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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Knox Welcomes 11 New Faculty Members for 2023-2024 Academic Year

The academic year started strong as Knox College welcomed 11 new faculty members to campus. Here’s everything you need to know about the newest members of the Knox community.

Hilary Lehmann

Chen Tianqiutao 

Art (Lens-Based Media)

Chen earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography in 2014 from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, a Master of Fine Arts degree in photography in 2017, and a Master of Arts degree in art and design education in 2018 from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Chen’s work draws on multiple aspects of lens-based media. He describes his approach as utilizing traditional and innovative image-making methods, including artistic appropriation and participatory documentary practice, to interrogate thematic concepts surrounding contemporary social and cultural issues and related human experiences and perceptions. In addition to various photo & video courses, he also teaches studio art foundations.

“I haven’t worked at a small liberal arts college before. I think the sense of community and accessibility of Knox excites me the most,” Chen said.

Hilary Lehmann

Dexin Dai 

Asian Studies (Chinese Language Acquisition)

Dai earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in teaching Chinese as a foreign language in 2012 from Wuhan University, a Master of Arts degree in teaching Chinese to speakers of other languages in 2015 from Wuhan University, and her Ph.D. in second language acquisition in 2023 from the University of Iowa.

Dai’s teaching interests center around language pedagogy. She describes herself as passionate about technology in language teaching. In her free time, Dai enjoys reading, traveling, and working out, which she sees as a complement to her teaching and research pursuits.

“The College's commitment to fostering intellectual growth and its inclusive atmosphere are truly inspiring. I'm eager to engage with both students and colleagues, collaborate on innovative research projects, and contribute to Knox's tradition of academic excellence,” Dai said.

Hilary Lehmann

Ryan Tracy 

English (Literary Modernism)

Tracy earned a Master of Music degree in composition in 2002 from the Mannes College of Music, a Master of Arts in gender studies in 2013 from Central European University in Budapest with honors, and his Ph.D. in English in 2023 from the City University of New York with a certificate in critical theory.

“I look forward to getting to know such an engaged, creative, and inquisitive group of students. And the faculty set a high bar for those of us coming on board. I expect this year to be a lot of fun,” Tracy said.

Tracy’s teaching interests include literary studies with a focus on Transatlantic Modernism and The Harlem Renaissance, race, gender and sexuality studies, deconstruction, and literary environmental studies. He also writes about pop culture and is currently working on a book about drag and theories of education. In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis, writing poetry, making visual art, and ceramics. 

Hilary Lehmann

Valerie Muensterman 

English (Creative Writing)

Muensterman earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 2020 at Duke University and her Master of Fine Arts in playwriting in 2023 at the University of Iowa.

Muensterman describes herself as a playwright/screenwriter with a special interest in exaggerated, anti-naturalistic forms of storytelling, particularly expressionist drama and the fiction of the American South.

“I'm excited to join the vibrant creative writing community at Knox College,” Muensterman said. “In my undergraduate years, my friends and I collaborated to start up a new play festival at our own university, so I'm especially pleased that the Knox Theatre Department has a longstanding New Plays Festival. I'm looking forward to getting involved and seeing new student work.”

Hilary Lehmann

Jessa Dahl ’10 

History (East Asian History)

Dahl earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and Asian studies in 2010 from Knox College, a Master of Arts degree in the division of social sciences in 2012 from the University of Chicago, and her Ph.D. in history in 2021 from the University of Chicago.

Dahl spent two years as a visiting assistant professor at Knox from 2020-2022, teaching East Asian history, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the JapanLab at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Dahl describes herself as an urban and cultural historian with a research specialization in Japanese treaty ports, transnational and trans-imperial port cities that were opened in Japan during the mid-nineteenth century. She teaches a wide range of subjects that touch on East Asian history, including histories of urban space, colonialism, modernity, gender, and sexuality across a wide geographical and chronological space. Dahl is also a digital humanities specialist, incorporating digital tools into her teaching and research.

“I am just excited to get back to the Knox community, which is one of the most supportive I've experienced of any institution I've been a part of,” Dahl said.

Hilary Lehmann

Michael Penn 


Penn earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1992 from UC Santa Barbara and a Master of Arts degree in Middle Eastern studies in 1996 from UT Austin.

Penn worked in Japan for 26 years before returning to the United States in 2023. During his time in Japan, he worked as a university lecturer focused on Japan's modern relations with the Islamic world. Later on, he became a professional journalist, founding an independent news media company. He hopes to bring this experience to Knox and bolster the journalism department with courses in news writing and videography.

