Meet the New Faces of MCAS

[aesop_parallax img=”” parallaxbg=”on” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”off” floater=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”none” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

Walking into his office on the fourth floor of Stokes Hall North, lined floor to ceiling with bookshelves holding everything from yellowed philosophy texts to brand-new paperbacks, one would never guess that Gregory Fried is a newcomer to Boston College. While Fried—who was born and raised in Cambridge, Mass., and earned his B.A. from Harvard University—is no stranger to Boston, he has only just started his second year as a full-time philosophy professor at BC. 

Fried’s interest in philosophy traces all the way back to his years as an undergraduate. He graduated from Harvard with a double major in philosophy and government and had a particular fascination with how the different fields of study intersected. Fried was intrigued by the deeper questions that motivated politics, and ultimately decided to pursue a Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Chicago.

“I found myself really deeply involved in ethical and political questions—in international politics, in national politics,” he said. “I wanted to dig down to the routes of different positions on that and be open to change my mind and develop my views, and philosophy was the avenue with which to do this.”

Since completing his Ph.D., Fried has taught at Boston University, California State University, Los Angeles, and Suffolk University before arriving at BC in 2018. 

“I’ve been at institutions where administration has been great, and I’ve been at institutions where the administration has been terrible,” he said. “It takes a lot of work to make changes and create new programming, and you want to know that your work is going to go somewhere.”

In regard to BC, however, Fried only has positive things to say. He’s inspired by the service-oriented aspect of the University, and speaks particularly highly of programs like PULSE—and the commitment to service that PULSE’s approaching 50th anniversary emphasizes. He also values BC’s core requirements and always wants to aim to teach some classes within the core, as he believes this to be an integral part of a liberal arts education. 

“The thing that’s very attractive about BC, especially as a Jesuit institution, is that I can be very confident that its principles are my principles,” Fried said. “A commitment to an outward looking sense of education. A commitment to an education that focuses on the whole student. These are things that are not going to change.”

In his own scholarly works, these same principles of looking outward and examining humanity as a whole can be seen in the way Fried examines the modern world through a contemporary lens, as well as one that looks as far back as the works of Aristotle and Plato. He is interested in practical philosophy, particularly that surrounding law, and a large focus of his studies surrounds the ideas of German philosopher Martin Heidegger. 

While Fried sees a clear connection between the work he studies and the material he teaches, he is adamant about the importance of allowing students to come to their own conclusions through analysis and critical thinking. He considers the average BC student to be both engaged academically and pragmatic about the future, and he strives to teach philosophy in such a way that serves both of these study skills for students.

As both a philosopher and a professor, Fried is not opposed to discussing his own views and research with students, but he acknowledges that this process can be a delicate one. 

“Students, at a certain point, want to know what you think,” he said. “You’re a professor, what do you profess? I always try to invite students into a dialogue, rather then letting them know that the only way they can succeed is to agree with me. That would be a disaster as far as I’m concerned.” 

With his first year at BC under his belt, Fried has undoubtedly avoided this “disaster.” He hopes to continue increasing programming—particularly that surrounding service learning—in the upcoming years, and mentioned his involvement in the attempt to possibly expand the PULSE program to include graduate students. 

And as for what he would change about his first year at BC? 

“The space-time continuum so I could have more time to do all the things I want,” Fried said. “More parking, maybe?”

[aesop_parallax img=”” parallaxbg=”on” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”off” floater=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”none” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

As students count down the days until they can return home to their families for Thanksgiving, Mark Behn keeps his eye on a different date in his calendar. In mid-November, he will travel with one of his postdoctoral students and a select group of professors from universities around the country to spend four weeks at sea to study a fault in the Pacific Ocean.

Before coming to Boston College, Behn worked with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a private nonprofit research facility, for 15 years. He said his transition from a full-time researcher to a professor at BC took away some of the stress that came with working for an organization like WHOI.

“At BC, what’s nice is that I don’t have to write as many [grant proposals], so I can write just the ones I really want to do, and then spend more time on those projects,” Behn said. “That was one of the largest motivations—being able to spend more time on specific projects.”

But just because his focus is not devoted solely to his next research project does not mean that Behn doesn’t have the opportunity to conduct field work.

