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Dean’s Newsletter: Spring 2024

Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, and Friends of CSSH:

Since arriving Northeastern at the end of February, I’ve been repeatedly impressed by the dynamism, the warmth, and the accomplishments of CSSH faculty, staff and students. What a fantastic college!  CSSH has achieved so much in the past decade under the leadership of former Dean Uta Poiger, and this academic year, Interim Dean Ron Sandler steered the college thoughtfully through a period marked by domestic and international tensions, transitions and loss, and new additions to our community. I’m grateful to both Uta and Ron for their generosity in sharing information and advice during my transition to the deanship of CSSH. 

My previous experiences as Dean of Humanities and Social Science at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Vice Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Johns Hopkins University are relevant for my new role at Northeastern, but I have much to learn as CSSH has unique strengths and opportunities. Over the past two months, it has been energizing to meet many of you and get up to speed on all the wonderful programs and initiatives involving CSSH members. Meanwhile, we face global challenges, including acute regional conflicts and humanitarian crises. Rather than despair, I am heartened by what CSSH’s signature Experiential Liberal Arts education, impact-oriented research, and dedication to critical reflection and empathy can contribute in envisioning solutions and promoting mutual understanding among diverse cultures and societies. What we do in CSSH has never been more relevant or needed. 

2024 CSSH Celebration

At the 2024 CSSH Graduation Celebration on May 4, it was such an honor to individually congratulate members of the classes of 2024. Student speakers Maina Wachira (MS Applied Quantitative Methods and Social Analysis ’24), Laurel Schlegel (MA Public History ’24), Jada Howard (BS International Affairs ’24), and Sage Shumate (BS Criminal Justice and Psychology ’24) each shared how their CSSH experience has prepared them for a world beyond the classroom. Student performers Jessica Garcia (BA Human Services ‘24) and Julia Mariano (BA English ’25) sung a moving rendition of Ariana Grande’s “Bye” before we heard from CSSH’s commencement speaker, Amy Farrell. Professor Farrell’s speech emphasized the importance of community, highlighting that the Class of 2024 now has a new community—that of all Northeastern CSSH alums. Congratulations to all our graduates, and we very much look forward to seeing what you do next! 

Photos from this year’s commencement celebration can be found on our website

Our Incredible Students

At the close of our spring semester, it’s so inspiring to look back on our students’ remarkable achievements. Our many award winners can be seen in this issue’s Endnotes, but I’d like to highlight some of the other activities our students have engaged in recently. 

Donning spectacular sparkly boots, Rebecca Bamidele (Biology and Political Science ’24), the student commencement speaker at the university’s Fenway Park celebration, recounted the unexpected ways Northeastern has shaped her path forward. 

Northeastern’s International Relations Council won the award for Best Small Delegation, and Council President Aayush Joshipura (Data Science & Economics ’24) won an award for his performance during the February 2024 model Security Council debate in London. 

Celebrating Our Faculty and Staff

As we close out the academic year, I am deeply impressed by the many accomplishments of CSSH’s faculty and staff.  

In April, we celebrated the accomplishments of our faculty and staff at our annual faculty and staff celebration. We welcomed and applauded the winners of our Outstanding Teaching Awards—Daniel Aldrich, Linda Chiu, Kat Gonso, and Sarah Lockwood. Our staff, who are critical for CSSH’s successes, were recognized with Outstanding Staff Awards, including Helen Chong, Associate Director of College Research Administration; Nancy Hutchins, Administrative Officer for Philosophy and Religion; Jason Riccio, Associate Director of Undergraduate Academic Advising; and Heather Stellberger, Assistant Director of Academic Advising & Support. 

The university honored Qianqian Zhang-Wu with the University Excellence in Teaching Award and Denis Sullivan with the Northeastern Global Educator Award. Ron Sandler received the Klein University Lecturer Award and shared his expertise in bioengineering and ethics at the 60th Annual Klein Lecture. 

Madhavi Venkatesan was named Woman of the Year for Massachusetts by USA Today. Her work to eliminate single-use plastic bottles in Cape Cod has led to a ban of these products in all 15 towns in the Cape and the founding of the nonprofit Sustainable Practices

CSSH continues to prioritize diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging (DEIB) as a central tenet of our mission. Louis Green joined CSSH this past semester as our first Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Initiatives and will lead implementation of new activities and track progress on goals related to DEIB. Our 2024 Excellence in Work to Foster Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Awards yielded an unprecedented number of nominations, leading to faculty and staff winners Adam Hosein, Lisa Laguerre, Caitlin Thornbrugh, and Sheila Winborne. Our student winners are listed in the Endnotes. We are exceedingly proud of our winners and their exemplary leadership and contributions to advance DEIB through research, practice, community engagement, teaching and advocacy. 

