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Habits and Habitats of 26 Gordon Professors

Story by Gordon College May 10th, 2016

Pneumocytes. The multiverse. Lives of renunciation. Treaties. Just a few of the things on the minds of professors you pass on the Gordon quad.
Mind/body. Religion/media. Analog/digital. They may be mulling some compelling dissonance, or a convergence . . . Pollution. Keeping people’s hips intact. Moral dilemmas. . . . or chasing a solution to a problem.
Hindi, Mandarin, Prolog, Python. Languages they might be pondering in, besides English.
Kayaking. Construction. Boogie boarding. Baking. How they’ll unwind after work.
Botswana, Argentina, Antarctica. To the ends of the earth. To the edge of the nanoverse. Where they’ve been. Where they‘re going.
26 of our professors, all impressive. Enjoy getting aquainted.

Dan Darko, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of New Testament | Pauline letters, luke-acts, principles of biblical interpretation

Teaching at Gordon since 2011

“Religion is linked to world conflict, politics and social breakdown. I endeavor to deepen students’ understanding of Christian origins, how to interpret the Bible and draw from it to make sense of a wide array of social issues—human sexuality, race relations and cultural diversity.”
Studying the use of kinship language in the social identity construction, moral framework and dynamics of leadership in Paul’s letters. Wrote No Longer Living as the Gentiles: Differentiation and Shared Ethical Values in Ephesians 4.17–6.9 (T&T Clark, 2008). He is a contributor to the Africa Study Bible. His chapter on the “father image of God” in the Sermon on the Mount will appear in an upcoming volume of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph series. Fluent in English and Akan (Ghana), his mother tongue. Mentors include David Kalb of Ghana Christian University, John Stott, and—most influential—his mother, Angela, with whom he also worked in a family textile business. Enjoys hiking, and watching soccer on the weekends.


Sandra Doneski, Ph.D.

PROFESSOR OF MUSIC | Music education, choral conducting

Teaching at Gordon since 2000

“Music changes people from the inside out and draws us together to create something beautiful that is beyond our individual identities.”

Accomplishments: Directs Gordon’s graduate music programs, the undergrad music education program, and serves as Dean of Faculty. Developing, in collaboration with other New England music educators, ways to assess music students based on “CPR” (the three artistic processes, creating, performing and responding). What’s new in music ed: Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces No Child Left Behind. “ESSA enumerates music as a stand-alone subject in the well-rounded education of our nation’s students.” Fluent pianist. Mentor: Alberta Sinclair, her church junior choir director. Enjoys creating meals based on Food Network episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.


Mike Jacobs, Ph.D.


Teaching at Gordon since 2013

“Gordon students see a world filled with conflict, poverty, and other challenges and they want to make a difference. But to do so, they need to understand the major players in world politics and the wide variety of perspectives. These kinds of discussions are my field’s home turf.”

Researching Christian denominations’ worldviews by gathering and tracking the groups’ foreign policy statements What‘s new in poli sci: The journal Providence; he hopes to publish in it. His dissertation in 7 words: Elizabeth Warren doesn’t understand bilateral investment treaties. Another claim to fame: College football. He played it; his father and brother coach it. He can detail a half dozen ways to stop a spread offense. Fun fact: Screens Dr. Strangelove in Intro to World Politics.



Professor of Sociology and Social Work | Gender, religion, ethnicity, globalization and social change

Teaching at Gordon since 1983

“I love being wonderstruck. In the face of awe I come to terms with my own mortality.”

Currently exploring the fragility of modern masculinity, and the relationship between masculinity and disability. Why sociology matters: “To understand the world we find ourselves in and to locate ourselves in it can be part of holy work. The activation of new lenses to see the world can be exhilarating and empowering. You then start to see the work you have to do. For me, sociology is a necessary tool for the project of redemption.” Fluent in English, Malayalam and Tamil. Enjoys a good belly laugh, making bread and jam, dance, music, poetry, diversity. Vacation highlight: Tracking lions and elephants in Botswana with her husband.


Mark Gedney, Ph.d.

Professor of Philosophy | Religion and politics

Teaching at Gordon since 1998

“The demand of philosophy to examine one’s own preconceptions—and to be interested in understanding the beliefs of others—will be crucial in increasing conversation and understanding across the divides that now separate us.”

An accomplishment: Hosting the Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology at Gordon, with major figures such as Roger Haight, Richard Kearney, Jack Caputo and Merold Westphal. Writing: a book, The Uncanny Desire for Mutual Recognition. Fluent in English and French. Also quite good at iPhone repair. Mentor: Malcolm Reid, Gordon College professor emeritus of philosophy. His dissertation in 20 words: The path of “rugged individualism” is the greatest wrong turn in modern thinking (both in its secular and religious forms). Another claim to fame: Translates French and German poetry into English, including Paul Celan’s Atemwende.


