August 26, 2019

The College of Arts and Humanities welcomes new faculty members joining the college this fall!


Jason D. Gregory ’19, Lecturer
Jason D. Gregory is a recent film production MFA graduate from UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media (Go Knights!). He received his undergraduate degree in film from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2002 and during his studies, Gregory was selected, twice, as a participant in the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Writer’s Workshop.  In 2010, Gregory founded his own Telly-award-winning, multicultural advertising agency, Gregory Media Group, LLC. He decided to pursue his childhood dream in 2016 and enrolled in the MFA film production program where he immediately began writing his thesis project, Waking Up White.  Filmed as a television pilot, Waking Up White is the story of a Black family that wakes up White and has 30 days to determine if they’d rather return to their cultural roots or stick with the “new skin” they’re in. Since its development, the pilot script for has been selected as a 2018 Quarterfinalist in ScreenCraft’s Film Fund and Pilot Launch TV Script competitions and a 2018 Semifinalist in the WeScreenplay Television Competition. The television pilot has recently been submitted to various local, national and international film festivals, while also garnering local and regional media coverage.  And because of his commitment to nurturing and mentoring the next generation of filmmakers, Gregory was recently appointed as the president of the Orlando Urban Film Festival; a festival dedicated to promoting and supporting minority films and filmmakers. Gregory was the recipient of the 2019 College of Arts and Humanities Graduate Student Teaching Award and the inaugural Nicholson School of Communication and Media’s Outstanding Teaching Graduate Programs Award. He was nominated for his commitment to teaching his students to “fail their way to success” and is honored to have received both awards. In 2019, Gregory completed another childhood dream and joined UCF’s English department as a screenwriting lecturer. In this position, he will continue to mold, mentor and challenge his students to find their voice through the art of screenwriting.

Rochelle Hurt, Assistant Professor – Creative Writing (Poetry)
Rochelle Hurt holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and a PhD in English from the University of Cincinnati. She is the author of two books of poetry: The Rusted City: A Novel in Poems, and In Which I Play the Runaway, which won the Barrow Street Poetry Prize in 2016. She’s been awarded prizes and fellowships from Arts & Letters, Poetry International, Vermont Studio Center, the Jentel Artist Residency Program, Hambidge Center for the Arts, and the Yaddo Foundation. She publishes poetry and creative nonfiction widely in literary journals, and she is the founding editor of The Bind, a poetry review site devoted to books by women and nonbinary authors.

Stephen Hopkins, Assistant Professor – Early Medieval Languages and Literatures
Dr. Stephen Hopkins specializes in the languages and literatures of the early medieval North Sea (Old English, Old Norse, Welsh, and Irish). His current book project, The Infernal Laboratory: Hell and Apocryphal Hermeneutics in the Medieval North Sea, traces the history of hell in vernacular religious texts (ca. 700-1300), finding that apocrypha (non-canonical scriptures) about hell were exceptionally productive spaces for experiments with localized theology and identity across the Middle Ages. He comes to UCF from Indiana University Bloomington, where he earned his Ph.D. in English Literature in June 2019. His work has been recognized internationally, with generous fellowship support from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Mellon Foundation, and the American Scandinavian Foundation. At UCF he is very much looking forward to teaching medieval literature courses as well as linguistics. Follow him on Twitter for a steady stream of bad linguistic and literary memes (@phil_lol_ogist).

Sara Raffel, Assistant Professor – Technical Communication
Sara Raffel holds a Ph.D. in Texts and Technology from UCF, an M.Phil. in Film Theory and History from Trinity College of the University of Dublin, Ireland, and a B.A. in Media Studies from Hunter College of the City University of New York. Her research focuses on interactivity and playable stories. Her recent work with narrative transportation theory examines how virtual reality stories can impact players’ feelings toward social justice issues, and her study the visual novel genre explores the intersection of fiction and gamer interaction. As part of her dedication to the study of social justice, technology, and community history, Raffel serves as director of oral histories on the LGBTQ History Museum of Central Florida’s board of directors. She has recently published in journals such as Visual Ethnography and The Public Historian, and has presented her work at a wide array of national and international conferences, including iDMAa, IEEE ProComm and Meaningful Play.

Sarah Singer, Assistant Professor – Technical Communication
Dr. Sarah Singer received her Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on digital rhetorics of health and medicine, genre theory and transformation, and technical writing pedagogy. Her current project, The Empowerment Paradox: Rhetorics of Lyme Disease and the Future of Chronic Illness, examines arguments about contested health conditions and explores how patients are forced to navigate the digital deluge of online health information. Sarah’s work appears in Technical Communication Quarterly, Peitho, and Journal of Medical Humanities.


