FIT Welcomes 22 New Faculty Members at Fall 2018 Convocation

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At FIT’s fall 2018 convocation, the college welcomed 22 new full-time classroom and non-classroom faculty members. This large group reflects President Joyce F. Brown’s commitment to expanding the full-time faculty with those who have the skills and expertise to educate students for the future—one of FIT’s strategic goals.

Read below to meet the college’s newest educators.

School of Art and Design

Nicole Benefield, Fashion Design/Apparel, comes to FIT with more than 20 years of industry experience as a successful creative designer, design director, and consultant, primarily in the lifestyle branded sportswear, denim, and casual/athleisure areas. Her most recent position was as a design consultant with Banana Republic. Benefield holds a BFA degree in fashion design from Parsons.

Su Ku, Fashion Design/Artis an alumna of FIT, with an AAS in Fashion Design. She also holds a BFA from Yale, as well as two MA degrees, one from Harvard and the other from Columbia University. She has a total of 13 years of industry experience as a designer, design director, and associate designer at large well-known companies, and has earned numerous awards for her work, including an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities and the Outstanding Design Team at Liz Claiborne Award.     

Suzanne Lettieri, Interior Design, joins FIT from her previous position as a Michigan-Mellon Design Fellow at the University of Michigan. Lettieri brings a strong interest in interdepartmental, cross-disciplinary, and community-based collaborations that reflect thoughtful and novel teaching strategies focused on understanding of the broader social, cultural, economic, scientific, and technological forces of our times. Lettieri holds a master’s in architecture from Cornell University and a BFA in Interior Design from FIT.

Marie Lorenz, Fine Arts/Printmaking, has an extensive exhibition record as a solo artist and as a participant in numerous and varied group shows and exhibitions in prestigious venues in New York and throughout the United States and Europe. Lorenz holds an MFA in sculpture from the Yale School of Art and a BFA in printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design, and has  pursued additional study at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, in Skowhegan, Maine.

Tom Scott, Fashion Design/Apparel, is a versatile designer of knitwear, sportswear, women’s wear, menswear, and accessories, who has extensive experience as a business entrepreneur and consultant. He has been a member of the adjunct faculty at FIT, and was one of 12 designers selected for the CFDA Fashion Incubator in 2010. Scott holds a BS in textile design from the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.   

Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology

Preeti Ayra, Textile Development and Marketing, has held full-time faculty positions at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Troy, Mich., and at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Bhopal, India. She has also been a doctoral fellow at Eastern Michigan University, an adjunct faculty member at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Mich., and a visiting professor at Wayne State University. She holds a PhD in technology from Eastern Michigan University, and a Master of Science and Bachelor of Science in clothing and textiles from Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, India.

Robin Baxter, Fashion Business Management, has been an adjunct instructor and faculty advisor in Fashion Business Management since fall 2013, and spent this past year launching and leading FIT’s new Fashion Business Management program at SUNY Korea. Baxter has taught at LIM and at Parsons, and has held executive positions with various retailers in Chicago, Atlanta, and in New Jersey, in the areas of sales, merchandising, design and corporate leadership. She holds an MPA from Rutgers University and a BA from Northwestern University.

Sonja Chapman, International Trade and Marketing, has served for a number of years as an adjunct faculty member at FIT, and has also built an extensive career as a fashion supply chain strategist, serving as the director of international traffic and customs compliance at Golden Touch Imports. Her global experience includes teaching in Moscow and Bangkok, and she was recently appointed to the executive committee of the Cotton Board as treasurer, which puts her in line to serve the organization as secretary, vice chair, and ultimately chairperson. Chapman holds a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from CUNY, and earned her Customs Broker License in 1990. She is pursuing an MS in the business of fashion at Rutgers University.

Imran Islam, Textile Development and Marketingcomes to FIT from his previous position as assistant professor in the department of design and retailing at Framingham University in Massachusetts. He has worked in the apparel industry in a variety of positions, and has published in the Journal of Fibers and Polymers, the International Journal of Innovation & Development Strategy, and others. Islam holds a PhD from Kansas State University, an MBA from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, a Master of Science and Master of Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, and a BS from the College of Textile Technology, Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

Jennifer Lee, Fashion Business Management, comes to FIT from her most recent position as a faculty member at Montclair State University. She has held several executive positions in industry, including eight years at Samsung in marketing, merchandising, and design, including work as a task force manager responsible for ERP and PLM systems, while based in Seoul. Lee earned her PhD in apparel design from Iowa State University, along with an MBA in marketing from the University of Houston, and a BS in Fashion Merchandising Management from FIT.   

School of Liberal Arts

Nada Ayad, English and Communication Studies/World Literaturecomes to FIT from a postdoctoral fellowship at Cooper Union, and has previously taught at the University of Southern California, Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris, Orange Coast College, and Fullerton College. She has an extensive background in non-Western Arabic and Anglophone literatures, and has spent her career discovering both the historical and present-day context of political agency, revolution, and activism within the realms of Arabic women studies, race, gender, sexuality, post­-colonial, and Middle Eastern literary studies. Ayad holds a BA in American literature, along with an MA and a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Southern California, as well as an MA in 20th-century English literature from Leeds University.

Deborah Berhanu, Science and Mathematics/Material Scienceis an expert in inorganic chemistry. She has an extensive background in environmental research and education, with previous work as an associate researcher with the American Museum of Natural History, and as a research assistant at the Natural History Museum and Imperial College in London. She comes to FIT from Kingsboro Community College, where she has been on the faculty in chemistry since 2013. She holds a PhD in inorganic chemistry from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, and a  BSc from the Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, in France.

