Joining the College Heights community this fall, Albright’s newest teaching faculty span eight different campus departments and include an artist in residence and multiple scholar-authors. Their areas of interest range from bee conservation to sustainable fashion to virtual reality to African Bible studies, and more. Read on to learn more about Albright College’s newest faculty members.
Simóne J. Banks, M.F.A., assistant professor of English
Simóne J. Banks is a Pennsylvania native joining the Albright College community from Louisiana State University. She loves watching movies, traveling and Taco Tuesday. Banks is a writer and poet currently working on her debut collection, and she looks forward to reading and shaping the works of her students. She will join us in developing Albright’s creative writing program.
Bethanne Bruninga-Socolar, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology
Bethanne Bruninga-Socolar’s academic work explores the relationship between plants and bees. On a small scale, she is interested in how the spatial arrangement of flowering plants affects foraging decisions made by bees and how bee foraging decisions affect plant reproduction. On a larger scale, she studies how habitat restoration and habitat management (such as prescribed fire, grazing by large herbivores, and mowing) impact bee diversity and conservation. When she’s not busy with bees, Bruninga-Socolar is an avid reader, and she spends a lot of time outdoors with her family canoeing, hiking, camping, and taking blurry photos of bugs and moss.
Matthew S. Bieber, M.B.A., assistant professor of business: marketing
Matthew Bieber is a marketing consultant, researcher, and educator who strongly believes in the power of analytics, research and quality content. Bieber’s mission is to help each student develop the critical thinking, analytical and digital skills required to thrive in a complex, ever evolving, diverse world. Prior to joining Albright, Bieber taught at Alvernia, Penn State Schuylkill and Wilmington University. Bieber has nearly 20 combined years of experience in B2B and B2C marketing, specializing in the digital space. Prior to working in higher education, Bieber was employed in various B2B marketing and leadership roles. During his B2B career, Bieber worked with big-box retailers such as Walmart and The Home Depot, several large OEM manufacturers, and even a startup featured on Shark Tank. He currently works as an independent consultant offering digital content strategy, social media strategy and LinkedIn training. Bieber holds a BBA and MBA from Wilkes University. He is currently pursuing his doctorate at Wilmington University. His research interests include digital marketing strategy, digital transformation and innovation in digital marketing curricula.
Valentin Callet, M.A., visiting instructor of French
Valentin Callet holds a master’s degree in cultural studies of the English-speaking world with a focus on American history and literature from the University of Aix-Marseille. He is thrilled to take on the role of French instructor and looks forward to sharing information about French-speaking cultures. He has been involved in the improvement of learning and studying conditions for local and international students over the past six years, and most recently was named the CIVIS cultural ambassador for the University of Aix-Marseille, representing a European alliance of 10 universities to promote youth exchanges and short-term coursework and internships. Callet has benefitted from several enriching experiences abroad, including an Erasmus+ exchange at the University of Edinburgh in 2017-2018, and he worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Western Ontario in 2019-2020. In his free time, Callet enjoys going to the gym, hiking, biking, catching up with friends and reading novels. He has always been enthusiastic about traveling the world and learning foreign languages to continue to develop his network of international buddies.
Scott DeLoach, Ph.D., lecturer of English
Scott DeLoach has been teaching college writing since 2012. Originally from California, DeLoach earned his doctorate in composition and applied linguistics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2021. His dissertation examines the experiences of first-year, first-generation college students during the initial weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition to composition studies, DeLoach’s teaching is also informed by genre theory as well as the intersection of writing courses and campus writing centers.
Maria Escobar, assistant professor of sociology
A first-generation Latina college graduate, Maria Escobar is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of California, Merced. Inspired by her experiences growing up in a Mexican immigrant family in northwest Arkansas, Escobar’s qualitative research examines how race and ethnicity, location and legal status interact with one another to shape Hispanic young adults’ sense of belonging in the U.S. south. Committed to making higher education more accessible and equitable, Escobar works to foster the sense of belonging for all her students inside and outside the classroom.
Silvia García Viera, M.A., visiting instructor of Spanish
Silvia García Viera is a language and travel enthusiast who realized she had a passion for learning languages at a young age. She completed a double degree in English studies and linguistics and applied languages at the Universidad de Cádiz, her home city. She also had the opportunity to enhance her education by participating in exchange programs in both Spain and Germany. After that, she obtained a master’s degree in applied linguistics and language acquisition in multilingual contexts at the Universitat de Barcelona. Since then, she has lived in Barcelona for five years, working as an English teacher and academic coordinator. She has also taught Spanish in Ireland, which motivated her to gain even further experience teaching her mother tongue. In her free time, García Viera loves learning new languages, going to the movies and spending time in nature.
