Eight Graduate Center Faculty Are Named CUNY Distinguished Professors

August 21, 2023

The rank is the highest at CUNY, bestowed on faculty who are leaders in their fields.

A collage of New Distinguished Professors
Top row (l to r): Cynthia Hahn, David Grubbs, Maria Tamargo; Middle row (l to r): Jason Eckardt, Sarit Golub, Ammiel Alcalay; Bottom row (l to r): Talia Schaffer, Benjamin Steinberg.

CUNY recently announced that 12 faculty members were elevated to the rank of distinguished professor — the highest faculty classification at the University — during the 2022–2023 academic year. Of the dozen new distinguished professors, eight have Graduate Center faculty appointments.

The Graduate Center extends its deepest congratulations to the eight new distinguished professors on its faculty.

“Distinguished professors have built international reputations as leaders within their fields and have been consistent producers of innovative and influential research in the natural, formal, social and applied sciences or noted contributions in journalism, the humanities and creative or performing arts,” CUNY stated in its announcement.

The new distinguished professors with Graduate Center appointments are:

Ammiel Alcalay (The Graduate Center/Queens College) English, Comparative Literature, Biography and Memoir, Middle Eastern Studies,

Ammiel Alcalay is a poet, novelist, translator, critic, and scholar. His some 30 books include a little history; from the warring factions; Memories of Our Future: Selected Essays 1982-1999; and After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture. Ghost Talk; A Bibliography for After Jews & Arabs; and A Dove in Free Flight, by Syrian poet and former political prisoner Faraj Bayrakdar, co-edited with Shareah Taleghani, came out in 2021. Controlled Demolition: A work in four books, and Follow the Person: Archival Encounters, are forthcoming in 2024. He is the founder and general editor of Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, for which he was recognized in 2017 with a Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award. He has written for The New York Times, Time magazine, The Village Voice, The New Republic, and Middle East Report, as well as for such literary journals as Grand Street, Conjunctions, and Paper Air.

Jason Eckardt (The Graduate Center/Brooklyn College) Music

Jason Eckardt is a celebrated composer whose music is influenced by his interests in perceptual complexity, the physicality of performance, political activism, and the natural world. He has been recognized through commissions from Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, among others. He has received awards from the League of Composers/ISCM (National Prize), Deutschen Musikrat-Stadt Wesel (Symposium NRW Prize), the Aaron Copland Fund, the New York State Council on the Arts, ASCAP, the University of Illinois (Martirano Prize), the Alice M. Ditson Fund, and Columbia University (Rapoport Prize); and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Fondation Royaumont, the MacDowell and Millay Colonies, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, the Fritz Reiner Center for Contemporary Music, the Composers Conference at Wellesley, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music.

Sarit Golub (The Graduate Center/Hunter College) Psychology, Social Welfare

Sarit Golub is a social psychologist with interdisciplinary training in psychology, behavioral science, and public health. She directs the Hunter Alliance for Research & Translation (HART), which conducts interdisciplinary, community-engaged research, broadly focused on gender and sexuality. Many of HART’s implementation science initiatives focus on HIV prevention and care. Its research has been at the forefront of innovation in the rollout of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). HART’s Transgender Research Initiative focuses on improving medical and other support services for transgender, non-binary, gender expansive, and gender diverse children, youth, and adults. She teaches and mentors Graduate Center Psychology students in the Basic and Applied Social Psychology (BASP) and Health Psychology and Clinical Science training areas.