Sadly, CSSH also experienced losses in 2024 with the passing of current and former faculty. Anthony Penna retired from Northeastern and the History department in 2010, after 25 years with the university. He shared his love of community building with  students and is remembered as a kind and generous colleague. With expertise in espionage, Jeffrey Burds was a passionate and popular instructor in the History department for over 26 years.  Ángel Nieves was a beloved faculty member in our Cultures, Societies, and Global Studies and History departments and director of CSSH’s Humanities Center. His impact on colleagues, students, and broader communities was far-reaching and meaningful. The CSSH community grieves the recent passing of these cherished faculty. 

An Eventful Spring

Throughout the spring semester, CSSH continued to invite thoughtful discussion, collaboration, and celebrations to Northeastern’s global network and broader audiences. Highlights include the GAP (Global Action for Policy) Initiative Conference, hosted in March by Nishith Prakash and Silvia Prina. Joshua Angrist, Ford Professor of Economics at MIT and recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2021 and Michael Kremer, University Professor in the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics and Nobel Memorial Prize laureate in Economics in 2019, delivered keynotes, joining attendees in a two-day discussion on bridging the gap between research findings and effective policy implementation. 

Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor, professor of political science, author, and activist, was the guest of honor at a celebration of his many accomplishments and years of public service in April. Hosted by Costas Panagopoulos, the celebration brought together Dukakis with Northeastern alumni, many of whom have gone into public service thanks to his influence and past and present local government leadership. Governors Maura Healey, Deval Patrick, and William Weld were joined by Northeastern’s President Joseph Aoun to share the outsized impact Dukakis has had in the political and academic fields. 

Programs in our Center for Global Studies and Cultures covered timely and enduring themes, such as “Rethinking Korea: New Perspectives on a Critical Region,” exploring issues of empire, race, diaspora, and contemporary politics of violence. Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Week featured talks from Zoë Waxman, Professor of Holocaust History at the University of Oxford, Andie Weiner ’24 as the Holocaust Legacy Foundation Gideon Klein Scholar, and Holocaust survivor Eva Paddock. 

The Latinx, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program launched the Latinxs & Comedy series to center conversations about Latinx comedy and address their underrepresentation in the industry, and the Center for International Affairs and World Cultures (CIAWC) launched its Leaders in Foreign Service Speaker Series with Karen Donfried, former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. 

CSSH was honored to bring renowned activist scholar Angela Davis to the 4th bell hooks symposium, held at Northeastern’s Oakland campus for the first time. The bell hooks symposia have run since 2022, led by Régine Jean-Charles, touching on topics of intersectional feminism, colorism, revolution, and afrofuturism. 

And finally, Catherine Fairfield saw incredible interest in her intersession class, “Speak Now: Gender & Storytelling in Taylor Swift’s Eras,” which allowed students to examine female-driven storytelling tools using Taylor Swift’s entire discography. 

Looking Ahead

I have high hopes for CSSH in the forthcoming years. The College is already known for offering a world-class education with experiential and cross-disciplinary learning opportunities for highly motivated students from around the world. Building on this foundation, I am committed to ensuring that CSSH is recognized and valued for cultivating digital age competencies that include creativity, curiosity, empathy, and resilience. As I told the Class of 2024 at the Fenway commencement, “CSSH Graduates: You will not be automated!” 

Meanwhile, we will continue to build our reputation and impact by collaborating with Northeastern faculty across our global network—and beyond.  Interdisciplinary education, impact-oriented research, and community engagement are essential pillars in our strategy for nurturing the next generation of leaders and global citizens. We will invest in our faculty and students to support the creation of knowledge and understanding that is distinctively CSSH at Northeastern. 

While striving to raise our profile externally, I’m also deeply committed to positioning CSSH as an incredible place to teach and work. The values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging will inform all aspects of our hiring, our teaching, our work, and our identity as a community. 

2024 was a meaningful year for CSSH. I’m excited to lead the College in its next phase! 


Kellee Tsai 
Dean, College of Social Sciences and Humanities 

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