Tadashi Ishikawa, Assistant Professor
Tadashi Ishikawa is an assistant professor of history at UCF. His research and teaching interests include modern Japan and East Asia, gender and sexuality, empire and colonialism, and law and society. Before joining the faculty at UCF, Ishikawa has received a postdoctoral fellowship from the Chiu Program for Taiwan Studies at Oregon State University and taught in the Asian and Asian American Studies and History departments at Binghamton University. While born and raised in Japan, he has received a Ph.D. from the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago; and a M.A. degree in East Asian Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Entitled “Geographies of Gender: Family and Law in the Japanese Empire,” his current book project explores the Japanese empire–including interwar Japan and colonial Taiwan–with a focus on gender in the interplay of family and law before the outbreak of the Asia-Pacific War in 1937.

Modern Languages and Literatures

Haidar Khezri, Assistant Professor
Dr. Haidar Khezri received his B.A. in Arabic Language and Literature from Razi University in Kermanshah, Iran, and his M.A. in Comparative Literature (Arabic and Persian) from Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran. He earned his doctorate in Comparative Literature from Damascus University, Syria, in 2011. In addition, he is a certified OPI Tester of Arabic, Persian, and Kurdish languages for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Prior to UCF, Khezri was a Graduate Assistant at Tarbiat Modarres University in Iran (2004-2006), a lecturer at Damascus University in Syria (2008-2011), an Assistant Professor at Mardin Artuklu University in Turkey (2011-2014), and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Indiana University – Bloomington (IUB) (2014-2018). At IUB, Khezri designed and developed the first and only Sorani Kurdish curriculum for North American universities under the Title VI – U.S. Department of Education Grant, and through IUB’s Center for the Study of the Middle East. Khezri was a Visiting Faculty Member and Resident Senior Fellow at UCF’s Department of Political Science through the academic year 2018 – 2019. His first book, Comparative Literature in Iran and the Arab World 1903 – 2012 (Tehran: Samt Press 2013), was selected as one of the two best Arabic books of 2017 in Iran and was re-published in a second edition by Cairo’s Egyptian Cultural Academy in 2017. Khezri’s book-length translation of poetry includes It Is Only Sound that Remains (Erbil: Salahaddin University Press 2016). He is currently co-editing The Walter De Gruyter Companion to Kurdish Literature (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter Press 2021). His recent work, Sorani Kurdish: An Elementary Textbook, is currently under design at IUB’s Center for the Languages of the Central Asian Region (CeLCAR), for publication by Georgetown University Press in 2021. His current monograph project deals with the reception of Franz Kafka by Middle Eastern literary circles, particularly after the Arab Spring and the Iranian Green Movement. Khezri has taught advanced courses in Arabic, Persian, and Kurdish languages, Middle Eastern literature and culture (including Arabic, Persian, Kurdish, and Turkish), comparative literature and cultural studies, and Middle Eastern cinema. He is originally from the small Kurdish village of Khal Dalil in Northwestern Iran and excited to be freshly knighted as a UCF Knight!

Taoues Hadour, Assistant Professor
Taoues Hadour is a native of Asnières, a suburb of Paris, France. Growing up she was fascinated by the English language and the American culture. Therefore, after high school she decided to study English at the University of Paris X. After her sophomore year in college, she decided to move to London to become immersed into the Anglophone culture. She did most of her undergraduate studies by correspondence, and she earned a B.A. and a Maîtrise in English from the University of Paris X. In 2011, Hadour came to the United States as part of the graduate teaching exchange program between the University of Paris X and the University of Missouri. After one year, she fell in love with teaching and the US. Therefore, she decided to do a M.A. in Language teaching and a Ph.D. in French Linguistics. Her current research focuses on the influence of English on various aspects of contemporary French language in social media. Her research interests are in Sociolinguistics, Bilingualism, Second Language Acquisition, and Teaching Pedagogy.

Deborah Horzen, Lecturer

Aimee Schoonmaker, Lecturer

Esmeralda Duarte, Lecturer

Nicholson School of Communication and Media

Daniel Cox, Instructor – Digital Media

Hezekiah Olopade, Assistant in Art – FIEA

Milos Ajdinovic, Lecturer – Film
Milos Ajdinovic was born in Pancevo, Serbia and is a filmmaker who specializes in ensemble work as well as the cinema of improvisation. He earned his MFA from the Film and Mass Media Department at UCF, and his B.F.A. in Film and Television Directing at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, Serbia. He has directed two feature films – Preserving the Magic and Goodbye, White Guy – which are currently entering the international film festival circuit. His short films have traveled across the world, screening at numerous national and international festivals. His graduation short Dead Man Doesn’t Hiccup (2009) has won the award for the Best Serbian Film at the Student Film Festival in Belgrade.

