Academics

Faculty Chair Expanded to Support High-Quality Research Across Multiple Fields

Four faculty members were appointed to the prestigious Dirk Warren ’50 Sesquicentennial Chair position, as it has been reimagined to support multiple areas of expertise across the University.

aerial view of Saint Joseph’s University campus

by Gabrielle Lacherza

Saint Joseph’s University established the Dirk Warren ’50 Sesquicentennial Chair position more than two decades ago to attract or reward outstanding faculty and their research interests. This year, it was reimagined to support multiple areas of expertise across the University in four broad academic areas. The Dirk Warren ’50 Sesquicentennial Chair holders for the academic years 2021-22 and 2022-23 are:

The faculty will research topics ranging from addressing the impact of gun violence to examining how racism inhibits the development of empathy in health care professionals.

“We are excited to expand the prestigious Dirk Warren ’50 Sesquicentennial Chair to multiple Saint Joseph’s faculty members,” says Cheryl A. McConnell, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs.“Their dedication to researching important issues that positively impact the community exemplifies the values of our Jesuit educational mission.”  

Former longtime Professor of History Randall Miller, Ph.D., was the inaugural chairholder until 2020. During his term, he worked closely with the donor, Dr.h.c. William Dirk Warren ’50, to envisage how this endowed chair could support high-quality research that would strengthen the University’s reputation and have a positive impact on our local and regional community. 

The application and selection process of the new chair holders was overseen by the University’s deans, with final approval given by the Office of the Provost. Each faculty chairholder will receive one course release annually and a research stipend. The new chair holders will serve in these roles for a two-year term.

Learn more about the new Dirk Warren ’50 Sesquicentennial Chair holders and their research projects:

Business

Michael SolomonMichael Solomon, Ph.D., professor of marketing

Solomon’s research will explore how the rise of machines will impact the marketing and sales industry. As worldwide sales of consumer robots and robot shipments continue to rapidly increase, shoppers will need to adapt their behaviors to embrace online shopping and interacting with machines. His project will examine the factors that will attract or dissuade customers from seeking a machine’s advice and how consumer variables such as gender, social class, education and experience make some consumers more likely to embrace this new form of decision making than others. Solomon has already raised these important issues, most recently in his latest book “The New Chameleons: How to Connect with Consumers Who Defy Categorization.” Solomon explains how the trend toward retail automation has accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education and Social and Applied Sciences

Susan LiebellSusan Liebell, Ph.D., professor of political science

Liebell’s research will focus on two topics: the Second Amendment and collecting data and documents for new scholarship on anti-Asian American racism and Justice Joseph McKenna, the only Saint Joseph’s alumnus to sit on the Supreme Court. This will build on Liebell’s ongoing work as one of the only female political theorists in the nation who has addressed the Second Amendment, Stand Your Ground, and the impact of gun violence on democratic norms. The funds will also support work investigating McKenna, whose jurisprudence helps shed light on a moment in American history when the Supreme Court did not see women as equal citizens to men — and questioned whether Chinese could be full citizens. This local connection will help her understand how earlier definitions of citizenship affect contemporary politics. 

Humanities

Ann GreenAnn Green, Ph.D., professor of English

Green’s research will explore the intersection of racism and the medical humanities. Reading literature and engaging in other humanities-related projects has been shown to build empathy in doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. Green is interested in how race and racism appear in discussions of the medical humanities. She considers how teaching about race and racism in literature and writing can create spaces for racial justice and empathy among undergraduate pre-med populations. Selected by the University of Iowa to participate in bringing the medical humanities outside of the U.S., she recently taught a month-long creative writing course for medical professionals and public health care workers in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. Through Saint Joseph’s Faith-Justice Institute, she regularly teaches service-learning courses in the  medical humanities, including Hospital Stories and Life and Its Boundaries. Green explains that this work is particularly timely, given how racism affects health outcomes and how COVID-19 highlighted health care disparities in medicine.

 STEM

Matt NelsonMatthew Nelson, Ph.D., associate professor of biology

Nelson’s research will take a deeper look at the genetics of sleep regulation by studying an organism with a simple nervous system, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. While the importance of sleep is well known, its exact function is still debated. It is clear, however, that sleep is conserved at the molecular level, so Nelson’s research will help scientists  better understand the mechanisms of sleep and sleep disorders, and potentially shed light on why sleep evolved. Research findings will be conducted in collaboration with the broader Philadelphia community through existing science outreach programs. Nelson’s research has been funded by national organizations, most recently by the ​​National Science Foundation in 2019.