For his upcoming excursion, the group of professors realized that the tectonic plates in a specific ocean fault in the Pacific Ocean shift regularly every six to seven years and cause undersea earthquakes. In this context, a fault is the location of fractures in the planet’s surface due to movement of tectonic plates. Behn and his researchers will guide instruments to the base of the fault, measure its activity, and collect rocks that form the seafloor to study their mechanical properties. Behn’s goal is to understand why the fault behaves so regularly, as these earthquakes consistently occur in this six- to seven-year timespan.

This niche interest and expertise in geology stemmed from Behn’s long-term appreciation for the outdoors and his opportunities as an undergrad student at Bates University in 1996.

He planned to major in physics and math, but the decision to take a geology class shifted his focus. Behn enjoyed the outdoors component of his labs and just continued to take more geology classes. His newfound interest in geology paired well with his studies in physics.

Next semester, Behn will teach an upper-level geophysics class. Last year, he taught Earth Processes and Risks, a core class that explores processes of tectonic plates and their effects on humans. He will teach the class in the spring semester as well.

“One of the great things about natural hazards is [that] there are a lot of great videos and graphics that go along with that,” Behn said. “So I would liven it up with things like that.”

This fall, Behn taught a class on quantitative methods, one of many earth systems classes offered by the environmental geosciences department. Behn said the class focuses on analyzing complex data sets. The material and organization of the class is well suited for Behn as it only lasts half a semester, so it won’t conflict with his upcoming research.

According to Behn, BC has been very supportive of his research. After the spring semester, Behn will travel to Greenland with one of his graduate students for a research project. He wrote the grant through BC.

“The goal in Greenland is to understand how surface melting … which is how water gets from the surface to the bed of the ice sheet,” Behn said. “What you can see is that as the melt water gets to the bed, it starts to affect the sliding of the ice … we are trying to track the movement of the ice and the vibrations we see.”

Behn works with all levels of students from the undergraduate underclassmen in his core classes through Ph.D. students.

“I enjoy teaching the different level classes … it’s nice to be connected to all levels of the University,” Behn said. “As I teach more and start to get to know more undergraduates, I am excited to get them involved in my research as well.”

[aesop_parallax img=”” parallaxbg=”on” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”off” floater=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”none” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

The trajectory of professor Xin Jin’s career prior to her arrival at Boston College in 2018 had taken her around the globe. But one thing that has remained constant throughout each location is her love of math as a discipline.

Jin grew up in Beijing, China, and graduated from college there when she was 22 years old. After earning her undergraduate degree in mathematics, Jin relocated to the United States, where she began graduate school at Northwestern University and completed the requirements for her M.A. degree. Before she completed the paperwork for it, however, she ended up following an adviser to University of California Berkeley to complete her Ph.D.

Prior to arriving at BC last year, Jin returned to Northwestern to teach mathematics. When she was offered a job at BC through a colleague and adviser who recommended the position to her, she decided to move to Boston—despite never having lived there before—because she was excited about the academic and intellectual opportunities the city offered.

While Jin’s specific interests in the math realm have developed over the years, she has never had any doubts about mathematics being the field she wished to pursue as a career. 

“I got interested in math very early in my life,” Jin said. “It was in the third grade, because I found I’m very good at it. And I know what I’m not good at.”

Jin’s interest in math focuses on the areas of symplectic geometry and representation theory, and, moving forward in her career at BC, she hopes to do more work using geometric techniques to investigate representation theory, which is a subset of mathematics that studies abstract algebraic structures. Beyond the purely technical side of mathematics, however, Jin views her career as a scholar as intrinsically connected to her career as a teacher. 

“There is a famous saying in China,” Jin said. “‘You always learn when you teach again something you are already familiar with.’ And I think I always learn from teaching and reviewing. That’s very beneficial.”

In her time at BC thus far, Jin has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and while she has enjoyed both experiences, she said that her style as a teacher differs vastly in each environment. Jin emphasised her appreciation for the smaller classes at the graduate level and expressed an interest in engaging in research with graduate students in the future. One thing that remains the same across all degrees, however, is Jin’s appreciation for the student body. 

“One thing I feel is very strong about Boston College is that the students here are very self-motivated,” Jin said. “More than even at some other top schools. And that’s something I’ve been very happy about here.”

For Jin, the teaching and study of the subject matter itself go hand in hand. Jin believes that the skills learned in math classes can benefit every student both in school and in life, and it’s one of her main goals as a professor to make her students come to this realization.

“The goal of studying math is not just to pursue a math major,” Jin said. “It’s a tool to communicate. Mathematics is a very important tool for you to pursue later goals. It could be computer science, or engineering, or developing medical imaging. Depending on your goals, math will be involved differently, but it’s necessary for almost anyone.”

