Meet the new faculty faces in Letters & Science!

Claire de la Cova, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

PhD 2008, Columbia University

Previously Associate Research Scientist at Columbia

Research focus: Living cells within us communicate with one another. My research seeks to understand their cellular “language,” meaning the signals they employ and the cellular outcomes that result from their communication.

Research discoveries: In the past year and a half, I have used new techniques to monitor living cells as they respond to a protein signal associated with cancer. The result I find fascinating is that information relayed within cells can be an all-or-nothing signal that is pulsatile –this is something like what you would do if you were trying to communicate with a friend by a blinking a flashlight.

Fun fact: I love the visual arts! I am a die-hard fan of wood and linoleum relief printing.


Rachel Goodman, Assistant Professor, Philosophy

PhD 2013, University of Chicago

Previously Assistant Professor at University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Research focus: I specialize in Philosophy of Mind and to some extent Philosophy of Language. I’m most interested in the nature of representation.

Current projects: I’m currently working on the topic of thoughts that refer to particular objects and, at the moment, I’m thinking especially about the diachronic dimension of such thoughts.

Goals for the year: Getting to know Milwaukee and my new department, and to finish several papers and an edited volume I’ve been working on. I’m also thinking about starting on a book…

Fun fact: I grew up on the southwest coast of Australia, but have lived in 10 different cities over the last 18 years.


Erik Gulbranson, Assistant Professor, Geosciences

PhD 2001, University of California-Davis

Previously Visiting Professor at UWM

Research focus: Geochemistry and Paleoecology

Current projects: I am working on a project studying how the most severe mass extinction in the history of life affected forested ecosystems.

Goals for the year: My goals are to utilize the fossil plant and volcanic ash samples I collected last year in Antarctica to better understand the extinction crisis that may have affected them at ca. 250 million years ago.

Fun fact: I am a rock climber and I have had the fortunate experience to be able to travel far to undertake alpine climbing and traditional rock climbing. In pursuit of this I maintain a steady training regime at a local rock climbing gym and I am currently volunteering to help adaptive climbers (climbers with physical or cognitive disabilities) realize their personal goals through the sport of rock climbing.


Patrick Kraft, Assistant Professor, Political Science

PhD 2018, Stony Brook University

Research focus: The psychological underpinnings of political attitudes, reasoning, and behavior. I am especially interested in the development and application of new statistical methods in the area of political psychology.

Current projects: I am working on multiple projects that investigate the role of morality in politics. In one project coauthored with researchers from the United Kingdom and Denmark, we examine when and how party leaders in Europe utilize moral language in major political speeches. In another project, I explore the effects of moral appeals on persuasion and compromise in online discussions on the popular website Reddit.

Fun fact: I am originally from Germany and one of my hobbies is playing a card game called “Skat.” I once participated in a tournament in New York City and won a ticket to an asparagus gala dinner on a Manhattan rooftop. (It turns out that Germans are obsessed with asparagus. It’s a thing.) I went to the dinner and the other guests turned out to be investors, managers, and entrepreneurs looking to network. They were pretty surprised to find a grad student there who only came for the free food.


Amy Olen, Assistant Professor, Translation and Interpreting Studies

PhD 2015, University of Texas-Austin

Previously a Senior Lecturer in Translation and Interpreting Studies at UWM

Research focus: My research is on interpreter training. I’ve been developing training materials in several languages with the help of graduate students. My goal is to create materials to train students with different language pairs in a consistent, culturally appropriate way. I spend the rest of my research time on translations of Andean and Guatemalan short stories for collections by two Latin American fiction writers.

Goals for the year: To complete drafts of seven translation of short stories by a Peruvian author for publication.

When not working: I’m playing with my 4-year-old daughter who is starting kindergarten at the Milwaukee French Immersion School this year.


David Pacifico, Assistant Professor and Director of the Emile H. Mathis Gallery and UWM Art Collection

PhD 2014, University of Chicago

Previously Instructional Designer – Research, Policy, and Assessment Coordinator at Cardinal Stritch University

Research focus: The archaeology of ancient urban neighborhoods in the pre-Colombian Americas. I study the Casma State, which flourished on the north coast of Peru from about AD 1000-1400.

Goals for the year: Ideally I’d like to see our collection used in as many different departments, programs, and courses as possible. We’re a public university, so community members (teachers and other community leaders especially) are encouraged to get in touch with me.

As a professor and archaeologist, naturally, I’m eager to wrap up a number of publications – two edited volumes and a number of chapters on Peruvian archaeology – and to get back into the field!

Fun fact: I have an amateur radio (aka ‘ham radio’) license. It’s an old technology, but I’m fascinated by the ability to communicate across distances great and small without reliance on telecommunications companies.


Sarah Riforgiate, Assistant Professor, Communication

PhD 2011, Arizona State University

Previously Assistant Professor at Kansas State University

Research focus: My research concentrates on the intersections of organizational and interpersonal communication, particularly in regards to public paid work and private life in order to increase understanding and develop practical solutions to improve interactions. Research project topics include communication pertaining to work-life concerns, emotions in organizations, conflict negotiation, organizational leadership, and policy communication.

Research discovery: The data indicates that the longer couples were married, the less likely individuals were to use negotiation strategies when household tasks were distributed unfairly.

