Six faculty members to join Arts & Sciences under Race and Ethnicity Cluster Hire Initiative

The cluster hire initiative is funded by the Office of Provost and supported by the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity.

As part of the Race and Ethnicity Cluster Hire Initiative, WashU has taken important steps toward building a world-class research program on race. Three rounds of this cluster hire initiative took place in 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 and were funded by the Office of the Provost. It is supported by the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity (CRE2), which was founded in 2019 and launched in 2020 to catalyze research and learning related to race and ethnicity scholarship at Washington University.

The following faculty members will join Arts & Sciences this fall under the cluster hiring initiative.

Mona Kareem

Assistant Professor, Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies

Mona Kareem (she/they) holds a PhD in comparative literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Her research focuses on literary cultures of race, class, and gender in the Global South, with a focus on Afro-Asian encounters in the Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf region. Her scholarship is comparative and interdisciplinary, crossing the bounds of Arab, South Asian, and African studies. She has been a fellow at the Crown Center at Brandeis, the Center for Humanities at Tufts, the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, the Arabic program at the University of Maryland College Park, and the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. She is also the author of three poetry collections, and the translator of Octavia Butler, Ashraf Fayadh, and Ra’ad Abdulqadir, among others.

Thembelani Mbatha

Assistant Professor, African and American Studies

Themba is a scholar of African and Afro-diasporic literature and global black thought, focusing on the intersections between the histories of blackness and the politics of memory in the postcolonial world. His doctoral project looks at the significance of the SS Mendi shipwreck, the Herero and Nama Genocide, and the South African apartheid archive, to chart the possibilities of a decolonial rubric for the mourning and witnessing of black pasts. In May 2023, Themba will earn his PhD in English from Princeton University with a certificate in African American Studies.

Bronwyn Nichols Lodato

Assistant Professor, Education and African and African American Studies

Nichols Lodato’s mixed methods research examines how shock events (e.g., the Great Recession, COVID-19) impact identity development and education outcomes among diverse adolescents and young adults. In her study of the effects of shocks, which have had enduring negative impact on African American communities, she applies an interdisciplinary, strengths-based approach to interrogate the dimensions of context that support or undermine positive identity development. Nichols Lodato’s interest in human development and person-context dynamics is enhanced by her work with community groups advocating for equitable public park policies in urban minoritized communities. Her research agenda engages the effects of endemic inequality and racial discrimination in order to advance social justice and improved education outcomes at the local, state and national levels. Nichols Lodato earned MA degrees in International Studies and Comparative Human Development and a PhD. in Comparative Human Development, all from the University of Chicago.

Elaine Peña

Professor, Performing Arts & American Culture Studies

Elaine Peña’s teaching and research interests include border studies, hemispheric Latinx performance, and religious studies. She is the author of Performing Piety: Making Space Sacred with the Virgin of Guadalupe (University of California Press, 2011), an ethnographic study of transnational devotional practices between central Mexico and the greater Chicago area. Her recent book, ¡Viva George!: Celebrating Washington's Birthday at the U.S.-Mexico Border (University of Texas Press, 2020), critically examines acts of playing Indian, playing Mexican, and playing Colonial as part of the long-standing tradition of celebrating Washington's Birthday between Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Peña‘s current manuscript project--Time to Pray--builds on her research at the Port of Laredo to consider the global diversity of religious practice and place-making. She is also a co-Principal Investigator on a project that explores border enactment theory, border festivals, and practical governance in West Africa. Her work has been published in a wide range of journals that reflect the transdisciplinary reach of her scholarship, and has been recognized by the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright-Hays Program, and the McNair Scholars Program.

Allison S. Reed

Assistant Professor, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Allison S. Reed's work connects Black Feminist Studies with Disability & Mad Studies. She aims to help Black Feminist Studies more actively grapple with everyday lived experiences of madness, sickness, and disability as neglected categories within the intersectionality discourse, particularly in the domain of political participation. Her research has received funding and/or recognition from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Fahs-Beck Fund for Research and Experimentation, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology. Reed holds an MA and will receive her PhD in June 2023, both in sociology from the University of Chicago.

Parkorn Wangpaiboonkit

Assistant Professor, Musicology

Parkorn Wangpaiboonkit will join WashU as Assistant Professor of Musicology in Fall 2023. His innovative research in the emerging field of global music history examines musical and intellectual exchanges between Europe’s colonial powers and the empire of Siam (present-day Thailand) in the decades around 1900. Parkorn has been awarded three prestigious fellowships by the American Musicological Society: the Alvin H. Johnson AMS50 Dissertation Fellowship, the Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship, and the Holmes/D’Accone Fellowship in Opera Studies. He will complete his PhD in musicology this spring at the University of California, Berkeley, and he holds a BA in comparative literature from Oberlin College.


The following faculty served on the Race and Ethnicity Cluster Hire Review Committee between the Fall 2020 and Spring 2023:

  • David Ahn, Olin Business School
  • Jean Allman, African and African-American Studies, Arts & Sciences
  • Kia Caldwell, Office of the Provost (Co-chair, 2022-23)
  • David Cunningham, Arts & Sciences (Co-chair, 2022-23)
  • Adrienne Davis, Law School (Co-chair, 2020-21)
  • Bettina Drake, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine
  • Cynthia Feliciano, Sociology, Arts & Sciences
  • Joe Jez, Biology, Arts & Sciences
  • Sean Joe, Brown School
  • Pauline Kim, Law School
  • Hedwig Lee, Sociology, Arts & Sciences (Co-chair, 2021-22)
  • Stephanie Li, English, Arts & Sciences
  • Eric Mumford, College of Architecture, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
  • Tim Portlock, College of Art, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
  • Rodrigo Reis, Brown School
  • Jon Silva, Biomedical Engineering, McKelvey School of Engineering
  • Vetta Thompson, Brown School
  • Rebecca Wanzo, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Arts & Sciences (Co-chair, 2021-22)
  • Geoff Ward, African and African-American Studies, Arts & Sciences (Co-chair, 2020-21)
  • Carol Camp Yeakey, Education, Arts & Sciences