Susan C. Bobb, ph.d.

Assistant Professor of Psychology | Psycholinguistics

Teaching at Gordon since 2015

“Our world is becoming increasingly global. Studying bilingualism helps us understand how a majority of the world thinks.”

What‘s new in psycholinguistics: The finding that a person who knows more than one language cannot turn one on and the other off. “Both languages are active to some extent all the time, which means that bi/multi-linguals are pretty amazing mental jugglers!” Fluent in English, German, French, “and in English punctuation.” Mentor: Dr. Judy Kroll, former director of Penn State‘s Center for Language Science, “who taught me that good science and great generosity make fabulous bed fellows.” Her dissertation in 14 words: If at first you don’t succeed, you probably never will (learn German grammatical gender). Enjoys “making something out of nothing.” With cornstarch, water, and some left-over fabric, she frosted her bathroom windows last fall for $0.


Dale pleticha, Ph.d.

Professor of Physics | Astrophysics; mathematical and computational physics

Teaching at Gordon since 1984

“One question we would like to answer is What is the physics involved in running straight up a vertical wall?”

Researching the physics of parcour, with a student. (See above.) What’s new in astrophysics: The multiverse and eternal inflation, used by some well-known cosmologists to counter the intelligent design, teleological, and cosmological arguments for the existence of God. His dissertation in 21 words: A telescope with a spherical mirror allows you to point your telescope in many different directions all at the same time. Enjoys doing just about anything where it is very quiet. Recent favorite book: Quiet (by Susan Cain). Another claim to fame: Preparing quick, low-salt, low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-sugar, “and consequently low-taste” meals. As a heart patient he finds this useful.


Dick Stout, ph.d.

Professor of Mathematics | “pure” mathematics; math for elementary teachers

Teaching at Gordon since 1980

“Unfortunately, many Christians dismiss mathematics as irrelevant to our lives. However, if you subscribe to the philosophy that mathematics is discovered, and not invented, it raises a host of questions that are of interest to Christians.”

Writing study questions for the book Mathematics Through the Eyes of Faith. What’s new in mathematics: The use of math in the field of security codes. Loves watching birds and wildlife abroad with his wife, Martha. So far, they’ve seen grizzlies in Alaska, birds in Costa Rica and Peru, whales off Mexico, and a host of other creatures on safari in Kenya. Another claim to fame: High-mileage charity fundraising: 20 Walks for Hunger, and 15 Jimmy Fund walks along the Boston Marathon route.


Kerilyn Harkaway-krieger, ph.d.

Assistant Professor of English | Medieval and renaissance english literature

Teaching at Gordon since 2015

“In spite of everything that seems foreign about medieval literature and religion, there are moments when some text or image can seem totally relevant, addressing some twenty-first century situation in a way that is surprising and encouraging and illuminating.”

An accomplishment: Dual Ph.D. (in English, and religious studies). Researching medieval mystical authors’ understanding and use of figurative language—in particular, metaphor. Her dissertation in 17 words: In the Middle Ages, people used a lot of metaphors when they wanted to talk about God. Mentors: “My parents exemplified the kind of ‘life mentoring’ that makes up good parenting. And Dr. Curtis Gruenler taught me to love medieval literature and modeled what it means to teach the liberal arts. He continues to challenge me as a scholar.” Enjoys time in the woods with her three-year-old son and black Lab.


Bryan Auday, ph.d.

Professor of Psychology | Cognitive Neuroscience

Teaching at Gordon since 1986

“The discipline of cognitive neuroscience provides a foundation for exploring the complexities between the mind and body in order that we can acquire a more comprehensive understanding of what it means to be fully human.”

Launched Gordon‘s neuroscience program. Served as medical editor of the five-volume Salem Health Magill’s Medical Guide (Grey House Press, 2014). Finishing two empirical studies on the neurophysiological correlates of moral decision-making. With student researchers he records participants’ brain waves while they solve a moral dilemma, to assess cognitive and emotional processing during different types of moral decisions. What‘s new in neuroscience: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which enables scientists to visualize neuroprocessing in the living brain. Enjoys sea kayaking along Cape Ann‘s coastline and dozens of islands. Fun fact: Has never had a cup of coffee


David West, M.f.a.

Associate Professor of Art | Printmaking, Drawing

Teaching at Gordon since 2015

“The art world is faced with a public that is more heavily involved with images than possibly ever in history, but not well equipped with the skills of really slowing down and looking.”

