Meet FIT’s 24 New Faculty Members

Fall 2023 convocation in Katie Murphy Amphitheatre, audience, with Yasemin Jones at the podium
Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Yasemin Jones speaks at FIT’s fall 2023 convocation in Katie Murphy Amphitheatre.

For fall 2023, FIT welcomed 24 new classroom and non-classroom faculty members. Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Yasemin Jones introduced the new hires at convocation on August 21.

Here is the complete list.

School of Art and Design

Juliana Cho joins the Fashion Department in the apparel area, bringing extensive experience from her role as the founder and creative force behind the fashion brand Annelore. Her former roles include design director at Halston Knitwear and head designer at Catherine Malandrino. Cho holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and an AAS from the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Ruobing Zhao, an accomplished fashion designer, joins the Fashion Department in the art area. She has contributed her design expertise to well-known companies such as Saks, Bloomingdales, and Macy’s. Zhao holds an MFA in fashion design from the Savannah College of Art and Design, as well as a BA in English literature from Sichuan International Studies University.

Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology

Whitney Crutchfield comes to the Textile Development and Marketing Department in the weaving area. She is the founder and lead designer of We Gather, collaborating with brands such as Madewell and The New York Times. Her professional background includes roles at American Eagle Outfitters and the Textile Arts Center. Crutchfield holds an MFA in Fibers and Textiles from Colorado State University and a BA from the University of Michigan.

Kristy Fall joins the Marketing Communications Department in the brand management area, bringing her experience from Rutgers University in developing programming for students with entrepreneurial start-ups. Fall began her career in investment banking, became an entrepreneur, and then launched a 3D/4D design firm. At Rutgers, she led the Innovation Lab, where students transformed their social impact ideas into viable startups. She holds an MS in Strategic Communication from Columbia University and completed her BA with a double major in economics and Spanish at Rutgers University.

Keith Fraley comes to the Fashion Business Management Department in the retail math area and brings extensive industry experience, including leadership roles for Nine West Group and Burberry. Fraley is finalizing his PhD in Corporate Luxury Fashion Management from Cornell University and holds an MA in Fashion Business from Cornell, as well as an MBA from LIM.

Salvatore Giardina joins the Production Management Department in the global supply chain area. Giardina has an exceptional 30 years of experience, including roles as owner of a bespoke menswear company and vice president of sales and design at Dayang Alliance. He holds a BS from FIT in Marketing: Fashion and Related Industries with a focus on textiles.

Ildihko Juhasz joins the Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing Department with her expansive beauty industry experience, including roles as vice president of global and corporate communications at InterParfums, responsible for PR and marketing strategies for prestigious brands. Juhasz holds an MPS in Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management from FIT and a BA in marketing communications from Kent State University.

Renee Liebler joins the Entrepreneurship Department. Liebler is a seasoned entrepreneur with over 15 years of expertise in the tech start-up area. She is also president and founder of NYU Blockchain and a partner of Harmonic Chain, a company that supports technology and infrastructure for blockchain adoption. Leibler holds an MBA with a specialization in Entrepreneurship and Finance from NYU’s Stern School of Business and a BA in psychology from Case Western University.

Christine Stragazzi adds her experience to the Fashion Business Management Department. She has held numerous fashion business leadership roles, including director of merchandising for Lafayette 148 and planning roles for Tommy Hilfiger and Swank Inc. Stragazzi holds a master’s degree in Curriculum and Teaching from Northcentral University and a BS from FIT in Marketing: Fashion and Related Industries with a focus on merchandising.

Emil Wilbekin joins the Marketing Communications Department with a focus on Journalism. Wilbekin brings accomplished professional experience as a magazine editor, fashion expert, and on-air personality, including roles as editor-in-chief for Giant and Vibe magazines and as editor-at-large for Essence. He holds an MS from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and a BA in Mass Media Arts from Northampton University.

Dong Yang joins the Fashion Business Management Department in the retail math area. Yang brings specialist knowledge from the luxury industry, with leadership roles for Diane Von Furstenberg, LVMH North America, Louis Vuitton Paris, and Barneys New York. Dong holds two Master’s degrees, an MBA from Cornell University and an MA in Apparel Merchandising from Washington State University, along with a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Art Design from Donghua University.