Joe Hocker, MFA, instructor of art
Joe Hocker received his BFA from University of the Arts, Philadelphia, and his MFA from Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is also held in public and private collections. He has taught at Temple University, The University of the Arts, Tyler School of Art, Delaware County Community College, Arcadia University, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design and Delaware College of Art and Design.
Dave Kaul graduated from Syracuse University in 1993 with a B.F.A. in computer graphics, and earned an M.F.A. in media art from The Ohio State University in 1995. His interest in computer graphics began at age 12 when Kaul wrote his first computer adventure game on a Radio Shack computer, leading him to a life of computer art. He taught visual effects at the Savannah College of Art and Design for 20 years, taking students on trips to Pixar, Dreamworks and Sony Imageworks. He has interned at George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, worked at Oscar-winning MetroLight Studios, animated and designed at Fisher-Price and most recently worked as a professor of Visual Arts at Florida A&M University. Kaul worked on a Dodge commercial that premiered at the 1995 Super Bowl, and was a key designer on the Mask CD-ROM. Kaul was also a digital product designer and has many Fisher-Price toys to his credit, including the popular All-in-One adventure series. Kaul has lectured in Taiwan and is a Siggraph contributor and an award-winning animator. He is also a certified instructor in Autodesk Maya. His current interests include gaming and virtual/augmented reality.
Felix Knufinke, M.A., visiting instructor of German
Felix Knufinke has earned a master’s degree of secondary education in Germany and is now fulfilling his dream of working abroad. After teaching elementary school children for the past two years, he is eager to work with adult students. Although Knufinke was born in Bavaria, he has lived the majority of his life between the oceans of northern Germany. Apart from English, Knufinke has studied sports and looks forward to entering the world of American sports culture. He loves singing classical music but prefers to dance to electronic music, which he also plays while DJ-ing. In class, Knufinke’s goal is to foster an interactive environment, make language learning feel easy and get students to pronounce “krabbenbrötchen” correctly.
Andrew M. Mbuvi, Ph.D., visiting associate professor of religious studies and NEH chair
Andrew M. Mbuvi most recently held a faculty position within UNC-Greensboro’s religious studies and African and African diaspora studies programs. Before that, he was an associate professor at Shaw University (the oldest HBCU in the south) in Raleigh, N.C. Trained as a biblical scholar, Mbuvi’s scholarship has broadened to include a multidisciplinary body of work, which is reflected in his course offerings and numerous publications on biblical studies, postcolonial biblical interpretation, African and African American biblical hermeneutics, African American religious traditions, race and religion, literature and religion, and social science and the Bible. His forthcoming volume titled “African Biblical Studies: Unmasking of Embedded Racism and Colonialism in Biblical Studies” (Continuum, 2022) is the first book-length volume on this emerging discipline, and it is a searing critique of Western biblical studies with its enduring racial and colonial underpinnings. Mbuvi’s pedagogical background of over 25 years in higher education is richly cross-cultural and international, including teaching experiences in his native Kenya, South Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire.
Laura McBride, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry
Laura McBride is an environmental chemist and climatologist who earned her doctorate in chemistry at the University of Maryland, and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry at Moravian College. Her research focuses on modeling projected global temperature change due to human activity using reduced complexity climate models, analyzing the recovery of the ozone layer and examining local air quality. McBride is part of the international Reduced Complexity Model Intercomparison Project, and she serves as a member of the co-author team for the 2018 and 2022 updates of the “World Meteorological Organization’s Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: Twenty Questions and Answers About the Ozone Layer.” She was a member of Moravian College’s civil society observer delegation for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of the Parties in 2015, where the Paris Agreement was negotiated by over 195 nations. McBride has taught global climate change and general chemistry at the University of Maryland. She will employ active learning and evidence-based teaching strategies in her classes at Albright, which she learned through extensive training as a graduate assistance in areas of national need fellow and member of the Inclusive STEM Teaching Project.
Liz Polley, M.F.A. ’07, assistant professor of theatre
Liz Polley ’07 received her Master of Fine Arts in costume design and technology in 2010 from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music after earning her Bachelor of Arts in theatre and fashion in 2007 from Albright College. Most recently, Polley worked as costume shop manager and adjunct professor for Kean University’s Kean Theatre Conservatory and their theatre company, Premiere Stages. Prior to this, she worked as a visiting assistant professor of costume technology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Polley has also worked at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, South Texas College, the Phoenix Theatre Company, the Shakespeare Theatre, the Glimmerglass Festival and Surflight Theatre. Selected costume designs include “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime,” “Buyer & Cellar,” “Cinderella,” “Peter Pan” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Highlights from Liz’s professional wardrobe career include the concerts of Taylor Swift, Pink, Justin Bieber, Paula Abdul and Ariana Grande. She has also been integral to national tours for “Kinky Boots,” “Dirty Dancing,” “Jersey Boys,” “Spamalot,” “West Side Story,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Cats” and “Ragtime.”
