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MMC Welcomes New and Returning Faculty

Our world-class faculty just got bigger. Meet some of MMC’s newest professors—and join us in congratulating a few familiar faces who are coming back this semester as full-time additions.


Melissa Rosso, Ph.D.
Visiting Professor of Biology

Dr. Rosso knows a little something about studying science in the city: Born and raised in New York, she received her BS in Biology at John Jay College and earned three advanced degrees from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center: a dual master’s degree in Biology and Philosophy and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology. In addition to working as an oncology and genome researcher for public and private institutions, she has taught biology at local colleges for more than 20 years.

What are you most excited about as you start MMC?
The student body. I relate very much to students who are from NYC since I’m a native New Yorker. Most of my full-time working positions have been in industry, and I’m excited now to teach full-time. I hope to share some of my outside working experience with students to help them on their paths.

What classes are you teaching this semester?
General Biology Lecture and Lab.

Is there an exercise or lecture topic you’re especially looking forward to?
I look forward to teaching anything related to molecular biology and its relevance to cancer. I have a personal connection to the topic; my grandmother passed away from cancer right before I started graduate school. I pursued cancer research after that and am very passionate about it.

Do you have any forthcoming projects you’d like to share with the community?
I’m hoping to resume work on research I began several years ago on the p53 pathway in cancer cell lines. The pathway contains a gene network that responds to cellular stress and plays a role in tumor suppression.

Can you share a fun or interesting fact about yourself?
I love to cook and recently started baking. It was a hobby I picked up during quarantine. Cooking was one of the last things my grandmother and I did together before she passed, so it’s one of the ways I keep her alive in my memory.

 


Katherine Damm
Assistant Professor, Writing, Literature, and Language

Damm joined MMC in 2022 as a Visiting Assistant Professor in Creative Writing and returns this year as an Assistant Professor. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and a secondary field, Economics, from Harvard College and received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, New England Review, Crazyhorse, and The Iowa Review.

You’ve been at MMC for more than a year now. What have you learned about the community in that time?
MMC students have a great energy and a million different points of view. The work students produce is incredibly high-quality and varied, and I appreciate the generosity they bring to each other’s work, as well.

What are you most excited about as you start the new academic year?
Last year, I taught many introductory classes, and this year, I’ll teach several intermediate and advanced courses. The best part about that is I’ll get to work with many of my students from last year on longer and more challenging projects, and I’m excited to witness how their craft keeps developing.

What classes are you teaching this semester?
I’ll be teaching four classes. Two are sections of CRW 201, the foundational creative writing course that introduces fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. I’ll also be teaching CRW 391, Special Topics in Creative Writing. While I taught 391 last year, the titular ‘special topic’ is always new. This year, we’ll be reading campus fiction—short stories, novellas, and novels that utilize the college setting—with the goal of writing and workshopping original stories in that genre. Lastly, I’m very excited to be teaching CRW 442, the workshop in writing fiction for advanced students. This is a new course for me, and I’m eager to work with students on their most ambitious fiction to date!

Is there a class exercise or discussion topic you’re especially looking forward to?
The very first workshop in CRW 201 is particularly special—it’s when students finally get to share their writing with one another after a few weeks of preparation. The energy coming into the room on those days trends tense, nervous, and—of course!—a little excited, while the energy leaving the room feels proud and relieved. For some students, it’s their very first time sharing creative writing with peers.

Do you have any forthcoming projects you’d like to share with the community?
At the moment, I’m working on a novel. It’s a long process, but I very much hope to have more news soon!

Can you share a fun or interesting fact about yourself?
This is a two-part fact: I have a standard poodle and live a few blocks from campus. Maybe you’ll see us around!

 

Entrance, Choreography: Molissa Fenley; photo credit: Oscar Navarro Betsy Cooper
Interim Chair, Dance
Cooper is new to our community but not to her role: She directed the Dance departments at California State University, Long Beach, and the University of Washington and held administrative leadership roles at those and other institutions. A stage veteran, she has enjoyed a decades-long performance career with classical and contemporary companies, nationally and abroad. But much like MMC students, her interests are multifaceted: She was an Archeological Studies major at Yale and counts art history among her passions. Cooper holds an MFA in Dance from the University of Washington. Her scholarship probes the intersections of dance, politics, and censorship of the body in early modern dance and Hollywood musicals, and the uses of embodied and reflective writing to promote engaged learning.

What are you most excited about as you start MMC?
Meeting the students, collaborating with my new colleagues, and being part of a community dedicated to the arts and the liberal arts.

