From left: Damascus Kafumbe (music), William Amidon (geology), Irina Feldman (Spanish), Christal Brown (dance), and Erick Gong (economics).

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Five members of the Middlebury College faculty were granted tenure on January 27, 2018. In accepting the recommendations of President Laurie L. Patton and the College Board of Overseers, the Middlebury Board of Trustees approved tenure for William Amidon (geology), Christal Brown (dance), Irina Feldman (Spanish), Erick Gong (economics), and Damascus Kafumbe (music).

The promotions from assistant professor to associate professor will take effect July 1, 2018.

William H. Amidon is a geologist whose research encompasses classic geomorphological studies, theoretical and technical analyses of new cosmogenic dating techniques, and geochronological studies of tectonic and climate processes in locations across three continents. In recommending tenure for Amidon, Professor of Biology Andrea Lloyd, the vice president of academic administration, said, “Your intellectual curiosity and passion for scientific inquiry also illuminates your work in the classroom. Students appreciate your infectious passion for your subject, as well as your efforts to weave your research into your teaching. They find you to be a superb mentor, noting that you strike a near-perfect balance between letting them figure out problems on their own and providing guidance.” Amidon joined the Middlebury faculty in 2010 after earning a PhD in geology from the California Institute of Technology. He did his undergraduate work at Carleton College and earned an MS in geological sciences at University of California, Santa Barbara. Since his arrival at Middlebury, Amidon has received nine research grants, including four from the National Science Foundation, and has published 12 articles as the first author in peer-reviewed journals.

Christal N. Brown is a dancer, choreographer, and teacher with the remarkable ability to challenge and inspire students both in and out of the classroom while also leading the Middlebury College Dance Program with a bold vision for the future, said Vice President Lloyd. Brown, who is the founding director of acclaimed New York-based dance company INSPIRIT, arrived in Middlebury as a visiting lecturer in 2008, was promoted to assistant professor in 2012, and has served as program chair since 2013. Brown has had a transformative effect on the arts at Middlebury, explained the VPAA. She creates “an open, trusting classroom environment that allows students to flourish and provides them with an educational experience that transcends dance.” She has also “recruited gifted faculty members and developed an ambitious program that reaches beyond the arts.” A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (BFA in dance) and Long Island University (MFA in new media art and performance), Brown’s recent piece, The Opulence of Integrity, has been lauded for its powerful relevance in today’s cultural and political landscape. Widely performed from Maine to the Carolinas, the dance uses the life story of Muhammad Ali to explore the struggle for identity among men of color in the U.S. today.

Irina Alexandra Feldman of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese published the book Rethinking Community from Peru: Political Philosophy of José María Arguedas (University of Pittsburgh Press) in both hard and soft cover in 2014. A gifted teacher, scholar, and speaker of other languages, Feldman is fluent in English, Spanish, and Russian, and proficient in Portuguese and French. Her scholarly work has had significant impact on the field of Andean studies, while her courses about indigenous cultures and Latin American leftist movements have contributed greatly to the departmental curriculum, said Vice President Lloyd. “Your colleagues appreciate the intellectual curiosity that you bring to your teaching and the ways in which your teaching reaches out to embrace multiple disciplinary perspectives,” she said. “You have demonstrated an aptitude for fostering a classroom environment in which students can take risks and engage substantively with one another—cultivating trust and respect so that intellectual debate and discussion can flourish.” Feldman joined the faculty in 2008 as a visiting assistant professor after earning both a BA in Spanish and medieval literature and a PhD in Latin American literature and cultural studies at Georgetown University.

Erick J. Gong is a scholar of developmental economics whose work, which has been published in the top peer-reviewed journals in the field, “is highly regarded for the creativity and rigor that it brings to bear on important questions,” said Vice President Lloyd. “Your studies of the economics of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa have earned the respect of your peers and, perhaps more significantly, have yielded insights that have the potential to improve policies and, ultimately, health outcomes.” Gong earned a BA in economics at University of California, Berkeley; an MA in economics at New York University; and a PhD in agricultural and resource economics at University of California, Berkeley, where his dissertation topic was “Health and Education in Sub-Saharan Africa.” The vice president of academic affairs said Gong’s “teaching philosophy attests eloquently to what it means to teach economics in a liberal arts environment. Your commitment to teaching courses in such a way as to meaningfully affect students’ lives—not just at Middlebury, but beyond—is inspiring, and your teaching is described by colleagues and students in adjectives that lean heavily towards superlatives: demanding, passionate, vibrant, clear, exceptional, and innovative.” Economist Gong, who also has extensive experience in asset management on Wall Street, joined the Middlebury faculty in 2011.

Damascus Kafumbe is an ethnomusicologist of Sub-Saharan Africa who is also a teacher, researcher, composer, producer, maker of instruments, and performer on bow harps, tube fiddles, panpipes, drums, flutes, xylophones, and many other instruments indigenous to East Africa. Kafumbe’s expertise as a teacher, scholar, and performing artist has had a transformational impact on the Department of Music and Middlebury College, said VPAA Lloyd in recommending him for tenure. “You create, in your classroom, an environment that stresses collaborative inquiry over competition, that challenges students’ preconceptions, and that empowers them to engage actively in the process of learning. Students are inspired by the high standards to which you hold them and appreciate your commitment to seeing them fully and knowing them as people.” Kafumbe, who arrived at Middlebury in 2011 as a visiting assistant professor, holds a BA in music from Makerere University (Uganda) where he gave a recital on an eight-stringed bowl lyre and composed a song cycle orchestrated for Ugandan instruments. In 2004 he moved to the U.S. and, over the next seven years, earned both a Master of Music degree and a PhD in musicology at Florida State University. His book, Tuning the Kingdom: Kawuugula Musical Performance, Politics, and Storytelling in Buganda (University of Rochester Press), is scheduled for release in 2018.

At their January meeting, the Board of Trustees also promoted six associate professors to the rank of professor, including Daniel Brayton (English and American literatures, and environmental studies), Molly Costanza-Robinson (environmental studies and chemistry), Eliza Garrison (history of art and architecture), Matthew Kimble (psychology), Roberto Lint-Sagarena (American studies), and Jeremy Ward (biology). Their appointments to full professor will take effect July 1, 2018.