, and research fellow of Nuffield College.








Judith Kroll

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Judith Kroll

Judith Kroll, distinguished professor of psychology, earned her Ph.D. at Brandeis University. She held previous faculty positions at Swarthmore College, Rutgers University, Mount Holyoke College, and Pennsylvania State University, where she was most recently the director of the Center for Language Science. Her research, which is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, shows that bilingualism provides a tool for revealing the interplay between language and cognition that is otherwise obscure in speakers of one language alone. She is a fellow of the AAAS, the APA, the APS, the Psychonomic Society, and the Society of Experimental Psychologists, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013-14.  She was one of the founding editors of the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, and a founding organizer of Women in Cognitive Science, a group that promotes the advancement of women in the cognitive sciences and is supported by NSF.




Bree Lang

ChASS New faculty

Bree Lang

Bree Lang, assistant professor of teaching in economics, earned her Ph.D. in economics from UC Santa Barbara in 2010, where she studied public finance, urban and labor economics. She previously was an assistant professor of economics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio for six years. Her research interests include housing subsidies, property tax policy, and mortgage markets. She is currently examining how property tax limitations, like Proposition 13 in California, affect funding for low-income public schools. Another project explores the role that wealth constraints play in home ownership and racial housing segregation. Her previous research has appeared in scholarly outlets including Journal of Housing Economics, Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Regional Science and Urban Economics and National Tax Journal.




Matthew Lang

ChASS New faculty

Matthew Lang

Matthew Lang, assistant professor of teaching in economics, received his Ph.D. in economics from UC Santa Barbara in 2010 and previously was an assistant professor of economics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. His research focuses on the effectiveness of public policies in many contexts, but he has a specific interest in the consequences of mental health policy. He has published papers on the role of firearms in crime and suicide, the effectiveness of mental health insurance mandates, and seasonal patterns of youth suicide. His current projects examine how privately insured patients are affected by the Affordable Care Act, whether patients in emergency rooms receive worse treatment when nearby mental health resources are reduced, and the relationship between student outcomes and university calendar systems.




Wesley Y. Leonard

ChASS New faculty

Wesley Y. Leonard

Wesley Y. Leonard, assistant professor of ethnic studies, received his Ph.D. in linguistics at UC Berkeley in 2007. His research examines social factors that are intertwined with Native American language endangerment, documentation, and reclamation. A citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, he focuses on the reclamation of his tribal nation’s language, myaamia, which was once mistermed “extinct,” but is actually widely used among Miami people. He is especially interested in building capacity for Native American languages in ways that support tribal sovereignty and survival, and has developed workshops on culturally appropriate application of the analytical tools of linguistics for language reclamation purposes. His research has appeared in scholarly outlets including the American Indian Culture and Research Journal, Gender and Language, and Language Documentation & Conservation.




Jacques Lezra

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Jacques Lezra

Jacques Lezra, professor of Hispanic Studies, earned his Ph.D. in 1990 from Yale University.  His most recent books are “Contra los fueros de la muerte: El suceso cervantino” (La Cebra, 2016), and “Lucretius and Modernity” (co-edited with Liza Blake; Palgrave, 2016).  His “Wild Materialism: The Ethic of Terror and the Modern Republic” (Fordham, 2010) has been published in a Spanish translation (2012) and in Chinese (2013). Lezra has edited collections on the work of Althusser, Balibar, and Macherey, and on Spanish republicanism. He has published widely on Shakespeare, contemporary and early modern translation theories and practices, Freud, Althusser, Woolf, animality studies, and other topics. With Emily Apter and Michael Wood, he is the co-editor of Dictionary of Untranslatables (2014). With Paul North, he edits the Fordham University Press book series IDIOM.




Steven Liao

ChASS New faculty

Steven Liao

Steven Liao, assistant professor of political science, received his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in politics in 2015. Before joining UCR, he was a postdoctoral research associate at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University. His research interests lie in the intersection of political economy and methodology, with a specific focus on international migration. He His current projects examine the influence of multinational corporations on migration policymaking, the nexus between migration flows and real estate investments, big data in international trade, and Chinese Renminbi internationalization. His work has appeared in International Studies Quarterly.




Luis Lara Malvacias

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Luis Lara Malvacias

Luis Lara Malvacias, assistant professor of dance, earned his M.F.A. at the Transart Institute. His body of work has focused on ideas of transformation, multiplicity, authorship, and the role of the audience in dance performance. His projects explore the interaction between dance, design, videos, installations, sound, new media, and the visual arts, questioning preconceived ideas of choreography, and modes of production and presentation. He created 3RD CLASS CITIZEN in 2003, a collective initially comprising Latino artists living in New York City, which became a platform for the Not Festival – a nomadic and kaleidoscopic artistic object, embracing ideas of cross-cultural and global artistic collaboration. Current projects include the creation of 26 collaborative duets (A-Z) using significant signposts connected with life and aging.