“My career has always been shaped by a desire to perform work that I regard as being meaningful. Educating a new generation of formidable, truth-seeking journalists strikes me as something filled to the brim with potential positive impacts on the future,” Penn said.

Hilary Lehmann

David Falterman 

Music (Music Theory)

Falterman earned a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance in 2016 and a Master of Arts degree in music theory in 2019, both from the University of North Texas. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in music theory at the Eastman School of Music. 

“I'm excited to teach courses on the histories of rap and hip-hop and on writing about post-millennial pop music, and I'll be using plenty of concepts and examples from rock and pop music in my core music theory classes," Falterman said.

Falterman believes good teaching in the academic music classroom is all about creating rewarding encounters with music. Whether through technical aspects or through readings and discussions about the texts and contexts of music, he says the end goal is always to challenge students to hear something in a new way. Falterman is currently invested in questions of narrative and meaning-making in Anglophone popular music since 1960 and has presented research across a variety of subdisciplines, from nineteenth-century formal functions to computational applications of the discrete Fourier transform. 

Hilary Lehmann

Bram Wayman 

Music (Conducting, Director of Choral Activities)

Wayman earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in music in 2009 from Yale University with honors, a Master of Music degree in composition in 2012 from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Music degree in conducting in 2016 from the University of Missouri, and a Doctor of Musical Arts in conducting in 2023 from The Ohio State University.

Wayman says his pedagogy is built on three foundations: skill, agency, and civic action. He sees skills, such as the ability to fit a tricky rhythm into a larger metric pattern or the skill of balancing claims and evidence in rhetoric, as practical tools with which students can not only contribute to, but help direct, their intellectual work together. Beyond his work at Knox, Wayman is a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, among other conservation groups, and helps build and maintain mountain trails in New England.

“I'm most excited about the breadth of musical experience that we have the opportunity to give each other here,” Wayman said. “We'll have countless chances to give Galesburg music that conjures emotions we don't expect, and in ways we've never experienced before.”

Hilary Lehmann

Samantha Seybold 


Seybold earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology in 2018 from Carroll University, a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy, politics, and economics in 2018 from Carroll University, a Master of Arts degree in philosophy in 2021 from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in philosophy in 2023 from Purdue University.

Seybold says applied ethics courses are among her favorites to teach. She believes that philosophy has a lot to offer when trying to think carefully through real-life problems both big and small. Popular culture references are a key component of her pedagogy, including subjects such as Star Trek. Outside the classroom, Seybold enjoys sewing, long walks, and her fourteen-year-old cat Bubbie (named after the whale character in The Misadventures of Flapjack).

“The thing that stuck out to me most during my on-campus interviews was the collaborative spirit I saw in both the faculty and students at Knox," Seybold said. “I really admire it when a community works to cultivate that kind of mentality, and I look forward to being a part of it.”

Hilary Lehmann

Mary Barr 


Barr earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology in 1998 from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and a Master of Arts degree and a Ph.D, both in African American studies and sociology, from Yale University.

Barr says that her social movements course, which emphasizes the modern civil rights movement, is one of her favorite classes to teach. Her research focuses on what academics refer to as the Northern Movement. She believes it’s important to understand that Jim Crow segregation and the fight to end it affected the entire country, not just the South. She is currently writing a book on local organizations that fought against discriminatory housing laws and practices in the 1950s and 1960s in Chicago’s northern suburbs. 

“In April, when I visited the campus for an interview, I had the chance to speak with students over lunch and again at my job talk. I was really impressed,” Barr said. “I can hardly wait to get in the classroom this fall and see where the year takes us.”

Hilary Lehmann

Morgan Snyder-Olson 


Snyder-Olson completed her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology in 2017 at Iowa State University, a Master of Arts degree in psychology in 2019 at Texas State University, and a Ph.D. in psychology in 2023 at Baylor University.

Snyder-Olson’s main area of research and specialization is health psychology. Her studies focus on mind-body interventions for health outcomes and weight stigma. She enjoys teaching all areas of psychology, from developmental psychology to statistics. She will teach a variety of courses at Knox, including Introduction to Psychology and Developmental Psychology. 

“I am very excited about the opportunity to get to know the students and faculty at Knox. I am excited to work closely with them during the next year and learn together,” Snyder-Olson said.

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Printed on Friday, February 23, 2024