Richardson Hall

Meet Our New Faculty

The challenges of 2020-2021 have revealed that 
St. Lawrence’s new faculty are as creative as the times we live in.

Olivia White '17

How Government's Precious Hall Gives Back 

Assistant Professor of Government Precious Hall is a strong believer in leaving our communities better than they were when we found them. That’s the impact she made during her time as a faculty member at Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) in Reno, Nevada.

“I was always taught that in every space that you’re in, it’s your responsibility to find a way to try to give back. I believe that to whom much is given, much is required,” she says.

For Hall, giving back to others is one of life’s greatest callings. Her approach involves identifying existing needs and channeling her passions to become an agent of lasting change.

“You don’t engage in service just to say, ‘I did something.’ You want to engage in service to say, ‘You know what? I’m passionate about this particular area.’ One of the ways that I like to do that is to see where there may be gaps. Is there something here that’s missing or something that could help others? Then, I try to fill in those gaps,” she explains.

Hall’s hopes for what her students will take away from their time in her classroom, regardless of their major or career interests, reflect her philosophy on advocacy, giving back, and the overarching meaning of citizenship.

“Citizenship is a relationship. Citizenship is not just a matter of being born in a particular place and being a citizen of that country. It comes with a responsibility and a duty,” she says.

She also wants students to understand the role they play as citizens in helping to shape, and hold accountable, the institutions that govern them.

When it comes to her research focus, Hall is an Americanist and a race scholar. She studies the behaviors of individuals in American institutions, such as Congress and the court system, as well as voter behavior.

“Under race and politics, I look at things that impact voter turnout, things that impact economic stability for racial groups. I study forms of oppression and privilege. I also study forms of rhetoric and communication as it relates to minority politicians,” she says.

During a time when political divisiveness risks stymying the momentum and progress of social justice initiatives, Hall aims to equip students with the tools they’ll need to be effective, responsible citizens, including the ability to communicate across differences.

“My job is to help facilitate students’ understanding. Even if you disagree with a point of view, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek to somewhat understand it and know why a person thinks that way,” says Hall. “We can agree to disagree, and we can do it respectfully.”

Psychology’s Brittany Hollis Emphasizes Empowerment

When it comes to collaborating with students and supporting their academic aspirations, Assistant Professor of Psychology Brittany Hollis has one priority in mind.

“I want them to feel empowered,” she says. “I hope the students that I get the privilege to mentor and to work with know that they are supported and that someone believes in them.”

Support and empowerment are at the heart of her mentorship, pedagogy and research, and the impact she hopes to make through each.

“My research looks at what we call power-based interpersonal violence. This includes things like sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking,” says Hollis. “My work so far has really looked at the prevention of sexual violence and also the treatment of our response to someone coming forward with a case of sexual violence.”

Hollis received both her Bachelor of Science and doctorate from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where many of her classmates were veterans because Norfolk is also home to the largest Naval base in the United States. During her post-doctoral research fellowship at the Veterans Health Administration in Pittsburgh, she developed an education program to help providers administer trauma-informed, patient-centric care.

Hollis believes that higher education and academia play a critical role in helping to change the way society addresses sexual assault, not only by fostering supportive environments for those who come forward to report their experiences, but by designing and modeling effective prevention strategies.

Sharing her passions with students and motivating them to help create positive change on campus is one of the things she’s most excited about as a new member of the St. Lawrence community. As she starts to engage key stakeholders across the University to identify their needs and collaborate on strategies that foster a safer, more informed community for everyone, student outreach and involvement is a priority.

“As my research progresses, before any kind of implementation, I want to make sure that I talk to all stakeholders. I’m trying to make sure I incorporate everyone,” says Hollis. 

Hollis’ Stress and Resilience class is one of her favorite courses to teach because of how seamlessly it incorporates her research interests. Last semester, she and her students were having conversations and producing resources with the goal of empowering and informing the entire University community.

“When we are talking about trauma, I try to make sure that I’m also giving the students resources. We incorporate mindfulness into the class as well,” she says. “It’s important to me that we help students understand that mental health is just like physical health. There should be no stigma around getting help or having any kind of mental illness or mental health concern. It’s actually very courageous to get help when we need it.”

Rethinking Sound with Music's Fritz Schenker 

For Assistant Professor of Music Fritz Schenker, to study music is to understand the global exchange of ideas through diverse perspectives. He strives to help his students reframe their assumptions about different sounds to unlock new cultural knowledge. 

“I want my students to understand that the way that we perceive things is not universal,” he says. “A classic example is listening to a song and saying, ‘This sounds sad.’ I want my students to go from thinking, ‘This sounds sad so everybody will hear this as sad’ to ‘I hear this as sad, but somebody else might hear it a different way.’”

Through courses like Musics of the World, Musics of the Transpacifics, and Global Jazz, Schenker hopes to prompt his students to engage in a deeper level of critical reflection on the forces that shape perceptions of music, its origins, and its history.

“Their last step is to acknowledge ‘the reason why I think that everybody thinks this might be sad is the result of longstanding historical structures of inequality and imperialism,’” he says. “These larger structural forces inform the ways we think about the world.”

As an ethnomusicologist, Schenker studies how people make and share music. His work explores these forces in colonized parts of Asia, with a focus on the spread of jazz music as a result of the colonial relationship between the United States and the Philippines.

Schenker, a jazz pianist himself, joined the St. Lawrence community as a post-doctoral fellow in 2017 and became an assistant professor in the fall of 2020.

“I think music can be a really interesting way for students to uncover how what seems natural in the way we hear things is actually part of [something much larger], like racial formation or the legacies of colonialism,” says Schenker.

Although Schenker didn’t know what to expect when his Race and Music course first appeared in the University catalog, it immediately filled up. He was even able to offer a few extra spots to students on a waitlist.

“I was really excited about the interests and different backgrounds that people were willing to bring into the class because it’s not always the easiest topic to talk about. That is one of the most beneficial things about discussing race through the lens of music,” says Schenker. “I use it as an entryway to talk about bigger issues.”