Nicholas Twardus, Lecturer – Film Production & Film Studies
Nicholas Twardus is a recent Feature Film Production MFA graduate from UCF where he completed work on a feature-length body of work and a dissertation that accompanied it. His films, which have shown nationally at festivals, are focused on the natural landscape. Currently, Twardus writes, directs, produces, shoots and edits experimental documentaries that incorporate analog and digital imagery.

Devin Monnens, Lecturer – Digital Media
Devin Monnens is a game designer, game design instructor, and game historian. He has taught Game Design and Game Studies at the University of Colorado—Colorado Springs, Full Sail University, and Bradley University. His research focuses on early videogames, the history of Japanese videogames, and the history of game design. His game design work and research focuses on how games produce narrative and meaning through mechanics, level design, and worldbuilding.

Matin Salemirad, Instructor – Digital Media

Alyssa Lutz, Instructor – FIEA


Stacey DiLiberto ’03 ’11Ph.D., Lecturer
Stacey DiLiberto was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, but she has lived most of her life in Florida. She was a Burnett Honors College student at UCF and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Foreign Languages: French and Italian and a minor in Mass Communications in 2003. She then moved to New Jersey to pursue a Master of Arts Degree in English: International/Comparative Literature at Montclair State University, which she received in 2006. Before becoming a professor, she worked in art book publishing in New York City and as a writer and translator of consumer and corporate correspondence. In 2007, she couldn’t stand the cold any longer and moved back to Central Florida. It was during this time that she earned her Ph.D. in Texts and Technology in 2011, a critical milestone in her life given that she was a first-generation college student. Her dissertation, which focused on the use of digital tools to assist translators in more linguistically and culturally mindful translations of French Caribbean women’s literature, was awarded the 2012 Innovative Dissertation Award for the College of Arts and Humanities. DiLiberto’s research interests are broad and interdisciplinary and include Caribbean and Postcolonial literature, Latin American Studies, Latino/a studies (particularly Puerto Rican studies), translation, ecocriticism, and digital humanities. Prior to coming to UCF, DiLiberto was a professor of English and Humanities at Valencia College where she taught courses in literature, composition, Latin American Humanities and Interdisciplinary Honors. During her tenure there, she was awarded NEH-funded grants to study the Mayan Empire in Mexico and Russian culture in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

School of Performing Arts

Vivian Majkowski, Associate Professor – Voice, Speech and Acting
Vivian Majkowski earned her MFA in Voice and Speech at the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theatre School Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University where she studied with such luminaries as Nancy Houfek, , David Hammond, Anatoly Smeliansky, Scott Zigler, Marina Brusnikina, Andre Droznhin and Roman Kozak. Majkowski has been studying with Catherine Fitzmaurice since 1991 and was a student of Dudley Knight’s for just as long. She is a certified teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework and was in the first class of the Knight/Thompson Speechwork series. She has worked as a professional vocal coach in the theatre for such directors as Diane Paulis, Neil Bartlett, Sharon Ott, Janos Szasz, Robert Woodruff, Brian Crowe, Robert Bella and James Bohnen. She is also a dialect coach for film and television counting among her many clients such talents as Kristen Stewart, William Hurt, Rupert Grint, Naturi Naughton, Ben Robson and the late Alan Rickman. She regularly spends her summers at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey as a master teacher and Voice/Dialect Coach, she has been a company member since 1998. Vivian is a past president of the Voice and Speech committee at the Southeastern Theatre Conference where she instituted a new category of master class for leaders in their fields, the Guest Artist Series, with Patsy Rodenburg and helped usher Kristin Linklater into the Distinguished Career Award. She is on the editorial board of the Voice and Speech Review, the Voice and Speech Trainers Association’s peer reviewed journal published by Routledge. Prior to UCF Majkowski was the graduate coordinator and the director of the Classical Touring Company for Savannah College of Art and Design adapting Shakespeare plays to one hour of stage time for the tours. She is the recipient of several directing and voice awards from KCACTF, numerous faculty recognition awards from SCAD, and is the recipient of the Certificate of Distinction in Teaching and a nominee for the prestigious Joseph R. Levenson Teaching Prize at Harvard University. Her undergraduate was at the University of Colorado, Boulder in Acting and she also holds an Associate of Occupational Studies degree from the Swedish Institute for Health Sciences and is a licensed massage therapist in extensive Western modalities and a Traditional Chinese Medicine Five Element Theory Shiatsu practitioner, melding her careers in acting and bodywork to holistically engage her voice, speech and dialect students and professionals in the theatre/film/tv industries, the business world, members of the clergy and politicians.

