case western reserve university




With the appointment of ten new faculty members in the humanities, the College has reaffirmed its commitment to enhancing research and education in the liberal arts. Outstanding scholars and teachers have joined the departments of classics, English, history, music, and philosophy, in addition to new chairs in art history and art and modern languages and literatures. There are also significant new hires in political science, mathematics, and psychology. Below are profiles of each new faculty member.


Paul Iversen, assistant professor (Ph.D. in classical studies, The Ohio State University), specializes in Greek and Roman new comedy, Hellenistic culture and history, and the deciphering of Greek and Latin inscriptions. A visiting assistant professor at Case since 2001, Iversen has taught a SAGES seminar titled “Myth, Ritual, and Society in the Ancient World,” as well as several classics courses.

“I have always believed that the best way for students to learn about the ancient world, including myth and ritual, is to carefully read the primary texts, or even the art and physical remains, with a critical eye,” Iversen said. “I like my students to ask such questions as, ‘What do myth and ritual tell us about the particular societies that generate them?’ ‘What were their values or collective memories?’ ‘How are they similar to or different from ours?’ The SAGES seminar format facilitates grappling with such questions.”

For fifteen years, Iversen has been collecting, organizing, and editing ancient Greek and some Latin inscriptions. In cooperation with the Packard Humanities Institute, he is currently gathering them into a web-based searchable corpus.

Rachel Sternberg, assistant professor (Ph.D. in Greek, Bryn Mawr College), was most recently assistant professor and chair of classical studies at the College of Wooster. Her areas of interest include the social history of Greece and Rome, popular morality in ancient Athens, and the relationship between the ancient Greek world and American civilization.

"I became interested in how the framers of our constitution, all classically educated, interpreted Greek and Roman history and literature,” she said. “They definitely put ancient Athens on a cultural pedestal. And since the Athenians prided themselves on being humane—something the Romans were not especially known for—it is fascinating to watch how Thomas Jefferson inherited and lived with a contradiction between humane ideals and the practice of slavery.”

As for the supposedly dead languages of Greek and Latin, Sternberg says that they come alive “as soon as you play with the words and see what their derivatives are still doing in English.

“There is nothing I like better than teaching ancient Greek,” she continued. “It is intricate and beautiful and it opens the door to a rich and time-honored realm of literature and ideas.”


Marixa Lasso, assistant professor (Ph.D. in history, University of Florida), was most recently assistant professor of history at California State University, Los Angeles, where her teaching centered on nineteenth century Latin America and race relations. Lasso is currently writing a book on revolution in Colombia, with the working title The Harmony of War.

“The book title comes from the notion that in times of war against a foreign enemy—in this case a colonial power— nations develop ideologies of harmony to unify people who previously were in conflict with each other,” she said.

Lasso incorporates several aspects of her research into the courses she teaches. “I constantly try to make students aware of the complexity of any historical issue, a complexity that is not always clear in broad narratives and historical generalizations.”


Thrity Umrigar, assistant professor (Ph.D. in English, Kent State University), received her graduate degree in journalism from The Ohio State University. For fifteen years, she worked as a reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal, contributing regularly to the paper’s Sunday magazine and writing a local column. During this time, Umrigar began doctoral studies in English at Kent State University and juggled classes with work.

In 1999, Umrigar was awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University for mid-career journalists. The author of a novel, Bombay Time (2002), and a memoir, First Darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood (2003), Umrigar is currently completing a novel exploring the social and cultural differences between an affluent Bombayite and her longtime domestic helper.

“I think my main objective in teaching undergraduates is to make them fall in love with language and with the act of writing,” Umrigar said. “I have no illusions that many of them will become published writers—in fact, most of them will not. But I want them to learn how to read critically and also passionately, and I want them to explore their own selves through their writing. My hope is that they will leave my class becoming lifelong readers and writers—even if they never publish anything that they write.”


Peter Bennett, assistant professor (D.Phil. in musicology, Oxford University), is a harpsichordist and organist and founding director of Ensemble Dumont, whose performances and recordings of seventeenth-century French music have met with high acclaim throughout Europe.

“In my own field of early music, I will be looking to make music with students at Case in a number of ways—coaching and collaborating in various projects, large and small,” Bennett said. “I am also very much looking forward to branching out again as a performer. Before making a name for myself as a specialist in the French baroque, I did all kinds of performing, from organ recitals to contemporary music to singing and conducting of the mainstream repertoire.”

Bennett explained that he has tried to maintain a separation between his performing career and his scholarly pursuits. “In my opinion, to be successful as a performer it is sometimes necessary to ignore the musicology. Having said that, my performance work has almost invariably been the stimulus for my research, even though my research is not directly related to performance.”

Daniel Goldmark, assistant professor (Ph.D. in musicology, University of California, Los Angeles), worked for five years as an editor and producer at Rhino Records in Los Angeles. Before that, he was archivist and a music supervisor at Spumco Animation in Hollywood. He is the author of two books on music in Hollywood cartoons and a specialist in American popular music, including jazz and music for film.

Goldmark is intrigued by the relationship between cartoon and classical music. He remembers sitting in a music history class as an undergraduate, listening to Mozart's Piano Sonata in C Major, and realizing that he had first learned that piece, and countless other pieces, from animated cartoons. "It was at that point," he said, "that I resolved to learn more about music in cartoons.