David Grubbs (The Graduate Center/Brooklyn College) Music

David Grubbs is a composer, musician, and writer. He is the author of Good night the pleasure was ours; The Voice in the Headphones; Now that the audience is assembled; and Records Ruin the Landscape: John Cage, the Sixties, and Sound Recording as well as the collaborative artists’ books Simultaneous Soloists (with Anthony McCall) and Projectile (with Reto Geiser and John Sparagana). He has released 14 solo albums and has appeared on over 200 commercially released recordings. In 2000, his The Spectrum Between was named “Album of the Year” in the London Sunday Times. He is known for his cross-disciplinary collaborations with poet Susan Howe and visual artists Angela Bulloch and Anthony McCall, among others. His collaborations with Howe appear on five album releases and have been presented in performance at MoMA, the Southbank Centre (London), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Cambridge University, Harvard University, and Yale University’s Beinecke Library. His collaborations with Anthony McCall have been exhibited at the Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin) and the Sean Kelly Gallery (New York), and he created the sound design for ECLIPSE, the performance work by McCall and Jonah Bokaer that inaugurated the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAM Fisher building in September 2012. 

Cynthia Hahn (The Graduate Center/Hunter College) Art and Art History

Art historian Cynthia Hahn has published extensively on material from the early Christian period to the Gothic, from across Europe to the Eastern Mediterranean. Her work has appeared in Art History, Art Bulletin, Gesta, Speculum, and many other journals and collections. Her books include Passion Relics and the Medieval Imagination; Portrayed on the Heart: Narrative Effect in Pictorial Lives of the Saints from the Tenth through the Thirteenth Century; Strange Beauty: Origins and Issues in the Making of Medieval Reliquaries 400-circa 1204; The Reliquary Effect: Enshrining the Sacred Object; and “The Thing of Mine I have Loved the Best:” Significant Jewels (co-authored exhibition catalog, Les Enluminures, New York, 2018). With Holger Klein, she edited Saints and Sacred Matter: The Cult of Relics in Byzantium and Beyond. She has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), and the Institute for Advanced Study, among others.

Talia Schaffer (Graduate Center/Queens College) English

Talia Schaffer has published widely on topics in 19th-century literature and material culture, with over 50 articles on disability studies, noncanonical women writers, popular fiction, aestheticism, and Victorian texts. In her most recent book, Communities of Care: The Social Ethics of Victorian Fiction, she uses the feminist philosophy of ethics of care as a way of understanding Victorian social relations. Her other books include Romance’s Rival: Familiar Marriage and Victorian Fiction, which won the NAVSA Best Book Prize for 2016 and was chosen as one of Choice‘s Outstanding Academic Books of 2016; Novel Craft: Fiction and the Victorian Domestic Handicraft; and The Forgotten Female Aesthetes: Literary Culture in Late-Victorian England; along with several edited volumes including The Routledge Companion to Victorian Literature, co-edited with Dennis Denisoff.

Benjamin Steinberg (The Graduate Center, City College of New York) Mathematics

Benjamin Steinberg is an algebraist interested in a vast array of subjects including finite semigroup theory, geometric group theory, algebraic combinatorics, representation theory, and automata theory. He is also fascinated by the interconnections between etale groupoids, inverse semigroups, and operator algebras. Recently, he has focused on applications of finite semigroups to the analysis of finite state Markov chains. He has had over 130 authored and co-authored papers published in refereed journals, and he is the author and editor of several books including Representation Theory of Finite Monoids; Representation Theory of Finite Groups: An Introductory Approach; and The q-theory of Finite Semigroups.

Maria Tamargo (The Graduate Center, City College of New York) Chemistry, Physics, Nanoscience

Maria Tamargo is a leading scientist in compound semiconductors and materials science. Through her laboratory work, she investigates the growth and properties of semiconductor multilayers and nanostructures whose properties are of interest for fundamental physics and device applications. She is the director of the National Science Foundation–supported Phase II CREST Center for Interface Design and Engineered Assembly of Low Dimensional Systems (IDEALS). The center brings together a diverse, multidisciplinary team of researchers to discover and design materials with new and enhanced functionalities that culminate from the unique properties of surfaces, interfaces, and defects in self-assembled nanomaterials. She has authored hundreds of journal articles and holds a number of patents. She is a fellow of the American Physical Society and in 2020 was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering for “forging the way toward an inclusive science and engineering research community and for contributions to molecular-beam epitaxy of semiconductor materials.”

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