Academic Careers: First Year as Faculty


We think and talk a lot about the scholarship that goes into obtaining a tenure track professor position. But what does the day-to-day of a first year faculty member actually look like? From administrative roles to committee meetings, and from teaching loads to progress toward tenure -- there's a lot that goes into a "rookie year." Hear from recent PhD alumni about what they learned and did in their first year as a faculty member.


Neil Verma, Assistant Professor in the Department of Radio/Television of Film at Northwestern University (PhD'08 History of Culture). In addition to his role as an Assistant Professor, Verma is Associate Director of the MA program in Sound Arts and Industries. He is the author of Theater of the Mind: Imagination, Aesthetics and American Radio Drama (University of Chicago Press), which won the Best First Book Award from the Society for Cinema & Media Studies. Verma is co-editor of the forthcoming book Anatomy of Sound: Norman Corwin and Media Authorship (University of California Press). He has recent articles in The Journal of American Studies, The RadioDoc, The Journal of Sound Studies, Critical Quarterly, and Velvet Light Trap on subjects ranging from radio documentaries to Game of Thrones. Verma holds a BA in English from McGill University and a PhD in History of Culture from the University of Chicago, where he was also a Harper-Schmidt Postdoctoral Fellow from 2010-14.

Esra Tasdelen, Assistant Professor of Arabic and MIddle Eastern & North African (MENA) Studies at North Central College (PhD'14, NELC), received her B.A. degree in Social and Political Sciences at Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2003. She received her M.A. degree in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago in 2005 and her Ph.D degree in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in 2014. In September 2015 she joined North Central College as the Assistant Professor of Arabic and Middle Eastern & North African (MENA) Studies, and the Coordinator of the brand new Middle Eastern and North African Studies Minor Program. Currently she teaches courses covering the languages, literatures, history, politics and cultures of the MENA Region. She is also developing new content courses and extracurricular activities focused on cultural immersion, field trips, lectures and events relating to the MENA region, both on and off-campus.

Laura Merwin, Assistant Professor of Biology at Concordia University Chicago (PhD'15, Ecology and Evolution) first became interested in plant ecology as an undergraduate at Pepperdine University. Her undergraduate research experience in fire-adapted Mediterranean ecosystems led her to a Fulbright fellowship to Australia, where she continued to research plant adaptations to harsh environments. She began graduate work at the University of Chicago in 2009, studying populations of Arabidopsis thaliana, the plant model organism, sampled from Swedish beaches. She completed her PhD in 2015 and accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Biology at Concordia University Chicago, a small, teaching-focused, liberal arts college in River Forest.

Sasha Cervantes, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Governors State University (PhD'13, Psychology). Dr. Sasha N. Cervantes spent one year as the Frederick Douglass Institute Scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology at California University of Pennsylvania before starting a tenure-track faculty position at Governors State University. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, a master's degree at New York University, and both a master's and doctorate at the University of Chicago in the area of cognitive psychology with a minor in neurobiology. She is strongly involved in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority students to higher education and the professoriate, and mentors at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and selected to teach at universities focused on serving first-generation college students, with a teaching focus while continuing to support research.


Adom Getachew (PhD'15, Political Science and African American Studies, Yale University) is currently a Provost Career Enhancement Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Chicago where she will join the Political Science faculty in July 2016. She holds a joint PhD in Political Science and African-American Studies from Yale University. Her research interests are situated in the history of political thought, with specialized interests in international law, theories of empire and race, black political thought and post-colonial political theory.