Robert Siler, Assistant Professor – Lighting Design
Rob Siler is a lighting and projections designer specializing in theatre, dance, and opera. Originally from Washington, D.C., Rob has had the privilege of collaborating with some of the best theatre artists on the East Coast. Recent highlights include designing the lighting and projections for the world premiere of She A Gem at The Kennedy Center, lighting for Radamisto for Opera Lafayette at The Kennedy Center and the Kaye Playhouse in New York, and lighting and projections for the new play Damascus at Florida Repertory Theatre. In 2017, Siler made his Off-Broadway debut with his lighting design of Occupied Territories at 59E59. Other companies that Rob has worked with include Monumental Theatre Company, Maryland Opera Studio, Kalandhi Dance, The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Riverside Theatre and Weathervane Repertory Theatre. He has also served as the assistant to the lighting designer for A Delicate Balance and The Front Page on Broadway and the assistant designer for productions at Olney Theatre, the Studio Theatre, the Kennedy Center and Tuacahn Amphitheatre. Siler is a proud, incoming member of United Scenic Artists Local 829 and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Shenandoah University.

Chloë Rae Edmonson, Assistant Professor – Theatre History
Chloë Rae Edmonson hails from New York City, where she taught in the Drama Department at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and ran a graduate fellowship program at the CUNYBA Program for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies. Her research centers on historic and contemporary immersive theatre in New York City, though she is thrilled to expand this study into the multitude of immersive theatrical experiences that Orlando has to offer. Her 2018 dissertation, “Under the Influence: Drinking and Immersion in New York City Theatre and Popular Entertainment, 1850 to Present,” looked specifically at the role that social drinking plays in cultivating immersive experience. Her 2017 article, “The Aristocrat of Harlem: Slumming, Immersion and Intoxication in Prohibition-era New York City” was published in a special issue of Performance Research Journal.  Edmonson taught the Theatre History sequence and Intro to Theatre for the Department of Theatre at the City College of New York, as well as English Composition at LaGuardia Community College. She was a visiting professor in Graduate Theatre Studies at the Shanghai Theatre Academy in Summer 2017. She was also a Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) fellow for three years at CUNY. Chloë presents her work each year at various disciplinary conferences (ATHE, ASTR, CATR, PSi). She has also been a long time staff writer for, a New York City theatre review website. Edmonson holds a PhD in Theatre & Performance (2018) from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY) and an M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU (2012). She graduated magna cum laude with a degree in English and Theatre from Trinity University in 2009. She is originally from Austin, Texas and returns frequently to visit family and friends.

Ross Winter, Assistant Professor – Violin
Violinist Ross Monroe Winter‘s career spans four continents and multiple genres as soloist, chamber and orchestral musician, as well as work in film and television. He previously was a member of the Richmond Symphony, the IRIS Orchestra (TN), and principal second violin of the Wintergreen Festival Orchestra. Winter also served for two seasons as interim Associate Concertmaster of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra (IA/IL) often leading the orchestra as concertmaster in masterworks, pops, and educational programs. He has previously been a core member of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Boston Philharmonic, and has been a regular substitute with numerous orchestras across the country. He also founded and served as Artistic Director of the Midwest Violin Caucus, a yearly event that brings notable pedagogues and students from five states to Iowa for workshops, masterclasses, and concerts. His most notable student has been Robert Downey, Jr. for the Warner Bros. film Sherlock Holmes (2009) while also playing the principal role of Violinist. Other tastes of Hollywood include roles as a featured performer in Sex and the City 2 (2010), Taylor Swift’s NBC Thanksgiving Special (2010), HBO’s series Mildred Pierce (2011) starring Kate Winslet, the BET Honors with Aretha Franklin (2014), and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012). He also spent time working on the USA Network series Royal Pains as an advisor and tutoring guest star Sami Gayle for the episode “A History of Violins” (2011). Recordings for Albany Records, Sono Luminus, AAM Recordings, and Naxos.

