The New York University Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award is sponsored by the Offices of the President and Provost, in partnership with the Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation. The purpose of this award is to recognize outstanding faculty who exemplify the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through teaching excellence, leadership, social justice activism, and community building. In addition, these faculty make a positive impact within the classroom and in the greater NYU community. Current NYU students nominate faculty and recipients are chosen by a committee of past recipients and student leaders.
2019–2020 Faculty Award Recipients
Sheril Antonio, Tisch School of the Arts
Dr. Sheril Antonio is an Associate Arts Professor in the department of Art and Public Policy, and Senior Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives. Her courses include: Anatomy of Difference: The Other in Film, The World Through Art, and Language of Film.
She received Curricular Development Challenge Grants for two courses: Issues in Contemporary African-American Cinema and The Summer Film & Video Program for High School Students. She is an advisor, mentor, and frequent lecturer whose presentations include: a live online debate about the movie "Precious" with Stanley Crouch, and Keynote for Lincoln Center Education Forum and Future Filmmakers Workshop. She serves on the Board of the Ghetto Film School and has worked on several projects with the NAACP.
Dr. Antonio is the author of Contemporary African American Cinema, 2001. Her other works include: Do Hollywood Films Truly Reflect Life in America?; a feature essay for the inaugural issue of Black Camera: The Urban-Rural Binary in Black American Film and Culture, Indiana University Press 2009, New Black Cinema: When Self-Empowerment Becomes Assimilation, Bertz Verlang, 2006; and Matriarchs, Rebels, Adventurers, and Survivors: Renditions of Black Womanhood in Contemporary African American Cinema, Sight & Sound, Supplement, July 2005; as well as a blog for the Huffington Post.
María Rosa Brea-Spahn, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
María Brea-Spahn is a Clinical Associate Professor and the Director of the Bilingual Extension Program in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. An immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Dr. Brea-Spahn is a bilingual-biliterate Speech-Language Pathologist. She graduated with an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of South Florida.
Dr. Brea-Spahn’s dissertation investigated the interactions between Spanish-specific phonotactic patterns and nonword repetition performance in bilingual preschoolers. More recently, research collaborations have investigated discourse coherence and cohesion in school-age children with language learning disabilities. An additional area of interest includes the impact of community engagement on pre-service speech-language pathologists’ implementation of culturally responsive practices.
Dr. Brea-Spahn has taught courses in language development and disorders, culturally responsive practices, and multilingualism. Her teaching practices are guided by the belief that learning is a socio-cultural process. This philosophy has shaped how she has developed and facilitated her courses—all in a manner that aligns with her larger commitment to critical inquiry and reflective praxis, that considers students’ diverse backgrounds and voices, and that balances high expectations with scaffolding to ensure student success. Dr. Brea-Spahn incorporates the service-learning pedagogy to support students’ becoming self-directed learners and creating communities where differences are seen as assets.
Arlene Dávila, Faculty of Arts & Science
Dr. Arlene Dávila is a Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, and founding director of The Latinx Project at NYU. She studies the political economy of culture and media, consumption, immigration and geographies of inequality and race.
These research interests grew out of her early work in Latinx art and culturally specific museums and spaces in New York City, and have developed through her continued involvement in Latinx advocacy and interest in creative industries across the Americas. She has authored six books and is currently writing Latinx Art: Artists, Markets and Politics forthcoming Fall 2020.
Caroline G. Dorsen, Rory Meyers College of Nursing
Caroline G. Dorsen, PhD, FNP-BC, is an Assistant Professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing whose passion is the interface between health and social justice, with a focus on the reduction of healthcare disparities among sexual and gender minorities (LGBTQ+).
Her current project examines the relationship between gender affirmation, substance use, and HIV/STI risk among transgender men. Professor Dorsen is a master teacher who works tirelessly to help students, staff, faculty and healthcare providers understand the multifaceted causes of health inequities. Through “gentle persistence” and willingness to expose her own mistakes and vulnerabilities, she encourages others to thoughtfully consider the explicit and implicit biases that impede their ability to provide equitable care for all.
Professor Dorsen is Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of Community Healthcare Network, the Nursing Chair of GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ+ Equality, a Senior Associate Editor of Annals of LGBTQ Public and Population Health and a nurse practitioner at Project Renewal. She is also a co-investigator of SARET: an NIH-funded inter-professional substance use research training program housed in the NYU Department of Population Health.
Kirk "Jae" James, Silver School of Social Work
Dr. Kirk "Jae" James is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the NYU Silver School of Social Work. Dr. James completed his doctorate from the School of Social Policy and Practice at The University of Pennsylvania in May 2013. His dissertation, "The Invisible Epidemic in Social Work Academia," examined the complex phenomena of "mass incarceration" through a historical and contemporary lens.
He concluded by developing curricula for Master's level students to increase awareness, activism, and holistic practice in the milieu. Dr. James' activism, research, and publications focus on deconstructing systems that foster and perpetuate oppression––while examining their traumatic impact to empower healing, resiliency, and resistance for impacted people.
