Pipeline to the Faculty

New postdoc program invests in innovation and diversity
By Jody Record ’95
In a state like New Hampshire, where 93% of the population is white, a diverse faculty doesn’t just happen. In 2018, the late Julie Williams, senior vice provost for engagement and faculty development, proposed a plan: The university should create a pipeline to the faculty for underrepresented scholars.

That plan, the UNH Postdoctoral Diversity and Innovation Scholars program, recruits up to five postdocs — doctoral-degree-holding scholars who conduct independent research and engage in teaching activities for two years to gain experience that will prepare them for careers as faculty members — in academic areas identified for anticipated tenure-track faculty hires. Scholars receive a professional development experience that includes faculty development programs, an ongoing mentored research experience, a scholarly coach for individualized professional development and a mentoring network. 

“The Postdoctoral Diversity and Innovation Scholar program is a significant forward-looking investment. The talented postdoctoral scholars who are part of this program bring innovation and cutting-edge ideas to UNH,” says Leslie Couse, executive director of engagement and faculty development. “Lasting change, especially in diversity, equity and inclusion, is complex and takes strong partnerships and time, but moving quickly from idea to a full complement of 10 scholars in fall 2021 is an early success. We are very optimistic in these early days.”

Fall 2020 brought five postdoctoral scholars to UNH, each representing a different aspect of diversity and research. We introduce them here.

Mike Alvarez
Mike Alvarez
College of Liberal Arts
Mike Alvarez’s research focuses on communication about suicide and end of life, drawing on subfields within communication including media studies, language and social interaction, human communication and technology and health communication.

“As a suicide attempt survivor who spent time in a mental hospital during my undergraduate years, questions about stigma, and life and death occupy much of my thinking,” Alvarez says. “My scholarship seeks to restore human dignity to groups that are highly stigmatized or disenfranchised in some way.”

He is the author of “The Paradox of Suicide and Creativity: Authentications of Human Existence” and is the lead author of a book-in-progress “A Plague for Our Time: Dying and Death in the Age of Covid-19.”

Alvarez earned a graduate certificate in film studies and a Ph.D. in communication from UMass-Amherst.

Ryan Gibson
Ryan Gibson
College of Liberal Arts
Ryan Gibson studies how individuals internalize social and cultural ideas about race and racism and how internalizing those ideas affects our everyday lives. His current work explores the intersection of discrimination, identity and mental health with a current focus on Asian Americans during the COVID-19 crisis, and how discrimination impacts the mental health of at-risk Black youth including the potential role of cyber victimization.

“As a biracial (half-white, half-Black) person growing up in the U.S., I have often struggled with questions around my own identity. How do I process discriminatory events? And how did my thinking about race and racism impact how I perceived or was affected by those experiences?” he says. “I hope my work can shed some light on the often-hidden ways race changes our realities.”

Gibson earned a Ph.D. from Emory University.

Jonathan I. Lee
Jonathan I. Lee
Paul College of Business and Economics
Jonathan I. Lee’s research looks at the role of emotions, both experienced and expressed, in repairing trust following a violation. He considers when a victim might express their anger following having a trust violation, and the implications of this anger expression on the transgressor’s decision to express repentance — a critical step for trust repair.

“I am curious what contributed to my own and others’ appreciation of leaders and groups, which drove their enjoyment and growth, as well as decisions to exit,” Lee says. “I want to understand when people felt safe and excited to be in organizations.”

Lee holds a Ph.D. in business administration, organizational behavior, from Washington University in St. Louis.

Chung Hyeon Jeong
Chung Hyeon Jeong
Social Work
College of Health and Human Services
Chung Hyeon Jeong studies the socio-cultural determinants of health and healthcare disparities among racial and ethnic minorities. A mixed-methods researcher whose expertise is in qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis and social network analysis, he is currently involved in a research project exploring eHealth readiness among older adults in rural areas in New Hampshire.

“Given that the ultimate goal of my research is to reduce the disparities in healthcare access and consequently bring better health outcomes, I believe the findings of my research will strongly enhance the spectrum of UNH research in the perspectives of equity and inclusion,” Jeong says.

He received a Ph.D. in social work at University of Southern California.

Amin Rafiei
Amin Rafiei
Civil & Environmental Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Amin Rafiei’s research areas are marine geotechnics, submarine landslides and resiliency of geosystems and coastal infrastructures. Particular applications of his work are exploiting sustainable energy from waves and wind and increasing the resiliency of coastal infrastructure against surging waves. Rafiei is currently working on the assessment and mitigation of wave impacts on the instability of seabed soils.

“The findings of my research will potentially provide guidelines for the effective design of coastal protection systems that can save the lives of individuals, particularly within undeveloped coastal communities,” he says.

Rafiei’s Ph.D. in civil engineering is from North Carolina State University.