Jesse Cook, Assistant Professor – Trumpet
Dr. Jesse Cook was previously the Assistant Professor of Trumpet at Valdosta State University and the Principal Trumpet in the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra. Cook received his DMA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has held appointments at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas, and The University of Texas at Austin. He is a substitute musician with the Jacksonville Symphony and has also enjoyed performances with the Kansas City Symphony, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra Augusta, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, Austin Opera, Opera North and the City Limits Brass Quintet, among others. Cook has also appeared as a soloist in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #2 with the Austin Bach Cantata Project, Bernstein’s Mass for Wind Ensemble and Brass Quintet with the Austin Symphonic Band, and L’Histoire du Soldat with the Round Top Festival Orchestra Faculty. Cook’s inaugural solo CD, Imagined Conversations: Modern American Music for Trumpet, will be released on the MSR Classics Label in early 2019.

Christine Lapka, Assistant Professor – Music Education
Dr. Christine Lapka is committed to guiding teacher education candidates in the areas of elementary music methods, exceptionalities in music, methods of instruction, and assessment. Before joining the faculty at UCF, Lapka was a professor of music at Western Illinois University (WIU) with additional years in Illinois public schools in various music positions. The majority of her practical experience was in the area of elementary music education. During that time, she found her two undergraduate degrees invaluable to her teaching (Music Education and Music Therapy, WIU). Lapka completed a Master of Arts in Music Education (WIU, 1993) and a Doctorate in Music Education at the University of Illinois (2005). She received the Mary Hoffman Award of Excellence from the Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA) in 2014. As a leader in the area of disabilities in music, she is in demand to provide workshops about students with different abilities. Likewise, several articles on the same subject appear in state, national, and international journals of music education. The chapter, “Including Students with Disabilities in Instrumental Ensembles,” is published in Exceptional Pedagogy for Children with Exceptionalities: International Perspectives (Oxford University Press). 

School of Visual Arts and Design

Theresa Lucey, Visiting Lecturer – Studio Art
Theresa Lucey is a fine artist working in Orlando, Florida. Her primary practice is the creation of original paintings in the genre of figurative realism. Along with her pedagogical interests, she is pursuing a career as a full-time painter and draftswoman.

Matthew Johnson, Assistant Professor – Architecture

Ashley Taylor, Lecturer – Studio Art
Ashley Taylor received her MFA in Studio Art from the University of Florida and her BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Central Florida. She has exhibited nationally and has curated shows on printmaking and new technology. Prior to joining UCF SVAD as a full-time faculty member, Taylor worked as an Adjunct Professor at UCF and Professional Collaborative Printer at Flying Horse Editions. Her work responds to superficial interactions found in the swamps of social environments and explores the psychological effects of trying to assimilate into this twisted social world. She has experience teaching Two-Dimensional Design, Color Theory, Drawing, Printmaking, and Graphic Design courses. Taylor joined SVAD in Spring 2019.

Writing and Rhetoric

Pamela Baker, Lecturer
Pamela Baker is a lecturer in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, after serving three years there as an adjunct. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UCF. Her fiction and nonfiction has appeared in many journals, including the Sycamore ReviewThe Southeast ReviewCream City Review and Flyway, as well as the book I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse. She also coaches local teens in a creative problem-solving program called Odyssey of the Mind.

Julie Kopp, Instructor
Julie Kopp is a Visiting Instructor at UCF. She received her undergraduate B.S. in English Education and graduate degrees, the M.A. in Writing and Rhetoric and Graduate Certificate in Community College Teaching, from UCF. Kopp has also received the TESOL Endorsement and Gifted Endorsement. Previously she worked as a high school instructor which allowed for her to focus her research in pedagogy and its effectiveness. Specifically, her most recent research looks at peer review and how collaborative dynamics impact the effectiveness of the feedback given, taken, and implemented. Other research interests include linguistic analysis, body language analysis, and digital implementation of normally face to face teaching strategies.

Meeghan Faulconer, Instructor – Composition
Meeghan Faulconer is a proud alumna of UCF, earning her bachelor’s degree in 2014 and her master’s in 2019 in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies. Her focus is on American Modernism. She is excited to be working in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric teaching composition because she gets to work with a variety of students from across multiple backgrounds and majors. Faulconer believes in contagious enthusiasm and was the proud recipient of the award for “Best Sense of Humor” from DWR in 2018-2019. She lives on the Space Coast, so when not on campus she enjoys taking her son to watch rocket launches.

Ian Kay, Lecturer

Heather Vazquez, VR Lecturer