What would you like students and faculty to know about you?
I’ve been in higher education for close to 30 years and have served in administrative leadership roles for more than 20, but I still identify first and foremost as a dancer. I love teaching and look forward to hopping into classes to learn more about the wonderful faculty and students at MMC.

What classes will you be teaching this semester?
I’ll be teaching two different sections of Ballet 3 this term and plan to visit and hopefully participate in other classes so that I can get to know as many students and faculty as possible.

Is there a class exercise or topic you’re especially looking forward to?
I hope to help students develop and utilize their physical practice, not only as a means of improving technique but as a path to self-knowledge and expression. I’m interested in helping students draw connections in how they approach classes across multiple genres of dance.

In addition to your long career in Dance, you majored in Archeological Studies at Yale. How do those two subject areas come together for you? Archeology is a very process-oriented endeavor. The major combined multiple approaches to research, physicality (digging is hard work and fun), and community. I gained a lot of experience and confidence in archival research and in evidence-based writing. Those skills, and the types of observation and analysis I learned in Art History and Archeology courses, were directly transferable to doing dance history research and have served me well as a performer, author, and dance educator.

Do you have any forthcoming projects you’d like to share with the community?
Right now, I’m just getting settled again in NYC. I’m looking forward to getting back to taking classes more regularly. Not sure what adventures await me.

 

Richard Finizio, D.C.
Assistant Professor of Biology, Post-Baccalaureate Advisor, and Pre-Health Committee Advisor

Dr. Finizio has taught at MMC since the 2020-21 academic year, first as an adjunct professor, and then as a Visiting Assistant Professor. He returns to MMC this year on a tenure track. He has worked in higher education for nearly 20 years, teaching biology at institutions such as Seton Hall University, William Paterson University of New Jersey, and Montclair State University, and owned and managed healthcare clinics for more than 30 years.

What have you learned about the MMC community in your three years at the College?
The learning diversity at MMC is very unique and interesting. When I first started, I was amazed at the dedication of the Dance majors taking my classes and the depth of our double majors’ interest in Anatomy and Physiology. Also, I taught online/synchronously as an adjunct during the pandemic, and the engagement on Zoom was far better at MMC than at any other college I’d been working with.

What classes are you teaching this semester?
Biology for the Informed Citizen (BIOL 108), Physiology (BIOL 329), Anatomy (BIOL 136)

Is there a class exercise or lecture topic you’re especially looking forward to?
I enjoy teaching Biology and non-Biology majors about the genetic and biochemical influences on health, longevity, and behavior. I believe all students have a keen interest in this, whether they know it or not!

What are you most excited about as you start the new academic year?
Beginning my pedagogical research on science teaching directed towards scientific/medical literacy, with the help of Dr. Matt Lundquist (chair of the Department of Natural Sciences and an assistant professor of biology) and undergraduate students. I’m also looking forward to being the Biology Post-baccalaureate Advisor and serving on our Pre-Health and Curriculum committees.

Can you share a fun or interesting fact about yourself?
I was a practicing chiropractic physician for 30 years until I realized that higher education was my passion. Teaching started as a hobby—in 2014, I decided to begin teaching anatomy and physiology at a local university because I have a knack for making complicated topics easier to understand. But along the way, I realized that it’s my true calling.

 

Jamal Kamau White
Assistant Professor of Dance

An Atlanta native, White is known both for his innovative choreography and his commitment to creating safe spaces for dance education. He has toured internationally with dance companies such as the Missouri Ballet Theater, Alvin Ailey II, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, and BODYTRAFFIC, and served as a guest artist and faculty at several national and international dance festivals. White is a founding member and associate director of the Black Artists Dance Collective, a community arts organization committed to providing resources and tuition-free programs for Black dancers in the Atlanta metro area. He received a BFA in dance performance from Southern Methodist University and an MFA from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

What are you most excited about as you start MMC?
I love, love, love the students at MMC! They are so curious and that makes for a wonderful learning environment.

What classes are you teaching this semester?
I’m teaching Ballet 2 and Dancers at Work, and I’m one of a few choreographers presenting work in this year’s mainstage production.

Is there a class exercise or lesson you’re especially looking forward to?
I’m really excited to mentor the dancers on their creative journeys in Dancers at Work. I love the creative process, and I hope I can inspire these artists to push their boundaries and make some captivating pieces.

Can you share a fun or interesting fact about yourself?
Most don’t know this, but I knit. It’s something that keeps me calm and exercises my focus.

Do you have any current or forthcoming research projects, books, shows, or performances you’d like to share with the community?
At the moment, no, however, that can change at any time, haha. I am prepared to pour my heart into MMC.

Published: September 16, 2023