Maria Hwang, Science and Mathematics/Computer Science, has expertise in instructional technology and media, cognitive studies, and neuroscience, and has a strong interest in game development. She taught previously at Geumgang University in South Korea, and comes to FIT from Columbia University Medical Center, where she explored human-computer interaction and emerging technologies in the health field. Hwang was a post-doctoral associate researcher at Columbia University Medical Center, and she holds an EdD in instructional technology and media and an MA in cognitive studies, also from Columbia University. She also holds Bachelor of Arts degrees from Wesleyan University in neuroscience and behavior and East Asian studies.

Joshua Koury, Film and Media, is an accomplished director, producer, and educator, with impressive and extensive industry experience and accomplishment in original documentary filmmaking. His timely and inspiring projects have premiered at some of today’s most prominent film venues, including SXSW, the Sundance Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, and IFC Cinema. Currently an adjunct instructor at FIT, he was previously a faculty member at Pratt Institute. Koury holds an MFA in film from the Vermont College of Fine Art, and a BFA in film and video from Pratt.

Alexander Nagel, History of Art/Near Eastern Art History, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from his previous work at the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution. In addition to his scholarly pursuits and his field work in Greece and Iran, he has undertaken numerous collaborations with organizations such as the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Nagel holds a PhD in classical art and archaeology from the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor and an MA in ancient history and classical archaeology from Humboldt University in Berlin.

Evelyn Rynkiewicz, Science and Mathematics/Ecology, is a trained community and disease ecologist, who brings an inquiry-based learning style that will allow students to further build on important scientific foundations while exploring the world of immunology, disease epidemic, and climate change, and how they all tie together with current issues. She has taught at Columbia University and at the National Science Foundation at the University of Edinburgh. Rynkiewicz holds a PhD from the Indiana University and a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kasra Sardashti, Science and Mathematics/Materials Science, brings a strong focus on sustainability in advanced materials and processes, along with a research background in solar cells and solar energy. He has mentored and taught students at Duke University, the University of California, and Tehran Polytechnic, and his findings have been published in peer reviewed journals and presented at professional conferences. Sardashti holds a PhD in materials science from the University of California–San Diego, an MSc in advanced materials and processes from Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen–Nuremberg, Germany, and a BS in materials engineering from Tehran Polytechnic in Iran.

School of Graduate Studies

Meg Joseph, Global Fashion Managementhas previously been an adjunct instructor in FIT’s Global Fashion Management program, and has also taught at Baruch College, LIM, Westchester Community College, and the University of California–San Diego. Earlier in her career, she had appointments in sales at Lord & Taylor, and in global advertising at the Coca-Cola Company. She holds an MBA in marketing and the management of information, communication, and media from Columbia University, and a BA in French civilization from Brown University. She has also completed doctoral coursework in organization management at Baruch College.

Brendan Leach, Associate Chair, Illustration MFA, joined FIT in a full-time capacity in January 2018. Leach began at FIT in 2013, as an adjunct instructor and thesis advisor in the Illustration MFA program. His professional accomplishments include invited guest lectures, panels, and discussions, published graphic novels, contributions to comics anthologies, gallery exhibitions, and presentations at festivals and exhibitions. Leach holds an MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts and a BFA in visual arts from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

Full-time Non-classroom Faculty Members

Frantz Alcindor, Director, Career and Internship Services, has extensive experience in student services that includes serving as the program manager of the entrepreneurial technology apprenticeship program at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, where he directed the career and internship placement program for science and business students. Alcindor has also served in two key student services roles at the City University of New York (CUNY), as the director of new student advisement at Hostos Community College, and most recently as the director of academic advisement at Queensborough. Alcindor holds an MS in human resources development from the University of Scranton, and a BA in political and economic philosophy from Wheeling Jesuit University.    

Christie Graziano, Associate Director of Leadership and Civic Engagement, Student Life, joins FIT from Stevens Institute of Technology, where she served as the director of Pre-College Programs, overseeing academic and social enrichment programs for high school students. Previously, she worked for John Jay College in the Student Transition Programs Office, managing major student events, including new student orientation, commencement, Weeks of Welcome, convocation, family weekend, and the Peer Ambassador Leadership Program. Graziano holds a BA in communications and marketing from Loyola University, MD., and an MSEd in higher education administration from Baruch College.

Jessica Mooney, Career Counselor, Career and Internship Services, comes to FIT from John Jay College at CUNY, where she served as assistant director of career advising and externships in the master’s program in the department of psychology. She also taught for several semesters as an adjunct instructor in FIT’s Internship Studies program. Mooney holds an MBA from Stony Brook University, a BS in design and environmental analysis from Cornell University, and an AAS in Fashion Merchandising Management from FIT.

Carli Spina, Head of Research and Instructional Services, Gladys Marcus Librarycomes to FIT from her most recent position as head librarian of assessment and outreach at Boston College Libraries in Cambridge, MA. Spina earned a BA, magna cum laude, in East Asian studies with a focus on modern social sciences, from Harvard University, as well as a JD from the University of Chicago Law School, where she also served as the John M. Olin Fellow in Law and Economics. She also holds an MLIS from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, along with an EdM from Harvard Graduate School of Education, with specialization in technology, innovation and education, as well as a graduate certificate in museum studies from the Harvard Extension School.

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