New faculty members begin teaching and research at U of I

The College of LAS is welcoming 37 new faculty members this academic year. A few of them attended a new faculty member event in the Natural History Building in October. (Photo by Carly Conway)

The College of LAS is welcoming 38 new professors for the 2022-23 academic year, including several in SLCL. 

Most of the new faculty members started their new roles at the beginning of the fall semester, but some arrived later in the semester or are scheduled to start in January.

“Bringing in new people each year is invigorating and important for the College of LAS,” said Venetria K. Patton, Harry E. Preble Dean of the College of LAS. “New faculty members bring new ideas, new energy, and new knowledge that help make us stronger and more insightful. Our new people come from all over the world. They are promising, accomplished, and will help make LAS even better.”

The College of LAS hosted a reception for the new faculty members earlier this fall. Anna Torres-Cacoullos, a professor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, said she was raised in New Mexico, where speakers of English, Spanish, and Native American languages coexist. Now at the U of I, she hopes to aid efforts to support minority populations on and around campus.

“As a student of literature, I realized that stigmatization against Hispanic and Latin American cultures and ways of life was based on a broken understanding of community,” Torres-Cacoullos said.  “Now as a scholar and teacher of Spanish literature and culture, I’ve become committed to foregrounding the relationship of literary studies to other areas of sociocultural inquiry and developing strategies that promote historical, cultural, and artistic awareness.”

Torres-Cacoullos said she came to Champaign-Urbana because of the world class research and research support offered to scholars on campus. The campus, she said, is an important center for the support of historical, cultural, and artistic awareness of Latina/Latino and minority communities.

Her research spans a broad range of topics in literature, film, and philosophy. While she specializes in late 19th to early 20th century Spanish literature and culture, her work has also considered questions about gender, race, and body politics in contemporary literary and film productions emerging from Spain. 

“In today’s global political climate increasingly marked by xenophobia and prejudice, an understanding of diverse ways of life is perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing us today,” Torres-Cacoullos said. “In my research and teaching I seek to make diversity a cornerstone for understanding current issues, and to help equip my students to address new conflicts.”

Daniel Maroun, a new professor in the Department of French & Italian, has worked at the U of I since 2017, but he was recently hired as a tenure track faculty member. Now, as an assistant professor, he hopes to continue exploring research avenues that are tied together by queer kinship, sexual identity, citizenship, and how individuals navigate these issues.

“My research looks at new performances of acceptable masculinity and how they're interrelated, whether they confront classical notions like fatherhood, heterosexuality, strength, and virility,” Maroun said. “For example, one of the biggest notions with HIV/AIDS is that you're not really a man if you have HIV/AIDS, because men are supposed to be strong and disease-proof. So what my research looks at is how those men create their own performances of masculinity that not only push back on what classical notions are but are equally justifiable.”

Maroun’s research is aimed specifically at Francophone communities, an area he is familiar with as a first generation Lebanese academic. He’s learned to examine kitchens as an area of cultural significance.

“I was in the kitchen a lot during my childhood, and I think for a lot of individuals who were always in the kitchen, the kitchen is a safe space, the kitchen is a place of culture, the kitchen is a place of learning,” Maroun said. “Once I moved to France, that's when I really started to get into cuisine, learning about what food can do for an individual, breaking it down to not just mom's recipes and grandma's recipes, but really unpacking what food is. So it's nice to be able to bring in my influence to a department where we share a common language—French—but we also have these diverse cultural backgrounds.”

A full list of new faculty in SLCL can be found here.

Christian Jones

Editor's note: A version of this story first appeared on the LAS homepage.