School of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Emma Ben Ayoun adds her experience to the Film and Media Department with a focus on film studies, history, and theory. Ben Ayoun’s scholarship explores the portrayal of illness and disability in film. Her writing has been published in many film-based journals and she is also the current managing editor of Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from McGill University, a master’s in film aesthetics from the University of Oxford and a PhD in film studies from the University of Southern California.

Marcus Brock, who joins the English and Communication Studies Department, brings expertise in cultural and Africana studies to area connections between visual culture, queer kinship, and resistance. Brock holds a BA in American Literature and Culture from UCLA, a master’s degree in communication management from the University of Southern California, and he is a soon-to-be PhD in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature from Stony Brook University.

Amanda Page-Hoongrajok joins the Social Studies Department in the area of economics. Her research in the field includes short-termism in financial markets and the Puerto Rican debt crisis. Page-Hoongrajok holds a PhD in economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an MA in economics from Roosevelt University, and a BA in Political Economy from Alverno College.

Kristen Laciste joins the History of Art Department. Laciste’s research interests include the society of ambiance makers and elegant persons of Kinshasa, Black dandyism, and Afrofuturism. She holds a BA in art history from UCLA, an MA in visual studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a PhD in visual studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Walter Temple joins the Modern Language and Cultures Department in French and Francophone Studies. He is an accomplished scholar on 20th- and 21st-century French and Francophone literature as it relates to questions of identity. His work also examines patterns of cross-pollination in French and North African cinema and specializes in visual texts produced in Morocco and Tunisia. Temple holds an MA in French Literature and Translation Studies from American University and a PhD in French from the University of Miami.

School of Graduate Studies

Zoran Dobric joins the Fashion Design MFA Department. His significant creative and design experience includes his successful eponymous brand and expertise as an original textile specialist. Dobric holds an MA in Fashion Design from the London College of Fashion and a Bachelor of Human Ecology in Clothing and Textiles from the University of Manitoba.

Kaelyn Garcia brings her impressive fashion and textile conservator work to the Fashion and Textile Studies Department. Garcia has collaborated with prestigious institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She holds an MA in Fashion and Textile Studies with a concentration in conservation from FIT and a BFA in fashion design from Columbia College Chicago.

Ryan Hartley Smith joins the Illustration MFA Department. Smith’s professional experience includes recognitions from the Society of Illustrators and exhibitions for institutions like the Museum of Arts and Design and the Baltimore Museum of Art. He is a former associate professor of illustration at Queens College. He holds an MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts and a BA from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Non-Classroom Faculty

Enrollment Management and Student Success

Rebecca Hoffman, a psychotherapist with 20 years of experience, joins the Counseling Center. Hoffman is the former director of the Rainbow Heights Club, an organization dedicated to support and advocacy for LGBT New Yorkers who are living with mental illness. She has also mentored social work candidates for the past 15 years. Hoffman holds an MSW from Hunter College and a bachelor’s in English literature from Oberlin College.

Nottoya Thelusma joins the Financial Aid Services Department and brings over 10 years of experience in financial aid areas. Her former roles include director of enrollment services at Long Island University and as an associate director of financial aid at Delaware State University. Thelusma holds an MBA from DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management and a BS in business administration from Bloomfield College.

Academic Affairs

Josephine Jee joins the Career and Internship Services Department. Jee is a designer and educator with extensive experience as a footwear designer, including her patented footwear label, and also serves as a fellow for the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. Josephine holds both an MPS in Design Management and a Bachelor of Industrial Design from the Pratt Institute.

Hiroko Suda joins the Gladys Marcus Library as a digital assets librarian. Suda’s visual and digital resource professional experience spans 10 years, including a background in art history. Areas of expertise include digital collections and digitization project management, digital/visual resources for metadata creation, as well as content and digital asset management systems. She holds two master’s degrees, one in library science from Queens College and the other in art history from City College. Suda’s BA in English is from Kanda University of International Studies.

Sara Belasco joins the Gladys Marcus Library as a cataloging and metadata librarian. Her research areas include rare books, special collections, and transitions from manuscript to print culture. Belasco’s previous professional experience includes special collections reference librarianship for the Center for Jewish History. She holds a master’s in library and information science from the Pratt Institute and advanced certificates in Archives and Digital Humanities. Her bachelor’s in the history of art is from Skidmore College.

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