Launched a nomadic gallery in 2013 with fellow artist Jerrod Partridge, staging elaborate one-day-only art shows all over Jackson, Mississippi. They spent days prepping or building display spaces, and then invited the public. It’s still running. A favorite facet of teaching: Working with seniors on their thesis projects. Why art matters: “Art, done well, will always change the way we perceive the world and make us ask questions of our current condition. That might look like a work of exquisite craftsmanship or bringing to our attention some beautiful thing previously unnoticed. It could embody an issue of social or religious importance that critiques the status quo.” Enjoys reading books that turn into naps. Another claim to fame: “With two little girls, I am getting pretty good at painting nails and braiding hair.”


Janis Flint-Ferguson, d.a.

Professor of English and Education | Middle school education; composition and rhetoric

Teaching at Gordon since 1990

“Teaching can feel insanely public, but walking alongside those who are preparing to teach is a quieter process—working through uncertainties, adding to their repertoire and listening as they find their voices.”

Accolades: College Educator of the Year (1997), Massachusetts Association of Teacher Educators Awards for Leadership in Education; first higher-ed representative on the Board of the New England League of Middle Schools. What’s new in teacher preparation: Changes in how preservice teachers are assessed. Fluent in young adult literature. “A good ‘YA’ text opens a complex world at a sophisticated level appropriate for the adolescent reader.” Mentor: Her sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Paul, “who taught me that teaching is a balance of great fun and absolute seriousness.” Enjoys watching open-wheel auto racing. Fun fact: Played maiden aunt who shared elderberry wine with lonely old men in Arsenic and Old Lace.


Jamie Hillman, d.m.a.

Assistant Professor of Music | choral conducting, music education, voice

Teaching at Gordon since 2012

“I co-lead a thriving music and arts program at MCI-Norfolk, the largest men’s prison in Massachusetts.”

Accomplishments: Laureate of the Leslie Bell Prize for Choral Conducting from the Ontario Arts Council. North American juror (among six from three continents) at the Tomohon International Choir Competition in Indonesia. Received Boston University Prison Arts Scholar Award. Researching choral singing and other arts in prisons. “The Gordon College Men’s Choir had the opportunity to perform a concert at MCI Norfolk. Some of the students mentioned that it was one of the most impactful experiences of their time at Gordon.” Fluent pianist. Another claim to fame: Is slowly picking up Taiwanese and Mandarin from his trilingual wife and son.


Sean clark, Ph.D.

Professor of Kinesiology | Neuromotor Control

Teaching at Gordon since 2000

“Concussions and post-concussion syndrome are hot topics not only in athletics but also in the medical field. Appropriate assessment and treatment can aid in return to an active lifestyle, or for athletes’ return to play.”

Launched Gordon‘s Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness. Partners with a Quebec-based company, KINESIQ, to explore how a training device using a motion platform and real-life simulation might reduce fall-risk for older adults. What‘s new in kinesiology: The use of physical therapy and vestibular rehabilitation to treat dizziness, vertigo and balance deficits in individuals who’ve suffered concussion. Enjoys small-scale farming (vegetables and poultry); putting up cord wood; nature walks with his wife, Donna; rock climbing with oldest son, Zac; shooting at the range with youngest son, Jake.


Russ Bjork, M.s.e.e., M.div.

Professor of Computer Science | Founded the Major at Gordon

Teaching at Gordon since 1978

“Virtually every area of life is being affected, and will continue to be affected, by computers.”

Developing an implementation of Prolog, a high-level programming language based on formal logic, and widely used for artificial intelligence applications. It will incorporate support for “fuzzy logic” based on “degrees of truth” rather than on Boolean (“1 or 0”) logic. What’s new in computer science: “Various sorts of digital networking continue to transform numerous areas of life like commerce, the media, and even politics.” Fluent in several programming languages. Enjoys the wilderness. With his wife, Janet, he’s visited Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and the Badlands, and biked or walked all 45 miles of carriage roads in Acadia National Park.


grace chiou, Ph.d.

Assistant Professor of Communication Arts | Media and religion

Teaching at Gordon since 2015

“Young adults need to recognize the constructed nature of media messages.”

Researching how college students (who are attuned to self-presentation and its consequences in social media) increasingly construct messages in relation to the consequences for others—and are cognizant of selection and editing as they create stories on social media. Fluent in critical cultural studies, media and visual studies, and the intersections of religion and media. Mentor: Lynn Schofield Clark, director of the University of Denver’s Estlow International Center for Journalism and New Media. Her dissertation in 6 words: It’s not about you. Just give. Enjoys “Britcoms”: As Time Goes By, Jeeves and Wooster, and the detective series Vera. Vacation highlights: In Spain, watched the sunset at the Alhambra, and in Barcelona visited the innovative designs of Antoni Gaudi, and marveled at the Sagrada Familia and its interior tree-like columns.


Kent w. seibert, D.B.a.

Professor of economics and business | Business, Management

Teaching at Gordon since 2008

“Young adults today demand more of businesses. They don’t just expect honesty and quality products; they want business to contribute broadly to the common good.”

Edited a special issue of the Journal of Biblical Integration in Business dealing with the Sabbath’s relevance for contemporary business people. Current projects: Working with Julia Marra ’13 on getting her senior honors thesis published in a book on Christianity and business; developing an online version of his Principles of Management course. What’s new in business: The emergence of social entrepreneurship and corporate social enterprise. “This is where the institution of business is used not just to generate economic benefit (i.e. profit), but also to address social problems and do that in a sustainable way. This requires giving attention to the triple bottom line: profit, people and planet.” Why management matters:Management is basically the secular word for stewardship, so it’s directly relevant to our personal spiritual lives.” Mentor: The late John Mason, emeritus professor of economics. Enjoys boogie boarding. “I find nothing more exhilarating than being propelled dozens of yards inside a wave.”


Otonye Braide-moncouer, ph.d.

Assistant professor of Chemistry | Bioanalytical Chemistry

Teaching at Gordon since 2014

“At Gordon, students interested in biomedical research are given the opportunity to engage in the interdisciplinary nature of the field, as chemical and physical parameters are evaluated within biological systems.”

Recently discovered that the KL4 helical structure (the first peptide-based replacement for surfactant protein B in pulmonary surfactant) is pH dependent. Fluent in Origin software used for data analysis. Also a fluent user of the fluorometer, which measures fluorescence. Her dissertation in 24 words: Rather than profiting by marketing surfactant replacement therapies, researchers have chosen to continue expanding knowledge about how these novel surfactants facilitate the breathing process. Mentors: Her friends the Vellekamps, “who have counseled me and shown me unconditional love and encouragement through extremely hard times.” Enjoys singing on worship teams, and travel (to Brazil, Japan, and—on her 2014 honeymoon—Tennessee).


Russ Tuck, Ph.d.

Professor of math and computer science | PARALLEL and distributed computing; mobile and cloud computing

Teaching at Gordon since 2015

“Computers are powerful tools. I want to prepare students to be shapers and creators of these tools.”

Helped launch Gmail, and led its initial Site Reliability Engineering team (which kept it running and helped it grow to support millions of users). Developing a new eight-week summer practicum in mobile computing. Students will develop useful software for a real user. What’s new in computer science: Cloud computing. “Besides requiring dramatic changes in software systems, this elevates the importance of privacy and security issues.” Mentor: Dr. Fred Brooks, his doctoral advisor, author of The Mythical Man Month. Enjoys southbound travel: Argentina, Brazil and a cruise along Antarctica’s northern coast, with trips to shore. “We loved the penguins, seals, birds, and whales. It was also warmer in Antarctica (low 30s, summer there) than where our kids were in college (PA and NY, winter, in the 20s).” Fun fact: Spent the night at the top of the Empire State Building during a blackout.


Amy Brown Hughes, Ph.d.

Assistant professor of theology | Patristics, trinitarian theology and christology

Teaching at Gordon since 2015

“For me, theology is something that we do as the Church as we seek to live in response to our Christian faith.”

Finishing a book (with coauthor Lynn Cohick, Wheaton College), Christian Women in the Patristic World: Influence, Authority and Legacy. What’s new in theology: More evangelicals are beginning to work in the field of early Christianity. Mentor: George Kalantzis, her Ph.D. supervisor, “who showed me how to find my voice.” Her dissertation in 16 words: Early Christian women who chose lives of ascetic renunciation contributed substantively to the development of Christology. Enjoys science fiction, which “helps us think about the societal choices we make.”

Twitter: @AmyBrownHughes


Mark Cannister, ed.d.

Professor of Christian Ministries; co-chair, department of biblical studies and CHRISTIAN ministries; moderator, division of the humanities | ecclesiology, church and youth MINISTRIES, strategic planning

Teaching at Gordon since 1992

“The emerging generation’s understanding of theology, culture, and ministry will shape the church of the twenty-first century.”