Specifically, Jin advocates for the subject as being one of the best ways to learn how to problem-solve, both in and out of the classroom. She also thinks that math serves as physical proof that, with practice and dedication, abstract concepts and skills become much easier to understand. 

As for her future goals, Jin simply wishes to continue instilling her love of math in as many BC students as possible. 

“The reason I like math most is that it gives me a path to see the beauty of this world,” Jin said. “It might be different from other peoples’ approaches … but math is the way of seeing the world that I enjoy the most and am the most good at. And of course, I’d like to share my perspectives with students, and I want to encourage more people to see the beauty of math, too.” 

[aesop_parallax img=”” parallaxbg=”on” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”off” floater=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”none” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

Picture this: You’re 19 years old sitting in your dorm room staring at a textbook for a class that’s required for your major, realizing the topic doesn’t interest you in the slightest. Many college students have this moment of sheer panic, feeling as if they’re going through an early mid-life crisis. Though he’s now found a new home here at Boston College as an economics professor, Charles Murry can confidently say that he has been that conflicted 19-year-old.

Next semester, Murry is going to blend the athletic with the analytic in Economics of Sports, a class he plans to teach in the spring. In addition to teaching, Murry studies the organization of automarkets and the impact of market power on consumer welfare—fields he could’ve never conceived of as a freshman at the University of Delaware.

Murry began his undergraduate career as a political science major. It was through asking his professors questions after class that he had the realization that he might want to switch his major. One professor in particular, he said, told him that the questions he asked made him think he should start taking some economics classes. So, he decided that might be a smart idea.

After taking several economics classes during his undergraduate years and recognizing his passion for this area of study, Murry went to the University of Virginia for graduate school where he got his Ph.D. in economics. He landed a job at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C. There, he worked for two years as a research assistant. 

Following his years in D.C., Murry worked at Penn State University for four years as an assistant professor. Once BC reached out to him saying they were interested in hiring him, he visited to give a seminar and meet the rest of the department. After his first experience on the Heights, he started considering leaving his job at Penn State.

“One of the reasons why I moved is that I thought it’d be great to be colleagues of the other faculty in the department,” Murry said. “There’s a professor, Julie Mortimer, who does research that’s really close to mine. I thought it’d be great to have her as a mentor.”

The commonality in research that Murry and Mortimer share concerns a subfield of economics called industrial organization, which Murry says is closely linked to business economics. In particular, Murry and Mortimer are interested in antitrust issues, specifically those surrounding government intervention in the market.

After understanding the benefits of moving, particularly in regard to his career trajectory, Murry also thought about how the switch could positively affect his family. 

“I thought it might be nice for my family to live in a more urban area as opposed to Penn State, which is very rural,” Murry said. “So, we were excited to move to Boston for family reasons.”

Murry has been captivated by BC sports culture, especially the opportunity he has to relive his graduate school days through watching the Virginia Cavaliers on the court. Earlier this year, he took his family to BC football games as well, which he says is one of the most memorable moments he’s had on campus thus far.

Inside the classroom, Murry has noticed the disparities between Penn State’s class size where he last taught and BC’s more intimate feeling. This downsizing has made it easier to connect with his students on a more personal level.

“One thing that I’ve enjoyed is that the classes here at BC are smaller than a Penn State,” Murry said. “I think I’ve had more student one-on-one interaction, and I think the students have gotten to participate more in my classes. For example, in one of my classes, I was able to have the students do their own presentations. The classes at Penn State would never essentially allow for for that kind of interaction.”

While Murry gets a break from teaching this semester, he will teach Economics of Sports in the spring, which he taught at Penn State as well. Not only has his experience teaching this class given him insight on the sports world, but he appreciates such a class’ ability to engage his students in material.

“This may not come as a shock to anybody,” Murry said, “but people have this view of economics being a bit boring. The students in my sports econ classes are very excited to learn about the subject matter. I don’t have to convince these students that it’s interesting.”

In the future, Murry hopes that he can offer a new undergraduate class about antitrust in market power, exploring how firms and consumers interact in markets. Outside of the classroom, he says, he’d like to get tenure.

Currently, the research Murry has been conducting involves a network of co-authors and co-researchers from various universities spanning the country. Connecting more with the department in this aspect of work would be something he hopes he can accomplish during his time at BC. 