Lynne Marsh

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Lynne Marsh

Lynne Marsh, assistant professor of art, received her M.A. from Goldsmith’s University of London. She is a video installation and interdisciplinary artist whose practice-based research lies at the intersection of moving image, sound, performance, and installation. Her research and teaching interests are concerned with questioning the status of the image through and in relation to mediation, technology, and simulation. Her recent projects invest in social sites and architectures — spaces of cultural spectacle— through location-based filming and behind-the-scenes views, thereby negotiating the historical, social, and political forces that have produced these spaces and the events they frame. Her current long-form film installation “Tragedy,” co-produced with Opera North in Leeds, brings forth an altered experience of the infamous opera “La traviata.”




Natasha L. McPherson

ChASS New faculty

Natasha L. McPherson

Natasha L. McPherson, assistant professor of history, earned her Ph.D. in history from Emory University in 2011. Her research and teaching interests are broadly focused on African-American history, urban history, and the historical constructions of blackness and the color line. She specializes in the history of black women, examining the ways in which notions about gender, color, sex, and social reputation influenced black family and community development in the 19th and 20th century. She is working on her first book, tentatively titled, “Creole Queens: Creole Women, the Color Line, and the Birth of a Beige Bourgeoisie.”  By investigating the public and private lives of Creole women in post-Reconstruction New Orleans, this book demonstrates that Creole women challenged the politics of the color line, and pushed the boundaries of respectability and citizenship in the Jim Crow South.




Kalina Michalska

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Kalina Michalska

Kalina Michalska, assistant professor of psychology, received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology at the University of Chicago and was subsequently named a research fellow in the Section on Development and Affective Neuroscience at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Her research explores the nature of emotional processes engaged by the distress of others – how these processes mature across development; how individual differences are expressed; and how these emotional processes relate to pathologic conditions. Specifically, why are some children aggressive toward their peers, while others withdraw from them? Michalska combines functional and structural brain imaging, physiological measures, and longitudinal behavior observations to integrate investigation of behavioral dispositions, context and development with direct referents in neurobiology.




Worku Nida

ChASS New faculty

Worku Nida

Worku Nida, assistant professor of teaching in anthropology, earned his Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from UCLA in 2006. His research and teaching interests span Africa, the United States, and the Middle East with foci on social change, entrepreneurialism, migration, crafting identity, class formations, diaspora, transnationalism, immigration, social movements, ethnohistory, and nation-building.  He has authored several publications.









Melinda Ritchie

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Melinda Ritchie

Melinda Ritchie, assistant professor of political science, earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2015. Before joining UCR, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University. Prior to her graduate studies, she worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative assistant for a member of Congress. She specializes in American politics, and her recent research focuses on the United States Congress, federal bureaucracy, interbranch relations, and public policy. Her current projects examine the backdoor communication between members of Congress and federal agencies, and how legislators influence policies through their interactions with the bureaucracy. Her research has appeared in Political Behavior and the Journal of Politics.




Richard Rodriguez

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Richard Rodriguez

Richard Rodriguez, associate professor of English, and media and cultural studies, earned his Ph.D. in the history of consciousness from UC Santa Cruz. His primary specializations are in Latina/o literary and cultural studies, film and visual culture, and queer studies, with additional interests in transnational cultural studies and popular music studies. He is the author of “Next of Kin: The Family in Chicano/a Cultural Politics” (Duke University Press, 2009), which won the 2011 National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Book Award. His work has appeared in publications such as Social Text, GLQ, Biography, American Literary History, The Cambridge Companion to Latina/o American Literature, and Graphic Borders: Latino Comic Books Past, Present, and Future.




David A. Rosenbaum

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David A. Rosenbaum

David A. Rosenbaum, distinguished professor of psychology, earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 1977. He is a cognitive psychologist whose research focuses on the planning and control of physical action. He conducts behavioral experiments and uses computational modeling to understand how everyday actions are assembled. He was the editor of the Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance (2000-2005) and is the author of books on human motor control, MATLAB computer programming, and a Darwinian approach to the analysis of mental function. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2012, Rosenbaum was on the faculty at Pennsylvania State University before coming to UCR.




Carolyn Sloane

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Carolyn Sloane

Carolyn Sloane, professor of economics, earned her Ph.D. in 2016 from the University of Chicago. Her research agenda focuses on the impact of changes to the wage distribution and labor demand on several policy-relevant outcomes within the U.S. Her publication, “Rising Wage Inequality and Human Capital Investment” with Lancelot Henry de Frahan, uses metropolitan-level variation to analyze the causal impacts of changes in wage inequality on human capital investment. In “Where Are the Workers,” she explores the impact of declining labor demand in the manufacturing and service sectors on local disability insurance participation. A separate branch of her explores the compositional effects of a policy intended to slow the revolving door from careers on Capitol Hill to K Street on the labor supply of congressional staff.