Dominic Polo Nanni, M.A., instructor of English
Dominic Polo Nanni comes to Albright from Grand Valley State University, where he most recently served as visiting professor of writing. He also taught writing and rhetoric at Wayne State University, where he studied classical rhetoric, political philosophy and Dante. A current doctoral candidate, Nanni is extremely proud to complete all of his degrees at Wayne State University. After finishing his dissertation, study and commentary on Isocrates’ “Against the Sophists,” he plans to begin his first book, which will be a collection of essays on the relationship between rhetoric and liberal education in democratic society. Nanni is also thrilled to offer coffee to his students during office hours, a tradition set by his Italian professor.
Jen Rock, M.F.A., assistant professor of theatre
Jen Rock is a native Pennsylvanian who is thrilled to be returning home after two decades of working throughout the United States as a lighting designer and technician for theatre, events and live entertainment. Rock graduated from Susquehanna University with a Bachelor of Arts in theatre arts in 2001 and earned a Master of Fine Arts in theatrical lighting design from the University of Connecticut in 2009. Her design credits include work with professional and academic companies in the northeast, the Midwest and New York City, and she is the recipient of two Elliot Norton Awards for her lighting design work in Boston. Additionally, Rock has been employed with Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Glimmerglass Opera and High Output, Inc., and she has served as a faculty member for Eastern Connecticut State University and Western Michigan University.
Derrick L. Thompson, Ed.D., director of choral activities
Derrick L. Thompson is a native of Madison Heights, Virginia. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in vocal music education from Lynchburg College, a Master of Arts in music from Morgan State University, a Master of Music in choral conducting from Messiah University, and a Master of Education in music and music education as well as a Doctor of Education in the college teaching of music and music education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Thompson’s research interests include development of the young singing voice, communication in the choral rehearsal, and teaching methodologies for the choral and applied voice setting. His most recent publications can be found in “ChorTeach: Practical Teaching Ideas for Today’s Music Educator.” Thompson has taught in the Virginia school system and has served as an adjunct faculty member at Lynchburg College and Teachers College, Columbia University and as director of choral activities, music program director and assistant professor of music at Delaware State University. He serves as a guest conductor and clinician for numerous district, county and all-state choral performances. Thompson also serves on the board of the Delaware chapter of the American Choral Directors Association as chair of Diversity Initiatives and president-elect.
Kaitlin Tonti, Ph.D., lecturer of English
Born and raised near the New Jersey shore, Kaitlin Tonti obtained a doctorate in literature and criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and has spent the last ten years teaching a variety of first-year composition and literature courses. Although she teaches writing, Tonti’s area of expertise is in early American literature, specifically women’s multicultural life writing between 1750-1815. She has been published in multiple journals, most recently “Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture,” and she has worked to create new writing curriculums at several other institutions. Currently, Tonti is interested in the way digital humanity tools are used in the writing classroom and to what extent archival studies are applicable in teaching genre writing. Her teaching goal is to encourage students to feel confident in their writing and help them transfer their skills to other classes. In her spare time, Tonti loves watching way too much TV, reading, exercise and doing art.
Elizabeth Quinn, M.S., assistant professor of fashion
A Philadelphia-based designer with over 15 years of corporate experience as both a merchant and a designer, Quinn has been teaching sustainable fashion design since 2018 at Drexel University and the University of Delaware. Her knowledge of industry and her understanding of intersectional approaches to design come together in the courses she teaches, including global issues and responsible practice in design, sustainable sportswear, textile science and material innovation in accessories. In collaboration with a colleague, Quinn co-authored a recent paper entitled “Transforming Fashion Education by the Evolution of Design & Merchandising Education,” which they first presented at the Sustainable Innovation 2021 conference and later published in the Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice. In April 2022, Quinn first presented her research on bio-based and biodegradable materials, entitled “Material Innovation and the Impermanence of Fashion,” at Drexel University’s Climate Year Global Research Symposium. This research has led to features in Maake Magazine and The Ecological Citizen as well as a Beyond Plastic “Most Beautiful Design” nomination. Quinn also holds the position of Director of Impact at Grant Blvd, a sustainable apparel brand focused on training women in underserved communities for jobs in the fashion industry.