Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

New professors talk life, post-grad experiences

The Pioneer interviewed four of the 12 new tenure-track faculty to get a better idea of who the new faces on campus are. The fresh professors discuss past professional experiences, their hopes for the upcoming year and the details the Whitman community needs to know about them.

Nicole Pietrantoni, assistant professor of art. All photos by Tanner Bowersox.

Professor Nicole Pietrantoni, assistant professor of art:

 Q: What’s one interesting professional experience you’ve had before coming to Whitman?

A: My background in the arts is somewhat diverse. I’m an artist and I teach printmaking and book arts. However, before I went to graduate school I was the director of a visual art and media program at the Tennessee Arts Commission. So for about four years I was serving in this role, I was managing a multi-million dollar grant program, I was curating a gallery and working on the state’s public art program. I loved my job and I loved working with artists and helping them get funds for projects, but I too was an artist and I decided that I wanted to take it to another level and make art my career. I knew it was a big risk, and I remember thinking, “I have to know; I have to try this out and see where it could go.”

Q: What are you most looking forward to about the coming year?

A: The opportunity to work at a liberal arts school––a small school that really believes in students and faculty working close together––really got me excited about coming to Whitman. I went to a liberal arts school for my undergraduate, and I think my experiences having had art professors who worked really closely with me and with whom I continue to have friendships today [have helped me and] they’re now professional mentors for me. Another is my artistic research and work; I’m very interested in landscape and nature. I lived in Iceland for a year on a Fulbright Grant. I was in a town of about 250 people out in the middle of nowhere on an artist residency. For me, the opportunity to live in small towns or places that are rural offer a lot of opportunities to explore landscape and nature, which is what I’m into in my work.

Q: What is one thing that you would like everyone on campus to know about you?

A: I’m really interested in finding ways to collaborate and work with other areas on this campus. I see print and book arts as areas where there could be a lot of intersections between, say, the English department, or the library. Who knows what we could imagine or dream up? That’s one of the reasons I’m excited to be here: I see so much potential for what the printed image and what the book is capable of doing.

Professor Arielle Cooley, assistant professor of biology:

Arielle Cooley, assistant professor of biology

Q: What is one interesting professional experience you’ve had before coming to Whitman?

A: I took a year off in between college and graduate school. I went to a liberal arts college and I specialized as little as possible, so I wasn’t entirely sure after that if graduate school was what I wanted to do. I [worked] at a biological station in Costa Rica where I was the field assistant in a wet tropical rainforest reserve. I spent most of my year hiking around and making measurements on plants and trying not to fall in the mud. But it was really great; the data turned into a paper, so it was my first experience writing a scientific paper and I was working with a post-doc, so I got to see a little bit about what the post-doc research life was like. That year gave me some time to take a break from classes and think about biology and whether it was something I really wanted to pursue. I felt a lot better about going to grad school after having that time.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about this upcoming year?

A: This is a really fun year in a way because it’s a very creative year. It’s my first year of teaching classes, so I’m figuring everything out for the first time. I’m setting up my research lab and deciding how I want it to run and what kinds of scientific questions I want to be asking. I feel like maybe more than any other year in my past, this is really an open slate where I can decide what directions I want to go. I have two major activities. One is teaching, and that is a little more laid out for what I want to accomplish, but I’m still deciding how best to do that. Then, in the sciences we also run research labs. For that I have lots and lots of research ideas. So I’m thinking about which ones I want to do first, which ones I might want to invite students into the lab to start working on. It’s been really fun to consider all the possibilities and think about what I want to do, research-wise as well as teaching.

Q: What is one thing that you’d like everyone on campus to know about you?

A: I do biology because it’s a lot of fun and I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s interested in tackling those kinds of intellectual problems. Also, I enjoy salsa dancing and ballroom dancing, and if there was a little more of that on campus, that would be super fantastic.

Professor Erin Pahlke, assistant professor of psychology:

Erin Pahlke, assistant professor of psychology

 Q: What’s one interesting professional experience you’ve had before coming to Whitman College?

A: I did Teach for America, which I think is interesting to a lot of Whitman students because it ties in with a lot of people’s interests, either with regard to education or with social justice and wanting to get out and make a difference. I taught fourth grade in Washington D.C. public schools for two years after I graduated from college. The idea [behind Teach for America] is that you take people who aren’t necessarily interested in education or who aren’t necessarily interested in being teachers for the rest of their lives in a K-12 system, and you put them in schools [which are] some of the worst schools in the country, schools that are struggling to find quality teachers for their students. You get thrown in and see if you can work to make a difference in the kids’ lives. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but also incredibly fulfilling and thought-provoking. I did Teach for America for two years and then realized I’m really passionate about research. Psychology is [what addresses] some of these questions that I’m passionate about.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming year?

A: The opportunity to dig into research and theory related to psychology with students who are really excited about it is incredibly exciting. I’m looking forward to working with students on their own research projects and getting students who are interested in psychology research. I think that’s what’s exciting about Whitman: There are students here who really want to dig in and then apply what they learn to problems that they see in the world.

Q: What is one thing that you’d like everyone on campus to know about you?

A: I’m really interested in issues surrounding the way psychology helps to address issues in families and in educational settings, so if anyone else is interested in that I’d love to chat with them. Also, I love moose. I’ve gone on trips to try to find them in nature, I always stop to take pictures of moose caricatures and I keep funny moose videos on my computer to watch when life gets too stressful. Stop by if you want to see moose playing in the sprinklers––that’s a current favorite.

Professor Kristen Kosmas, assistant professor of theatre (email interview):

Kristen Kosmas, assistant professor of theatre

Q: What’s one interesting professional experience you’ve had before coming to Whitman?

A: This summer I got to spend a week in upstate New York working as a dramaturg on a performance called “Struck,” which is inspired by the experiences of one of the actors who’s making the piece. She had a stroke a couple of years ago and has some permanent brain damage as a result. The play is telling a fictionalized version of her story on the one hand, and on the other hand it’s looking at and describing how the brain functions. It’s great. There’s all this language from neuroscience in it, which is thrilling and mind-boggling to listen to. Also, I’ve never worked as a dramaturg before, and I’m finding it extremely rewarding.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about the coming year?

A: I’m honestly looking forward to all of it. I’m very excited at the moment about the Instant Play Festival, which is coming up in a couple of weeks on Sept. 22 & 23. The festival produces 14 brand new plays in a 48-hour period, which is pretty remarkable. And a little terrifying! And always a lot of fun.

Q: What’s one thing you’d like everyone on campus to know about you?

A: That I’m genuinely happy to be here. And that I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with such a wonderful staff, faculty and student body.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *