Meet the new faculty of fall 2017

College of Arts and Sciences

Meet the college’s newest faculty, whose disciplinary expertise—from bioethics to non-Euclidean data analysis to music of ‘la belle époque’—enriches and expands the arts and sciences at WSU.


Tanya Cheeke
Assistant Professor School of Biological Sciences, WSU Tri-Cities

Tanya Cheeke

Research and teaching interests: Plant-microbe interactions; microbial ecology; soil ecology; restoration ecology; mycorrhizal fungi; sustainable agriculture
Previous post: Indiana University
Education and training: PhD, Portland State University; BS, The Evergreen State College
Honors and achievements: National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology, Indiana University (2015-17); Dean’s Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement, Portland State University (2013); Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) fellowship (2010-13)
Outside of work, I enjoy gardening, reading, traveling, and spending time with family.

Assistant Professor
Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Xiongzhi Chen

Research and teaching interests: Multiple comparison; modeling with latent structure; analysis of non-Euclidean data; spectra of random matrices; inference on stochastic differential equations
Previous post: Princeton University
Education and training: PhD, Statistics, Purdue University; MA, Mathematics, University of Hawaii; MS, Mathematics, Sichuan University
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family, listening to classical music and operas, swimming, and playing piano.

Justin Denney
Associate Professor,
William Julius Wilson Distinguished Professor
Department of Sociology

Justin Denney

Research and teaching interests: Social determinants of health and mortality disparities among adults and young children; how families and the places that individuals spend time in impact health disparities; quantitative methods for data analysis
Previous post: Rice University
Education and training: PhD, University of Colorado, Boulder; MA, University of Montana, Missoula; BA, Morningside College
Honors and achievements: William Julius Wilson Distinguished Professorship; Health Disparities Scholar, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities; IPUMS Research Award, University of Minnesota Population Center
Outside of work, I enjoy being in the outdoors, baseball, and good food and drink with my family and friends.

William 'Wes' Dowd
Associate Professor
School of Biological Sciences

William “Wes” Dowd

Research and teaching interests: Interactions between environmental variation and physiological variation in dynamic intertidal and estuarine environments; physiological/biochemical responses to multiple stressors (salinity, temperature, hypoxia, food availability). Teaching interests include comparative physiology/biochemistry
Previous post: Loyola Marymount University
Education and training: PhD, ecology, University of California, Davis; MS, marine science, Virginia Institute of Marine Science; BS, biology, Duke University
Honors and achievements: Principal investigator on National Science Foundation Integrative Organismal Systems awards; National Geographic Foundation Waitt Grant; Coastal Environmental Quality Initiative Fellowship, University of California Marine Council
Outside of work, I enjoy hiking, snowshoeing, spending time at the beach with family, and home improvement projects.

William Hall
Assistant Professor
Department of Mathematics and Statistics

William Hall

Research and teaching interests: Teaching and learning of calculus, specifically the definite integral and accumulation; interdisciplinary approaches to calculus; training of preservice secondary mathematics teachers
Previous post: North Carolina State University
Education and training: PhD, mathematics education, North Carolina State University; MST, mathematics education, BA, mathematics, University of Maine
Outside of work, I enjoy running, reading, and video games. I love spending time with my wife and daughter playing board games and exploring trails and used book stores.

Clinical Assistant Professor
Department of History, WSU Tri-Cities

Tracey Hanshew

Research and teaching interests: American West; rural women’s studies; women’s history in the United States
Previous post: Oklahoma State University
Education and training: PhD, History, Oklahoma State University; MSSc, Syracuse University; BA, English, Tarleton State University
Honors and achievements: Muriel H. Wright Award, Oklahoma Historical Society, for the article, “Rodeo in Oklahoma is Women’s Business: How Lucille Mulhall’s Fame Created Opportunity in Rodeo” published in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, 2015
Outside of work, I enjoy horseback riding, traveling, cooking, and reading.

Assistant Professor
School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs

Samantha Noll

Research and teaching interests: Bioethics; environmental and agricultural philosophy; local food movements; climate change; biotechnology; wildlife conservation on farmland
Previous post: Haverford College
Education and training: PhD, Michigan State University; BA, West Chester University
Honors and achievements: Long Term Ecological Research Grant recipient; co-recipient, Vonne Lund Junior Researcher Award for interdisciplinary work on global food systems; “History Lessons: What Urban Environmental Ethics Can Learn from Nineteenth Century Cities” in Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics
Outside of work, I enjoy hiking, gardening, wine-tasting, reading science fiction, and wildlife photography.

Assistant Professor
Department of English, WSU Vancouver

Johanna Phelps-Hillen

Research and teaching interests: How technical and professional communication manifests in public policy implementation, institutional infrastructures, and program design and assessment; recent focus on federal policy regarding human subjects research—specifically, how these policies influence methodologies and methods used in Writing Studies
Previous post: Utah State University, Institutional Research Board Coordinator
Education and training: PhD, Rhetoric and Composition, Master of Public Administration, University of South Florida
Honors and achievements: 2016 Conference on College Composition & Communication Research Initiative Grant
Outside of work, I enjoy being with family, hiking, kayaking, and traveling.