Christina Soto van der Plas

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Christina Soto van der Plas

Christina Soto van der Plas, acting assistant professor of Hispanic Studies, received her Ph.D. in Spanish literature in the Department of Romance Studies at Cornell University in 2016. Her upcoming book, “A Poetics of Transliterature,” centers on the work of 20th century Latin American authors such as José Emilio Pacheco, Salvador Elizondo, and Macedonio Fernández, among others, to propose that literature is a kind of thought and, as such, is able to traverse geographies, genres, identities, and aesthetic categories by denying three core components of modern narrative: plot, character, and time as cause and effect. Her fields of interest include Latin American literature (emphasis on Mexico), aesthetic forms, music, psychoanalysis, critical theory, and European and Latin American philosophy.




Kenichiro Tsukamoto

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Kenichiro Tsukamoto

Kenichiro Tsukamoto, assistant professor of anthropology, received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 2014. He is an anthropological archaeologist who seeks to refine different theoretical and methodological approaches to better understand the nature of power and ideology; the intersection of social change and theatrical performance; and the materiality of social inequality. Methodological interests include spatial analysis, material analyses through petrographic microscopy and particle-induces X-ray emission (PIXE), and epigraphic studies. He conducts fieldwork in the Maya lowlands of southern Mexico, where he has directed the El Palmar Archaeological Project since 2007. He is the co-editor of a book, “Mesoamerican Plazas: Arenas of Community and Power” (2014), with Takeshi Inomata.




Fuson Wang

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Fuson Wang

Fuson Wang, assistant professor of English, received his Ph.D. in English from UCLA in 2014. He has a mixed disciplinary background in mathematics and literature, and consequently approaches literary studies with a consciously interdisciplinary perspective. His work seeks to make the humanities matter to science, and vice-versa. It engages a broad audience that includes medical humanists, medical anthropologists, disability theorists, historians of science and medicine, and literary critics. He is working on a book manuscript about the British Romantic era and the medico-literary origins of smallpox inoculation.





Nicholas Weller

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Nicholas Weller

Nicholas Weller, assistant professor of political science, received his Ph.D. in political science from UC San Diego and was previously a professor of political science and international relations at the University of Southern California. His research focuses on how the structure of organizations or institutions affects collective problem-solving and the use of mixed-methods research in social science. In particular, he is interested in how the network of communication between individuals in a group can influence the group’s ability to solve collective problems. He has published a book about mixed-methods research and causal mechanisms, and articles in numerous journals, including Social Networks, American Politics Research, Sociological Methods and Research, Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, and Public Choice.




Melissa Wilcox

ChASS New faculty

Melissa Wilcox,

Melissa Wilcox, professor and Holstein Family and Community Chair of Religious Studies, received her Ph.D. in religious studies from UC Santa Barbara in 2000. Her multi-methodological research program focuses on gender studies and queer studies in religion, with particular emphasis on the U.S. and Europe in the context of transnational queer and religious politics. Her books include: “Coming Out in Christianity: Religion, Identity, and Community” (Indiana University Press, 2003); “Sexuality and the World’s Religions” (co-edited with David W. Machacek; ABC-CLIO, 2003), which received the annual book award from the Sociology of Religion Section of the American Sociological Association; “Queer Women and Religious Individualism” (Indiana University Press, 2009); and “Religion in Today’s World: Global Issues, Sociological Perspectives” (Routledge, 2013).




Yang Xie

ChASS New faculty

Yang Xie

Yang Xie, assistant professor of economics, received his Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics from UC Berkeley in 2016. His primary interests include political economics, comparative economics, and microeconomics. His job-market paper builds a game theory model to show how polarization of beliefs could eliminate political gridlock instead of intensifying disagreement, and the model is applied to explain how China adopted an experimental approach in its transition from the planned economy and why Operation Market Garden was implemented at the late stage of WWII. His current projects study the evolution and consequence of property rights comparing the history of China and Europe. He also has interests in agricultural and resource economics, analyzing the economic relation between water storage and conservation and the implications of climate change for adaptations in the water sector.




Edward Zagha

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Edward Zagha

Edward Zagha, assistant professor of psychology, completed a combined M.D.-Ph.D. at the New York University School of Medicine and postdoctoral training at Yale School of Medicine in 2010.  Through this training, he studied neuroscience at multiple levels of organization, from ionic currents to spike patterns to cortical circuits to behavior. At UCR, Dr. Zagha’s laboratory will study the cellular and circuit mechanisms of internal, cognitive processes, such as expectation and impulse control. These studies will focus on how groups of cortical neurons organize to create meaningful circuits to regulate behavior. His laboratory will draw on expertise from cellular and systems neuroscience, psychology, computational neuroscience, and engineering. He is also interested in studying how neuronal disorganization leads to behavioral dysfunction, to better understand and treat human disease.

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