"When people hear what I work on," he continued, "most quickly jump to the conclusion that I watch cartoons for a living—granted, a fun idea. But when they ask me whether cartoon music is truly serious music, we usually end up talking about how much music people learn from cartoons and films, and how the media can create a new meaning or cultural significance for a piece of music that’s 50 or 100 years old— if not older.”

David Rothenberg, assistant professor (M.Phil. and Ph.D. in music history, Yale University), spent 2002-03 in Munich, Germany, carrying out research on the medieval and Renaissance music manuscripts of the Bavarian State Library. Last year, he taught music history and directed the Collegium Musicum at Colby College in Maine. Rothenberg’s research focuses on symbolism and liturgical signification in medieval and Renaissance music.

“My way of studying musical meaning is not to examine individual compositions in a vacuum, but rather to study them in the context of musical and liturgical traditions,” he said. “I believe all historical study of music should be grounded in study of the culture in which it arose, but this is especially true in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, when boundaries between the various arts were not as strictly drawn as they later became.”


Sara Waller, assistant professor (Ph.D. in philosophy, Loyola University), was most recently associate professor of philosophy at California State University, Dominguez Hills. One of her areas of expertise is the philosophy of mind—the topic of a class she is teaching at Case this fall.

“The course will cover historical and contemporary explanations for the interaction between mind and body,” Waller explained. “All of us have experienced the effects of physical substances (medicine, a cup of coffee) on consciousness. But is the mind just another physical substance, or a product thereof? If all physical matter follows physical laws, then are we living out predestined lives under the delusion that we make choices?

“I hope that students will take away from the course both a taste for rigorous yet imaginative argument, and a sense of the excitement and relevance of philosophy.”

Waller is also interested in how neurology and the philosophy of language fit together. “I am not sure that they do—and that is what interests me most,” she said. “I am studying the conceptual commitments that lead us to specific views on the relevance of neurological discovery to language and thought.”

Political Science

Justin Buchler, assistant professor (Ph.D. in political science, University of California, Berkeley), was most recently a visiting assistant professor in political science at Oberlin College. He studies a very timely and controversial topic: the behavior of voters and the performance of voting machines.

“I became involved in the study of voting machines after the 2000 election,” he said. “My Berkeley colleague and I found that early assessments of the problems with punch-cards were correct (they don’t work), but that electronic voting machines perform better than many have claimed.” Buchler also studies campaign finance, and has found that contributions to candidates and parties rarely influence policy decisions.

Buchler is cautiously optimistic about the impact his work may have on shaping public policy. “My research frequently challenges conventional wisdom, so policy-makers are unlikely to ever believe anything I say,” he said. “My only objective is to make people think.”

Peter W. Moore, assistant professor (Ph.D. in political science, McGill University), was most recently assistant professor of political science at the University of Miami (Florida). His fields of interest include comparative politics (focusing on the Middle East and Africa), international relations, political economy, crisis, conflict, and war. His first book, Doing Business in the Middle East: Politics and Economic Crisis in Jordan and Kuwait, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2004. In his current research, he is examining strategies of trade liberalization and export-led development in Asia and the Middle East.

“It is generally agreed that export trade is one key to a country’s successful economic development, but the political requisites to achieve that are still debated,” Moore said. “ By comparing successful cases of export-led development with new experiments (Jordan, Egypt, Turkey), I hope to push this debate in a new direction.”

Moore incorporates his real-life experiences into his courses. “Since I conducted much of my research in the Gulf and Levant, I use those experiences, films, and definitely cuisine to expand student knowledge,” he said. “In my Middle East politics course, I usually assign each student a city to investigate and present to the class as a way to see the region as more than simply an arena of conflict.”


Christophe Geuzaine, assistant professor (Ph.D. in applied sciences, University of Liège, Belgium), was most recently a postdoctoral researcher with the Belgian National Foundation for Scientific Research. He works in the field of applied mathematics, with links to various areas of engineering, material science, and biology.

“Explaining my research interests to non-mathematicians is relatively easy, thanks to the many ‘real life’ problems I deal with, and to which many people can relate,” Geuzaine said. “I study modeling of electromagnetic fields and waves, like those in or around cell phones, power lines, microwave ovens, motors, and optical fibers. I also engage in research on the behavior of biological cells and tissues under various constraints, and on modeling the shape of airplanes and submarines.”

Geuzaine noted that his findings have been applied to the development of open-source software tools available on the Internet. “These tools play an increasingly important role in making the kind of math I do relevant to non-specialists, ” he said.


Anastasia Dimitropoulos, assistant professor (Ph.D. in developmental psychology, Vanderbilt University), has been a Merck Scholar and was most recently a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) research fellow at the Yale Child Study Center. Her research focuses on compulsivity and its relationship to developmental disabilities, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to better understand these conditions.

Dimitropoulos has studied Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder that typically causes low muscle tone, short stature, cognitive disabilities, problem behaviors, and a chronic feeling of hunger that can lead to excessive eating and life-threatening obesity. “Using fMRI,” she explained, “I have worked to identify areas of the brain that are involved in processing food-related information, examining where these structures differ from those of weight-matched individuals who do not have the syndrome.”