Wrote Teenagers Matter: Making Student Ministry a Priority in the Church (Book of the Year Awards from Outreach magazine and Hearts & Minds Bookstore). In progress: Contribution Matters: Integrating Teenagers into the Life of the Church. Mentors: “Mike Henning taught me what it meant to have a relationship with Christ and contribute to the community of the church. I learned what it meant to be a leader working alongside Jim Welch. Chuck Rosemeyer was a constant reminder of the importance of leadership development and networking.” Enjoys working with his hands—anything from building a treehouse to renovating a bathroom. Fun fact: Sat in Billy Graham’s office chair, thanks to a very connected alumnus, Sidney Shelton Youngs ’98.


Mindy Eichhorn, ed.d.

Assistant professor of education | mathematical special education, international education

Teaching at Gordon since 2014

“The impact of poor arithmetical skills is greater than the influence of poor reading skills on employment prospects.”

An accomplishment: Over six years in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, India, she trained hundreds of Indian elementary teachers in special education techniques and strategies—training that is hard to come by in a country of a billion people with only a handful of teacher training programs in special education. What’s new in special education: “Increased understanding of the importance of a student’s ‘number sense’ at a young age—their intuitive grasp of things like number relationships, number magnitude, estimation—and how it contributes to difficulties in learning math.” Fluent in English and conversational Hindi (helpful in watching the best Bollywood movies). She also is a fluent cook of spicy vegetarian Indian cuisine, such as palak paneer and chana masala. Another claim to fame: Was the featured baton twirler in her high school marching band, and performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day and Rose Bowl parades.


Norm Jones, M.a.

professor of theatre arts | acting

Teaching at Gordon since 1985

“Theatre gives students the opportunity to reveal the miraculous in the mundane.”

An accomplishment: Has directed 47 plays at Gordon College. Writing an autobiographical theatre piece. What‘s new in theatre: Immersive theatre. Audiences move throughout an unconventional theatre space on their own and discover portions of the play in each new room. His thesis in 5 words: An epiphany may be painful. Mentor: Jim Whitmire, his high school choir director. Enjoys fishing, because he loves to be where fish live. Fun fact: He saw all the Apollo moon launches.


Pilar Pérez serrano, ph.d.

Associate professor of spanish | contemporary spanish theatre, peninsular literature

Teaching at Gordon since 2002

“Theater mirrors society, and it carries both an aesthetic and an ethical responsibility.”

Wrote La rebelión de Los esclavos: Tragedia y posibilidad en el teatro de Raúl Hernández Garrido (2014). Upcoming: a compilation of essays dedicated to theater and crisis. Spanish theatre “is currently experiencing a fantastic resurgence. Many have attributed this renewal to the moral and economic crisis that the country suffers. It is important to study the implications of such narrative within a global context since many other economies and countries in the world are experiencing the same ill circumstances.” Mentor: Dr. Ann Ferguson, professor of English literature at Gordon for over 50 years, who encouraged her to pursue graduate study. Enjoys long distance running. “It makes me a nicer person. You can ask my family.”


Steve Alter, Ph.d.

Professor of History | modern u.s. history and FOREIGN policy; history of evolutionary theory and the modern human sciences

Teaching at Gordon since 2000

“An important way to study history is to focus on the difficult policy decisions people and countries have made—in foreign relations, for instance. It’s a way to learn from experience. History thus makes excellent preparation for one’s own decision-making, something all of us do in our own ‘historical context.’ ”

Recently wrote “Darwin and Language,” an entry in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Darwin and Evolutionary Thought. Enjoys “tracing ‘great conversations’ about the individual in relation to society, especially the problem of American individualism v. social conformity.” Vacation highlight: In the Berkshires, he and his wife, Carol, visited the scene of the events that inspired Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 hit song “Alice’s Restaurant” (see photo, Table of Contents).


Dorothy Boorse, ph.d.

Professor of Biology | Aquatic ecology, environmental science

Teaching at Gordon since 1999

“Climate change, biodiversity loss, chemical pollution, ocean degradation—our global passing of critical planetary boundaries will determine what options are available to future generations.”

Wrote Environmental Science: Toward a Sustainable Future with Dick Wright, Gordon emeritus professor of biology; is lead author of Loving the Least of These: Addressing a Changing Environment. Promotes creation care among American evangelicals. Fluent in dichotomous keys—a reference tool in which a series of choices between traits leads, progressively, to the identification of a species. Mentor: Dick Wright, who advised her to go to graduate school and helped her become a textbook author. Her dissertation in 31 words: Small wetlands that dry out contain macroinvertebrate communities whose structure is determined by the drying period, distances to other wetlands, the likelihood of flooding, and the actual timing of water availability. Enjoys walking around looking at nature and telling other people about it, in person or on her blog, Fun facts: Has a small native plant garden and a miniature poodle.

Footnote: Photography by Mark Spooner
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