Associate Dean for Diversity, Equality and Inclusion
College of Arts and Humanities

Dr. GerShun Avilez is a cultural studies scholar who specializes in contemporary African American and Black Diasporic literatures and visual cultures. His scholarship explores how questions of gender and sexuality inform artistic production. In addition, he works in the fields of political radicalism, spatial theory, gender studies, and medical humanities. He has published several books, and is currently working on a third project, which focuses on documenting queer history.

Throughout his work and teaching, Dr. Avilez is committed to studying a wide variety of art forms, including, drama, fiction, non-fiction, film, poetry, visual and performance art among others. He was the recipient of the Poorvu Award for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Teaching in 2011 (Yale University).

GerShun received his PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also earned a Graduate Certificate in Africana Studies. Dr. Avilez has held professorships at Yale University, UNC Chapel Hill, and a post-doctorate Fellowship at the University of Rochester.

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Dr. James Butler III

Associate Professor
Behavioral and Community Health

Dr. James Butler’s research is anchored in an ecological framework that incorporates individual, social structure, and environmental influences in eliminating health disparities and those related to tobacco use. He builds ongoing relationships with community members when developing interventions where the community participates in all aspects of the research process. He has extensive experience conducting community engaged research and health promotion activities – e.g., helping African Americans quit smoking and remain smoke free.

Professor Butler’s teaching is highlighted by the numerous teaching awards he receives. He values diversity and creativity in the classroom so that an effective educational environment is developed, where students’ voices are incorporated along with the course materials.

Dr. Butler holds a Doctorate in Public Health (DrPH) from the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, and a M.Ed. from Temple University. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in cancer prevention and tobacco control at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

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Crystal U. Davis

Assistant Professor
Dance, Performance and Scholarship
Head of MFA Dance Program
School of Theater, Dance and
Performance Studies

Crystal U. Davis is a dancer, movement analyst, and critical race theorist.  As a performer her work spans an array of genres from modern dance companies including Notes in Motion to East Indian dance companies including Nayikas Dance Theater Company to her own postmodern choreography at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and Dance New Amsterdam.

Her creative work centers around the incongruities present between our daily behaviors and belief systems. She has conducted ethnographic research in Rajasthan, India on the relationship between religious beliefs and both creative and pedestrian movement. Her current research explores implicit bias in dance through a critical theory lens and how identity politics of privilege manifest in the body. Some of her recent publications include “Tendus and Tenancy: Black Dancers and the White Landscape of Dance Education” in the Palgrave Handbook of Race and Arts in Education and “Laying New Ground: Uprooting White Privilege and Planting Seeds of Equity and Inclusion” in Dance Education and Responsible Citizenship: Promoting Civic Engagement through Effective Dance Pedagogies.

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Dr. Yi Ting Huang

Associate Professor
Department of Hearing and
Speech Sciences

Yi Ting Huang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences. She received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at Harvard University and trained as a post-doctoral fellow in Cognitive Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Huang’s research focuses on how young language learners acquire the ability to coordinate linguistic representations during real-time comprehension. She explores this question by using eye-tracking methods to examine how the moment-to-moment changes that occur during processing influence the year-to-year changes that emerge during development. She has applied this approach to examine a variety of topics including word recognition, application of grammatical knowledge, and the generation of pragmatic inferences. Other interests include the relationship between language and concepts, language comprehension and production, and language development and literacy.  She is currently a member of the Maryland Language Science Center and the Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science.

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Dr. Sahar Khamis

Associate Professor

Dr. Sahar Khamis is an expert on Arab and Muslim media, and the former Head of the Mass Communication and Information Science Department in Qatar University. She is a former Mellon Islamic Studies Initiative Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago.

She is the co-author of the books: Islam Dot Com: Contemporary Islamic Discourses in Cyberspace(Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) and Egyptian Revolution 2.0: Political Blogging, Civic Engagement and Citizen Journalism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), and the co-editor of Arab Women’s Activism and Socio-Political Transformation: Unfinished Gendered Revolutions (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). Additionally, she authored and co-authored numerous book chapters, journal articles and conference papers, regionally and internationally.

Dr. Khamis is a media commentator and analyst, a public speaker, a human rights commissioner in the Human Rights Commission in Montgomery County, Maryland, and a radio host, who presents a monthly radio show on “U.S. Arab Radio” (the first Arab-American radio station broadcasting in the U.S. and Canada).

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Dr. Nancy Mirabal

Associate Professor
American Studies

Nancy Raquel Mirabal is Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies and Director of the U.S. Latina/o Studies Program. Mirabal is an historian who has published widely in the fields of  Afro-diasporic, gentrification, and spatial studies. She is the author of Suspect Freedoms: The Racial and Sexual Politics of Cubanidad in New York, 1823-1957 (NYU Press, 2017) and co-editor of Keywords for Latina/o Studies (NYU Press, 2017), winner of a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. She is currently working on two projects: Whiteness as Gentrification and a Radical Lens: Visual Culture and the Racial Politics of Place in Washington DC, 1973-1999.

She is a recipient of several grants and awards, including a Scholar in Residence Fellowship, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, University Chancellor Postdoctoral Fellowship, U.C. Berkeley; Social Science Research Council International Migration Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities Grant, and Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. In 2021 Mirabal was named a University of Maryland Graduate Faculty Mentor of the Year.

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Dr. Catherine Steele

Associate Professor

Dr. Catherine Knight Steele is an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Maryland – College Park and was the Founding Director of the African American Digital Humanities Initiative (AADHum). She now directs the Black Communication and Technology lab as a part of the Digital Inquiry, Speculation, Collaboration, & Optimism Network. Dr. Steele also serves as the Director of the Graduate Certificate in Digital Studies in the Arts and Humanities.

Her research focuses on race, gender, and media, with a specific emphasis on African American culture and discourse and new media. Dr. Steele’s research on the Black blogosphere, digital discourses of resistance and joy, and digital Black feminism has been published in such journals as Social Media + Society, Feminist Media Studies, and Television and New Media. Her book Digital Black Feminism (NYU Press), examines the relationship between Black women and technology, and was the 2022 recipient of the Association of Internet Research 2022 Nancy Baym Book Award.

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