New full-time faculty members join McDaniel College

Photo of McDaniel College new faculty members, left to right, Erin Watley, assistant professor of Communication and Cinema; Vanessa Flora-Nakoski, Writing Center director and lecturer in English; Dana Ferraris, associate professor of Chemistry; Ting Zhang
August 28, 2017

Four of the five new full-time professors at McDaniel have been promoted to their positions and one comes to the Hill after receiving a doctorate in Computer Science.

Visiting professors Dana Ferraris, Chloe Irla, Erin Watley and lecturer Rebecca Gibson were promoted to assistant professors while Ting Zhang joins the College community from the University of Massachusetts. Also new to the full-time faculty are Chemistry lecturer Rita Egekenze and Writing Center director Vanessa Flora-Nakoski.

Ferraris, associate professor of Chemistry, spent over 15 years doing drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry as a medicinal chemist. Still passionate about discovering drugs for unmet medical needs, his areas of research include two projects related to cancer therapy: design and synthesis of selective inhibitors of mono(ADP-ribosyl transferases) for use as biological probes and design and synthesis of binapthoquinones for the treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. As a synthetic/medicinal chemist, Ferraris is training his research students at McDaniel how to make small molecules that one day may be optimized into cancer drugs. He has also worked with McDaniel chemistry instructor Steve Robertson on an outreach program for the sciences in Carroll County high schools.

Currently teaching Organic Chemistry I and II, including the labs, Ferraris earned his B.A. at Lafayette College and his M.B.A. and Ph.D. at The Johns Hopkins University. Before McDaniel, he taught at Johns Hopkins and Stevenson universities and The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Gibson, assistant professor of Education, has a background as a reading specialist that has impacted her research interests, including early intervention and beginning literacy learners. She’s especially interested in vocabulary acquisition in children, the role of nonfiction texts in primary classrooms, and emergent/beginning writing development and instruction in young learners. 

She will teach courses in the Education Department, including Balanced Literacy Instruction and Materials, Literacy Processes and Acquisition, Assessment for Literacy, Reading in the Content Areas I and II, and courses in the graduate Reading Specialist: Literacy Leaders program, such as Diagnostic Assessment and Instruction. Gibson holds a B.A. from Albright College, an M.Ed. from Towson University and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland.

Irla, assistant professor of Art and Art History and a 2007 McDaniel grad, maintains an interdisciplinary studio practice grounded in both traditional and alternative approaches to painting. Her body of work produced over the last seven years has been heavily reliant on the integration of digital print and web-based media and the collection of data through self-tracking. Her current research is rooted in a years-long investigation of the color blaze orange in the context of rural and urban space and place. ​Blaze Breakers is an ongoing, multimedia project that utilizes analog and digital processes to distort, degrade and destroy the color blaze orange.

Irla will teach digital art and design courses such as Digital Imaging and Design I. She earned her B.A. at McDaniel College and M.F.A. from the Mt. Royal School of Art at Maryland Institute College of Art.

Watley, assistant professor of Communication and Cinema, guides her students through the critical application of communication theory by focusing on the identification and critique of intercultural issues and media that are already part of their daily experience. She applies a teaching philosophy that emphasizes making communication theory and skills applicable for students to promote critical thinking and practice in spaces and communities that are beyond the classroom.

Watley has experience teaching about the complexities of intercultural communication in globalized societies and worked on ways to help students address intercultural conflicts by developing and applying critical intercultural dialogue techniques. Involved in both media and intercultural research, she received her B.A. from the University of Maryland, College Park; her M.A. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; and her Ph.D. from University of New Mexico.

Assistant professor of Computer Science Zhang is new to McDaniel this year. Her research interests include localization, networking and distributed data, with current focus on fast and efficient techniques targeting social, sensing, storage and search applications.

During the fall semester, she will teach the art of programming and network security. Zhang received her Ph.D. in May from the University of Massachusetts and earned her B.E. at Qingdao Technological University and M.E. from Beihang University.

Also joining the faculty at McDaniel are Chemistry lecturer Rita Egekenze and Writing Center director Vanessa Flora Nakoski.

Egekenze will teach Introductory Chemistry I this fall. Her research interests focus on material characterization (chemical and instrumental), synthesis of nanoparticles and inorganic compounds and their application in catalytic reactions. She earned her B.Sc. at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, her M.Sc. at the University of Ibadan and her Ph.D. at Howard University.

Flora-Nakoski manages the day-to-day operations of the writing center and oversees McDaniel students who serve as peer tutors. She also teaches as a lecturer in the English department.

She has been a teacher, writing coach, teaching assistant and tutor at Montgomery College, University of Maryland, University College, Howard Community College, Stevenson University, the University of Iowa and UMBC honors program. Flora-Nakoski earned a B.A. at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and an M.A. at the University of Iowa.