“That would be a goal,” Murry said, “to start working on projects with people in the department here at BC. That would be a lot of fun.”

[aesop_parallax img=”” parallaxbg=”on” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”off” floater=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”none” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

The creators of Instagram were undoubtedly successful in creating an app that required minimal brainpower to use. Scrolling mindlessly through the app provides insight into the lives of others that you didn’t even know you wanted. 

For Kristin Peterson, however, social media isn’t merely a convenient way to see what your friend from high school had for dinner last night. It’s a tool with the power to show us how our identity shapes our perception of the world and influences the changes we make in it. As a new professor teaching about the intersection of religion and media at Boston College, she hopes she can show students just how important that idea is. 

Within her first year and now into her second, Peterson’s courses have maintained a focus on the intersection between religion and media that she has valued greatly throughout her academic career. Her very first BC class was Religious Expression in the Digital Age, which focuses on how modern media, including podcasts, Instagram and blogs, offer new opportunities for religious connections. The following semester, she taught Mass Communication Ethics, which is structured around journalism, public relations, marketing, advertising, and entertainment media. This semester, Peterson is teaching Seeing God, Hearing Ghost: Spirituality in US Media.

Like many seeking a position in academia, Peterson cast a very wide net in the sea of jobs offered for professors in her field of communication. The values behind BC’s Jesuit Catholic education, she said, were particularly alluring in her decision to choose BC.

“I really appreciated the emphasis on teaching the whole student versus just focusing on content and grades,” Peterson said.

Not only has BC allowed Peterson to focus on her academic interests through her course materials, but she has also been able to conduct research as well. She is currently working on a book project, which is allowing her to expand her research to think about the intersections between media and religious identity, as well as gender, sexuality, and political activism. 

After completing her undergraduate studies in journalism and photography at Dominican University, Peterson worked in public relations and communication for three years at her alma mater. From there, she worked at Chicago Catholic, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago, where she gained experience in journalism, interviewing, and reporting which enhanced her involvement in media. While this job allowed her to follow her interests in both religion and media, Peterson decided she needed a change.

Peterson determined that she wanted to go back to school, studying at the University of Colorado with the intention of examining the role of religion, particularly in the United States. It was here that she explored the University’s research center that focused on both religion and media. Ultimately, she got her master’s in religious studies, specifically concentrating on American religions. Although this combination of communication and religion correlated to her passion in those two fields, something was still missing.

“I found that media communication was more in my theoretical approach to things because I’d much rather go out, talk to people, and observe, rather than sitting and doing more theory and philosophy,” she said.

Peterson’s interest in the media and communication side of religion encouraged her to apply to the Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado. Upon getting accepted and subsequently pursuing her Ph.D., Peterson understood how perfect this combination of religious studies with communication and media studies was for her. She credits her experiences at Colorado as the reason why she is where she is now.

“A lot of my work is thinking about the way that young people engage with digital media as part of their understanding of their identity, particularly in relation to religion,” she said. 

Before coming to BC, Peterson conducted her dissertation research on Muslim Americans and looked at the way that they use things like photos, videos, and fashion in digital spaces. After the shooting of three Muslim students at Chapel Hill, N.C., in 2015, for example, she conducted research on the dissemination of media content and the importance of the use of hashtags responding to the tragedy.

Peterson’s interest in and knowledge surrounding the crossroads of media and religion guides her through her next chapter in life at BC. She hopes to focus on the way young people of religious backgrounds use media to reform and change in political and religious institutions.

“One of my goals in the classes that I teach is to really make students aware and more literate and understanding of religious diversity, and also the influence that religion has in American political life or culture,” Peterson said.

[aesop_parallax img=”” parallaxbg=”on” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”off” floater=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”none” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

Physics students and professors can be divided into two distinct categories. Those who hear the word “physics” and are excited by exploring how the universe behaves at a scientific level, and those who would rather walk up the Million Dollar Stairs in the dead of winter for three days straight. Brian Zhou, who was hired in 2018 by Boston College to both teach and conduct research, undeniably finds himself in that first category.

Throughout his academic and professional career, Zhou has focused his research on quantum physics. He spent six years at Princeton University, where he worked on turning high resolution images of the surfaces of materials down to the atomic level. At the University of Chicago, Zhou completely switched gears, studying the defect centers in diamonds for four years. These defect centers, Zhou explained, act as a quantum bit that have the ability to be manipulated by electromagnetic fields. It was in this particular area of expertise that Zhou decided to start a research program and teach in the fall of 2018.