Bertha Rangel
Assistant Professor Department of Psychology, WSU Vancouver

Bertha Rangel

Research and teaching interests: Self and observer ratings of work performance, personality, measurement and research methods
Previous post: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Education and training: PhD, MA, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; BS, Technical Systems Management, University of Illinois
Honors and achievements: Diversifying Faculty in Illinois Fellow; “Are Supervisors and Coworkers Likely to Witness Employee Counterproductive Work Behavior? An Investigation Of Observability and Self–Observer Convergence” in Personnel Psychology
Outside of work, I enjoy dancing salsa and cooking.

Assistant Professor
School of the Environment, WSU Tri-Cities

Sarah Roley

Research and teaching interests: Watershed biogeochemistry; water quality in agricultural areas; nitrogen fixation; ecosystem restoration; freshwater conservation; linking ecosystem processes with microbial communities
Previous post: WK Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University
Education and training: PhD, University of Notre Dame; MS, University of Minnesota; BS, BA, Bemidji State University
Honors and achievements: Nominated for Sheehan award for best dissertation in the University of Notre Dame College of Science; publications in top freshwater science and ecology journals
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter, running, playing sports, reading, gardening, hiking, natural history, and exploring the Northwest.

Clinical Assistant Professor
School of Music

Michael Seregow

Research and teaching interests: Solo piano performance; music of ‘la belle époque’; performance on various keyboard instruments including piano, harpsichord, organ, and fortepiano; piano pedagogy; the history of piano performance and teaching; chamber music; art song; improvisation
Previous post: University of Puget Sound
Education and training: DMA, Piano Performance with supporting studies in Piano Pedagogy, University of Oregon; MM, University of Oregon; BA, Piano performance and Composition, George Fox University
Honors and achievements: Finalist, The American Prize in solo Piano Performance, professional division; invited presentation for Washington State Music Teachers Association annual conference; solo performance at the Festival of the American Liszt Society
Outside of work, I enjoy cooking, reading, hiking, traveling, and spending time with my wife, Emily.

Clinical Assistant Professor
School of

Christopher Sierra

Research and teaching interests: Teaching vocal pedagogy classes that examine the processes of healthy singing for both classically trained singers and contemporary commercial music singers; addressing the performance practice of vocal repertoire from the 17th century to modern times; creating rubrics that measure student growth and proficiency in voice; exploring effective acting methods for singers
Previous post: Monmouth University, Columbia University, and Rutgers University
Education and training: DMA, Voice Performance, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University; MM, Classical Voice Performance, Manhattan School of Music; EdM, Teachers College, Columbia University; BMus, Music Education, BMus, Voice Performance, Westminster Choir College
Honors and achievements: Performed with the Santa Fe Opera, Opera New Jersey, Spoleto Festival USA, Princeton Festival Opera, Long Island Opera, and New York Lyric Opera Theater, among many others;  recorded The Flower of Beauty (2009) with the Westminster Choir,  Landscape: Choral Music of Gerald Custer (2008) with Anam Cara, and Teaching Music Through Performance in Choir Vol. 2 (2007) with Westminster Williamson Voices; co­founded Vocalis Consort, an ensemble dedicated to preserving the art of the song recital
Outside of work, I enjoy reading, writing, jogging, and creating video anthologies on iMovie.

Associate Professor
School of Biological Sciences

Heather Watts

Research and teaching interests: Relationships among environmental variation, life history patterns, and the behavior and physiology of individuals; how animals time events in their annual cycle, particularly reproduction and migration
Previous post: Loyola Marymount University
Education and training: PhD, Michigan State University; BS, Duke University
Honors and achievements: National Science Foundation grant (IOS, 2015-18); National Institutes of Health NRSA postdoctoral fellowship (2008-10)
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family and outdoor activities, as well as cooking and enjoying good food.

Clinical Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology

Sarah Whitley

Research and teaching interests: Research interests include the sociology of education, food, poverty, qualitative methodologies, rural/urban sociology, social inequality, and stratification; food insecurity and hunger issues in rural and urban settings and how public policy addresses the increasing hunger epidemic; teaching interests include the sociology of education, food, gender, introduction to sociology, research methods, rural/urban sociology, social inequality, social problems, and stratification; emphasizing service learning components
Previous post: California State University, Fresno
Education and training: PhD, MA, sociology, Washington State University; BA, sociology, University Of Oklahoma
Honors and achievements: Independent Study: “Homeless Not Hopeless” 2017; “Food Insecurity and Hunger in the Rural West: Case Study” in Rural Poverty in the United States (Columbia University Press); “Changing Times In Rural America: Food Assistance And Food Insecurity In Food Deserts” in Journal of Family Social Work, 16:1, 36-52; Distinguished Faculty Service Award, California State University, Fresno, 2015
Outside of work, I enjoy hiking, backpacking, camping, fly fishing, working in my garden, and golfing.

Horace Young
Clinical Associate Professor
School of Music

Horace Alexander Young

Research and teaching interests: Saxophone performance in the genres of classical, jazz, and other contemporary popular genres of global music; jazz history and improvisational practices; practical elements of music business and marketing; music journalism
Previous post: Contemporary Music Program, Santa Fe University of Art and Design
Education and training: MA, Washington State University; BMus, Texas Southern University; additional studies, Shepherd School of Music, Rice University
Honors and achievements: 2016 WSU Alumni Achievement Award; life memberships: The Recording Academy; American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia; honorary memberships: Tau Beta Sigma; Music Entertainment Industry Educators Association; American Federation of Musicians; and Alpha Kappa Mu; Gold Quill Award, Boy Scouts of America
Outside of work, I enjoy watching football and basketball (avid Seahawks and Warriors fan) and spending time with my kids and new grandchild!