Current projects: One study explores how new employees in the nonprofit sector are socialized to understand paid work and private life priorities and the implications of communication for employee commitment and retention. In a separate project, I am exploring communication aspects of identity work among independent consultants who work at home.

Fun fact: I enjoy throwing pottery in my free time. There is something wonderful about shaping and guiding a lump of clay to form something both beautiful and useful.


Sarah Schaefer, Assistant Professor, Art History

PhD 2014, Columbia University

Previously a Visiting Assistant Professor at UWM

Research focus: My research explores modern European art, with an emphasis on religion and popular culture.

Current projects: I’m working on a book about the biblical imagery of Gustave Doré, a name that may not be very familiar in America today despite that his work is some of the most widely-reproduced worldwide. In fact, Milwaukee has a number of interesting examples: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church has a Tiffany stained glass window based on a Doré painting (the largest window Tiffany ever produced), and at Maria’s Pizza on Forest Home Avenue, you will find a paint-by-number version of Doré’s illustration of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai.

Goals for the year: I’m looking forward to really digging into the book manuscript, and to adding to my collection of religious kitsch (which is in great supply among Milwaukee’s antique stores).


Ryan Shorey, Assistant Professor, Psychology

PhD 2014, University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Previously an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Ohio University

Research focus: I research risk factors for, and consequences of, intimate partner violence (IPV), and I also research substance use disorders and treatment. In addition, my research integrates these two lines of research to examine substance-related IPV and whether treatment of substance use reduces the occurrence of IPV and sexual assault.

Research discoveries: I have shown that alcohol increases the risk for perpetrating IPV, but not for everyone. That is, alcohol only increases the risk for being violent against a partner when you are intoxicated and angry.

Fun fact: Although I was born and raised in the Chicago-land area, I am a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan.


Kevin Thom, Assistant Professor, Economics (starting in 2019)

PhD 2009, Johns Hopkins University

Previously a Clinical Associate Professor of Economics, New York University

Research focus: My primary areas of interest are labor economics, household finance, and the incorporation of findings from biology (specifically molecular genetics) into economic analysis.

Research discoveries: Geneticists have recently discovered robust associations between several genetic markers and educational attainment. These markers can be combined into indices (or polygenic scores) that predict education. My own research shows that such polygenic scores not only predict educational attainment, but also income and wealth, even after controlling for completed education. Furthermore, these genetic associations can be shaped by economic environments. The relationship between these genetic endowments and college graduation is substantially weaker for people who grow up in poor households. This suggests that childhood poverty might be contributing to the waste of genetic potential.

Fun fact: I am a proud Wisconsinite. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, and graduated from Marquette University High School and then Marquette University. Serious Green Bay Packers fan. I am excited to join the faculty at UWM and come back to my home city!


Sarah Vanderhaagen, Assistant Professor, Communication

PhD 2010, Northwestern University

Previously Assistant Professor at University of Nevada-Las Vegas

Research focus: My work explores how we use rhetoric to tell and revise stories about the past in order to shape identities, urge action, and create a sense of belonging. I am most interested in how our shared stories about the past affect public perceptions and performances of race and gender.

Current projects: My first book, Children’s Biographies of African American Women: Rhetoric, Public Memory and Agency, is coming out in November. This book examines biographies for children about Phillis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth, and Shirley Chisholm. I am also working on a book chapter about biographical sketches of African Americans that appeared in the Black children’s periodical The Brownies’ Book (1920-1921). Another project will explore the memories and reception of a speech that Martin Luther King Jr. gave in 1968 at Grosse Pointe High School in Michigan—a speech that my mother and grandmother attended.

Fun fact: I am a mediocre amateur accordionist.


Peter van Elswyk, Assistant Professor, Philosophy

PhD 2018, Rutgers University

Research focus: My speciality is the philosophy of language.

Current projects: I am taxonomizing varieties of linguistic deception (e.g. lying, misleading, exaggeration, loose talk). We don’t always tell the truth. Sometimes that matters, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m interested in understanding what accounts for that difference.

Goals for the year: My goals are to finish the revisions and resubmits accumulated over the summer, to finish editing a forthcoming collection with Oxford University Press, to prepare my dissertation chapters for publication, and, most importantly, to find the best cup of coffee in Milwaukee. Assistance in achieving that last goal is highly appreciated.

Fun fact: My toddler son is an unrelenting fan of the fountain. Whenever he sees it, he runs to wade in. Since my office is in Curtin, I have to avoid walking by with him if I haven’t brought a change of clothes.


Jangsu Yoon, Assistant Professor, Economics

PhD 2018, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Research focus: I study econometric theory and applied econometrics, focusing on the nonparametric identification of structural economic models with strategic interactions. My research provides a game theoretical framework to empirically measure a heterogeneous entry pattern of two giant competitors – Walmart and Kmart – throughout counties in the United States. The established theoretical finding can also be used to show how differently married couples make their joint labor supply decisions.

Current projects: A paper of discussing the identification of sequential game models, and a paper of a nonparametric panel data model with truncated or censored data. I am also interested in identification and estimation of the structural parameters under asymmetric information between strategic players.

Fun fact: I am a long-time fan of the Milwaukee Bucks.


Not pictured: David Spade, Assistant Professor, Mathematical Sciences