“The reason I wanted to come to this department is because it is extremely strong in material science and condensed matter, which can form a lot of collaborations with my line of work in quantum physics,” Zhou said.

Though Zhou’s specialty doesn’t necessarily lie in material science, he looks forward to being able to work with the materials science core. These collaborations will revolve around a new tool Zhou has utilized that can probe materials with quantum bits. Before he could do much work in the lab, however, Zhou had a new challenge on his hands: becoming a professor for the very first time.

For his first class during the 2018-19 school year, Zhou taught a graduate seminar that focused on current scientific topics and research. While the class was filled with graduate students pursuing a career in the field of science, the 2019-20 school year brought Zhou yet another challenge that ventured beyond the complex world of quantum systems—teaching the Foundation of Physics, an introductory physics class for students who aren’t aiming for a career in science.

Going from from teaching a graduate level science course to an introductory course in the span of just two years has been a world of two extremes for Zhou.

“I think it’s helped me learn how to communicate science better, to try to figure out what gets people excited about science,” Zhou said.

When he’s not in the classroom, Zhou spends time in his recently opened Higgins Hall lab conducting research. Finished in early 2019, the lab is where he and his fellow colleagues have begun collecting preliminary data that will lay the groundwork for future efforts. Zhou is interested in looking at the interaction of quantum systems with electromagnetic fields, and how different classical concepts translate into the quantum world. From there, he will determine how that can be useful for technologies, such as magnetic sensing. 

Beyond his personal research in quantum physics, Zhou sees a bigger picture as a byproduct of his work both in the classroom and in the lab. 

“We try to explore questions that have never been asked before and we really want to push the boundaries of knowledge and experimental control over quantum systems,” Zhou said. “In the classroom, I hope to make positive impacts on students, and hopefully, even if they don’t become physicists, they can at least support physics and have a better understanding of why it’s important and relevant to society, technology, and progress.”

[aesop_parallax img=”” parallaxbg=”on” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”off” floater=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”none” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

From his perch on the third floor of McGuinn Hall, with a floor-to-ceiling window illuminating the room with natural light, Stefano Anzellotti works through the intricacies of why and how we recognize our roommate’s voice when they enter the room. 

A Harvard University Ph.D. graduate and one of the newest members of Boston College’s psychology department, Anzellotti brings passion and purpose to his studies of person knowledge.

Person knowledge focuses on phenomena like how humans are able to identify each other and process the meaning of a facial expression. Together, they work toward a larger understanding of how humans perceive each other. 

“We look at how people understand each other. How people recognize each other’s voices and facial expressions,” he said.

Originally from Italy, Anzellotti identified his interest in science early on. He explained that in Italy many of the public schools guide students into a vocational track when they enter high school. By immersing himself in the science track offered by his school, Anzellotti developed his interest in psychology. He went on to study mathematics at the University of Trento in Italy.

After graduation from the University of Trento in 2008, he came to Boston to receive his M.A. in psychology later that same year. He has been living in the United States since, and he received his Ph.D. from Harvard in psychology in 2014.

Anzellotti said he is excited to be back in Boston, where so many other top universities are researching topics related to his own field of interest. More specifically, his attraction to BC had part to do with the other professors in the psychology department who he is now able to collaborate with. He said the young and engaging environment in his department inspires aspects of his own research on person knowledge.

“He’s amazing. He’s one of the most generous people with his time and intellectual resources, and he’s an amazing mentor,” said Liane Young, a Psychology Professor who Anzellotti works with in the morality lab. They also work together on research about how people update their moral judgements of other people.

“If you’re good friends with someone, and you see them take money out a tip jar, you could update your judgment of your friend and think that they’re a thief, or you could try to resist that updating,” Young said. “ … So we are interested to see when people update their judgement of people they know versus when they resist that kind of updating.”

This type of work plays into Anzellotti’s field of knowledge, as it has to do a lot with how people process other’s actions.

His expertise in the field translates well into his classes, Cognitive and Neural Bases of Person Knowledge, Research Practicum in Computational Methods, and Advanced Topics in Social Neuroscience.

In Cognitive and Neural Bases of Person Knowledge, Anzellotti breaks down how humans make inferences and assumptions about other peoples’ goals and emotions. 

Anzellotti said the field, in general, is in its early stages, which he finds exciting. It also means his classes work with very recent data and research.