Dr. James believes love and radical imagination are central to creating a new humanity: not predicated on any form of hierarchy.
Darcey Merritt, Silver School of Social Work
Dr. Darcey Merritt is an Associate Professor at NYU Silver School of Social Work and a Faculty Fellow at the school’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research. She is also an Associate Editor for Children and Youth Services Review (CYSR), a member of the Board of Directors of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR), and Vice-Chair of the NYU Tenured/Tenure-Track Faculty Senate.
Dr. Merritt has extensive experience as a practitioner in child welfare systems, and research interests including child maltreatment prevention and experiences of those served by public child welfare systems. Specifically, her research focuses on parenting in socio-economic context, considering the impact of working memory on parental decision-making. She is dedicated to providing empirical and meaningful knowledge useful to bolster the well-being of children and families, through contributing their voices in the discussion of prevention methods.
Her most innovative scope of research, An Elicitation Analysis of Parental Perspectives Regarding Child Neglect has recently been funded for an R21 mechanism by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD, NIH, $435,875, 2019–2021). Dr. Merritt’s research has been widely published in high impact journals. Dr. Merritt earned her MSW and PhD in social welfare from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and her BA from Sarah Lawrence College.
Vasuki Nesiah, Gallatin School of Individualized Study
Professor Vasuki Nesiah teaches human rights, legal, and social theory at the Gallatin School. She is also faculty director of the Gallatin Global Fellowship in Human Rights. She has published on the history and politics of human rights, humanitarianism, international criminal law, global feminisms and decolonization.
Her current project, titled Reading the Ruins: Slavery, Colonialism and International Law, focuses on international legal history, including through the lens of reparations. Recent publications include the co-edited A Global History of Bandung and Critical Traditions in International Law (Cambridge 2017). Forthcoming publications include International Conflict Feminism (under contract with UPenn. Press). A founding member of Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), she is co-editing TWAIL: A Handbook with Anthony Anghie et. al (under contract with Elgar).
Before returning to full time academia, Nesiah spent several years as a human rights lawyer working on law and policy issues in the field of post-conflict justice at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). She founded and headed ICTJ’s Gender Program and served as Senior Associate leading ICTJ’s work in South Africa, India, Ghana, Nepal and Sri Lanka. She earned her BA at Cornell University, and her JD and SJD at Harvard Law School.
Dean Itsuji Saranillio, Faculty of Arts & Science
Dean Itsuji Saranillio is an associate professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. His teaching and research interests are in settler colonialism, militarism, Indigenous food systems, Asian American histories, and Native Pacific cultural studies.
Arguing that we are in a critical moment where the planet itself can no longer sustain global imperial systems, his book Unsustainable Empire: Alternative Histories of Hawai‘i Statehood (Duke University Press, 2018) calls for the alternative futures that emerge when Hawai‘i residents work in place-based affinity with Indigenous governance, foodways, and economies. At NYU, he has served as the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and is the previous Director of the Native Studies Forum. The Native Studies Forum has been instrumental in creating Native American and Indigenous Studies hires, courses, and events at NYU. Recently, they established a Native American and Indigenous Studies minor.
He is currently a Faculty Fellow in Residence (FFIR) at Greenwich Hall working with student leaders to build community in the residence hall. Beyond NYU, Professor Saranillio has done organizing work with the Hawaiian Independence Action Alliance and this past summer helped to establish the Pu‘uhonua Pu‘uhuluhulu site from which protectors have halted construction of a telescope on sacred Mauna a Wākea.
Heather H. Woodley, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
Heather Woodley is a Clinical Assistant Professor of TESOL and Bilingual Education, and co-director of the Childhood Education program in the Department of Teaching and Learning. Her teaching, scholarship, and community collaborations focus on anti-racist, creative and critical classrooms, and empowering multilingual families and youth.
Professor Woodley's teaching strives to support emerging teachers in becoming critical and community-connected educators with a particular emphasis on supporting and empowering multilingual, immigrant, and religious-minority youth. She seeks to create classrooms that are spaces of resistance, belonging, and joy for her students at NYU, and for the classrooms they will eventually lead. Professor Woodley is deeply involved with the NYU Teacher Residency program and mentors emerging teachers in pre K-12 public school placements, as well as those in adult language education placements throughout the city. She organizes bilingual family story times for the local community and continues collaborations with arts-based non-profit organizations in the Bronx to facilitate family and teacher workshops and community events.
Professor Woodley is also a passionate fangirl focusing on the intersection of comics and social justice. She has facilitated faculty workshops on this topic and will present on it this spring at SXSW EDU. Professor Woodley is a regional delegate with the New York State Association for Bilingual Education and an active public school parent.
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award will be presented during NYU MLK Week in February 2020. Winners of the award will receive a $2500 research stipend and be recognized at the Faculty Award Reception on Wednesday, February 5th during a special ceremony.
The Deadline for 2019–2020 Award Nominations was Tuesday, December 10, 2019 at 11:59 p.m.