By CHARLES ANZALONE
Published December 8, 2023
When UB educators drew up the plan for their innovative VITAL scholars program, they saw it as a way to increase the pool of diverse candidates for faculty positions, as well as foster a greater sense of belonging for students from underserved backgrounds.
Well, it worked.
Five alumni from the VITAL — short for Visiting Future Faculty — program have been hired at UB since the program began in spring 2022.
The initiative brings promising doctoral scholars from historically underrepresented populations to UB before they reach the job market in order to expose them to the research and teaching opportunities available at the university. VITAL participants spend a week at UB, engaging with faculty and students, meeting other scholars in the program and learning about the many advantages of living in Western New York.
Of the five scholars who have joined the UB faculty, three were hired as assistant professors, one as a visiting assistant professor and one in a staff position. With that track record, those organizing the VITAL program are calling it a clear success.
“VITAL provides aspiring scholars a welcoming campus environment and the opportunity to engage with faculty and students to share their research and present their scholarship,” says Robin G. Schulze, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, where three of the new hires reside. “It allows scholars to experience UB’s vibrant campus community firsthand.”
The five VITAL scholars who have joined the UB faculty:
Isabel Anadon, assistant professor, Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences (VITAL spring 2022 cohort). Anadon called it “an incredible honor” to be invited to be part of the first cohort of VITAL scholars. Before coming to UB, she was a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“The VITAL program introduced me to opportunities at UB that I had not before considered,” she says. “The strong socio-legal tradition and the welcoming Department of Sociology at UB were some of the main reasons for my decision to join the faculty.”
Anadon says she would “absolutely recommend” the VITAL program to others.
“The UB VITAL scholars program created a welcoming environment for diverse scholars to come together and learn about UB and the region,” she says. “UB’s approach to issues of diversity and inclusive excellence are exemplified in the weeklong VITAL scholars program. Providing the scholars with multiple occasions to learn about UB and the surrounding community was invaluable. In addition, the opportunities to present my research and engage with UB faculty and students opened my eyes to the possibility of the many opportunities available at UB.”
Anadon teaches courses in research methods, law and society, and punishment. Her research examines how changes and shifts in the legal system and changing definitions and norms of punishment, over time, impact the lives of those punished, along with the accompanying structural changes that accrue to their familial and social networks.
“Working at the intersection of punishment and race and ethnicity, I employ a socio-legal framework to advance the theoretical and empirical study of modern-day immigration law, its intertwining with criminal law, and the disproportionate impact on immigrant and racialized groups over the last half-century,” Anadon says.
Gladys Camacho Rios, visiting assistant professor, Department of Linguistics, College of Arts and Sciences (spring 2022 cohort). Camancho Rios says the VITAL program provided a “positive transition” from graduate school to an academic job. Before coming to UB, she was a graduate student in linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin.
“I would recommend the VITAL program to others,” says Camancho Rios. “This is a program that allows professionals to find a job in their area of expertise. The VITAL program is a well-designed program that helps professionals from different areas to achieve the appropriate job. Beyond that, professionals hired through the VITAL program get the necessary resources that allow them to advance their research interests fruitfully.”
Camancho Rios’ research program involves fieldwork in the Andes of Bolivia.
“I want to document, preserve and revitalize the endangered varieties of Quechua and Aymara languages spoken in my country,” she says. “My research program also involves training junior Quechua- and Aymara-speaking younger generations to pursue documentation of Andean languages. This year also allowed me to work on two academic articles and a grant proposal submission ‘decision pending.’”
Daniela Goya Tocchetto, assistant professor, Department of Organization and Human Resources, School of Management (fall 2022 cohort). Before coming to UB, Goya Tocchetto was pursuing graduate work at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
“The VITAL program was determinant in my decision to join UB,” says Goya Tocchetto. “Before joining the program, I did not have in-depth knowledge about Buffalo and the University at Buffalo. VITAL gave me the opportunity to learn about the city and about UB, revealing that both are amazing places to live in and work at.”
Goya Tocchetto says she met “wonderful people” through the VITAL program who are now colleagues in the School of Management.
“I learned that UB hosts a supportive and productive community of people who make this university a wonderful place to do to research and teach,” she says. “And I experienced UB’s firm commitment to foster both diversity and excellence in academia. All of this made me decide to join UB. And I’m very happy here now.”
“I would absolutely recommend it to everyone who has the opportunity to join the program. It gives young scholars from underrepresented populations a unique chance to engage with UB faculty, learn about their work and get their insightful feedback and advice,” she says. “It also helps young scholars to expand their network in academia. The interactions with UB faculty really help to show how UB can be a great place to advance and develop one’s research.”
Goya Tocchetto’s research focuses on the psychological mechanisms that underlie the effects of economic, racial and gender inequality on people’s expectations, needs, desires and attributions.
“In one line of research I explore how perceptions of meritocracy fairness can be shaped by whether or not people learn about the presence of socioeconomic advantages and disadvantages in others’ lives,” she says.
“Socioeconomic advantages and disadvantages early in life can have profound influences on educational achievement, test scores, work experiences and other qualifications that form the basis of ‘meritocratic’ selection processes,” Goya Tocchetto says. “In my work, I explore how talking about inequality upfront and making it more visible can help to overcome some of its negative effects.”
Brittany Jones, assistant professor, Department of Learning and Instruction, Graduate School of Education (fall 2022 cohort). Prior to coming to UB, Jones lived in Richmond, Va., while completing her dissertation. She was a high school social studies teacher in Richmond before beginning her doctoral studies at Michigan State.
“The VITAL program provided me opportunities to not only meet with potential colleagues but also created opportunities for me to learn more about the city in which I would be working,” says Jones. “I was particularly moved by the opportunity to engage in an in-depth bus tour where we learned about the history of Buffalo.”
Jones says she recommends the VITAL program to other scholars because of the opportunities for doctoral candidates to network with peers from throughout the country.
“Additionally, the VITAL program is necessary, as it aims to increase future faculty from underrepresented backgrounds,” she says.
Jones’ research explores antiracist social studies teacher education, and the teaching and learning of critical Black histories. Her research has a specific focus on Black affect and emotion.
“My work also interrogates how race, power, emotions and discourse intersect within social studies standards and curriculum materials,” Jones explains. “Additionally, I explore how to use racialized emotions as a critical qualitative research method.”
Waylon Wilson, digital archivist, Department of Indigenous Studies, College of Arts and Sciences (fall 2022 cohort). Wilson, a member of the Skarù:rę (Tuscarora) Nation, pursued graduate studies at Cornell University.