With his up-and-coming field of study, new technology is advancing the capabilities of understanding person knowledge. Artificial intelligence can be used to see how the brain responds to different stimuli.

“We can now integrate artificial intelligence to study how the brain works,” Anzellotti said.

[aesop_parallax img=”” parallaxbg=”on” captionposition=”bottom-left” lightbox=”off” floater=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”none” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

Unlike the finance student who secures their job at UBS after a summer internship, or the pre-med student who is bogged down by the collection of biology textbooks that weighs more than them, Jane Cassidy’s calling to pursue art as her career came to her while she was caught up in the festivities of a Chemical Brothers concert.

Cassidy took a very nonlinear path to be a multidisciplinary art professor at Boston College. Growing up in Galway, Ireland, Cassidy said that up until her 20s, she was unsure of what she wanted to do professionally. Now, she can trace her transition to visual art back to her initial interest in music.

She remembers MTV’s influence on her when she was younger, and went on to study music as an undergrad at Trinity College Dublin. But she never wanted to be confined to the technical aspect of music composition—she loved music videos and when live bands played on TV. As her studies in music developed, she began to think about her work synesthetically. 

“I wanted to visualize the music I was writing,” Cassidy said. “It would be like pairing colors and textures with sound. … it’s like two senses are intertwined, so I wanted to do [both] visuals and sound.”

She was surrounded by inspiration in Dublin in the early 2000s, where there was a large dance and music scene. Cassidy said that all types of music performances from large festivals to lo-fi basement shows integrated visuals and digital graphics with the music. 

Cassidy first moved to New York City and then New Orleans to receive her M.F.A. degree in digital art from Tulane University. She then worked as an assistant professor at the University of Alabama.

Because BC is so much smaller than Alabama, Cassidy said communication within her department is much easier. Beyond the more profound connection with colleagues and superiors, BC’s smaller class sizes play in favor of Cassidy’s hands-on teaching technique.

Cassidy teaches Introduction to Digital Media and Animation. Both classes utilize computer programs, such as those on the Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe After Effects, to create visual art. In these digital art classes, where everyone is working at a computer, it’s much easier for her to get from student to student and answer individual questions.

But her students aren’t bound to their desktops. Cassidy applies her creativity to projects that get students out of the computer lab and apply their learning through collaboration. For example, in the Advanced Printmaking class she taught last year, her students studied the stained glass in Burns Library and used it as the basis for a project they later completed in the Carney student gallery. 

“We blacked out all the windows, and [on] the ones we didn’t, students made stained glass printed onto transparent plastic. They printed them exactly to scale of the window panes, and it looked fantastic,” Cassidy said.

It was a last-minute project with great results, which reflects Cassidy’s flexible teaching style. When inspiration strikes, Cassidy is unafraid to diverge from her syllabus given the right conditions.

“I like to be malleable, and I feel like I am very open with students about that. … If a cool opportunity for a project comes up, it is well worth it,” Cassidy said.

When she’s not teaching, Cassidy stays busy by taking on personal projects within the BC community. One example is that she’s currently taking the initiative to set up an animation studio in the art department. In Devlin Hall, there’s a small office space that she hopes to convert to an animation and sound studio where one student can work at a time. 

Her upcoming project, BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) starts on Nov. 7 at the McMullen Art Museum. The beamer pun refers to students’ invitation to bring a projector to McMullen Art Museum and project their own work on all the walls.

Three months into her second year on campus, she now wants to introduce more collaborative projects where students can share their work and create relationships with each other.

“A lot of my own practice and the artwork I make are on collaborative projects … bigger projects where you work with other artists and share ideas,” Cassidy said.

Cassidy said that, even after years of studying creative fields, identifying as an artist felt unnatural at first. It was not until 2011, when Cassidy immersed herself in a two-month residency with Art Farm in rural Nebraska that she completely dedicated her career to art. Creating art full-time for two months gave her the courage to define herself as an artist.

“By then, it felt really natural,” she said. “Up until then, I would have just called myself a messer, I was just messing around. … Parts felt really accidental, but it felt really good when the parts fell into place.” 

NOTE: Eight of the nine new MCAS faculty members who were hired the start of the 2018-19 academic year were included in this story. English Professor Allison Curseen declined The Heights’ interview request.


Featured Images by Molly Bankert, Mason LaFerney, Leo Wang / For the Heights, Kayla Brandt / Heights Staff, Ikram Ali, Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

Chloe Pingeon, Maddie Phelps, Phoebe Drummond

Learn More →