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Meet Our Faculty Fellows

The first cohort of Do Good Faculty Fellows are:

Heidi Bulich

Heidi Bulich is a Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Architecture Planning and Preservation and Director of the Real Estate Development and Construction Project Management minors. She is an award-winning professor who is skilled in using active teaching techniques with large classes to help students understand and analyze the complicated issues our nation faces. Bulich began her career practicing real estate, banking and corporate law and working as inside counsel for a large financial institution. Bulich was Chesapeake Project Faculty Fellow in May 2016, a Fellow in the ADVANCE Program for Inclusive Excellence during the 2016-2017 academic year and serves on several committees at the University of Maryland. She is a graduate of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Georgetown University Law Center. She is licensed to practice law in Michigan.

Dr. Bulich plans to create a new mini-class as a follow-up to an existing architecture course. Designed like a clinical class in law school, it would be open to the top 15-20 students who have completed the best sustainable placemaking projects. Students would build on their existing blog/video projects and work with local governments to implement their projects. Students will learn from industry and government professionals how to raise money to launch their projects, get approvals, market and advocate for their projects, and develop a sustainable plan that addresses financing and operational concerns.

In addition, Dr. Bulich plans to develop an experiential learning program in collaboration with existing programs on campus focused exclusively on resiliency: how local governments are addressing the impacts of climate change. The class would examine the work being done by local communities across the country in relation to mitigation and adaptation strategies and develop a toolbox for best practices. Legal as well as practical challenges would be addressed. Students would develop solutions to these challenges and learn how to advocate for necessary changes in land use regulations. The course would be ideal for partnerships with the Carey School of Law and the School of Public Policy.

Alison Burns

Broadcast journalist Alison Burns is an adjunct lecturer and Ph.D. student in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. She received her bachelor's degree in Journalism and Government and Politics from University of Maryland in 1993 and has worked in news ever since, most of the time as a Washington correspondent for Cox Media Group’s nationwide network of TV and radio stations. Burns continues to freelance as a producer, while teaching broadcast news writing and reporting and other courses at the college. In addition, she is researching ways to improve and expand journalism education. Burns created a "FACTS about Fake News" active-learning workshop with the goal of empowering high school students and others in our community to recognize the value of journalism and make the fight against "fake news" their own.

She's interested in working with journalism students to embrace a public service role and engage with communities about ways to improve trust and mutual understanding. Burns wants to use her Do Good Faculty Fellowship opportunity to develop a course in which journalism students research, develop and present interactive programs in underrepresented communities to open dialogue on issues such as fake news, media distrust and the role of journalism in a democracy. The students' programs could include, but are not limited to, lessons on assessing accuracy in online content, issue framing in news and discussions about coverage of diverse populations.

Alyson Farzad-Phillips

Alyson Farzad-Phillips is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication. She studies rhetoric and political culture, and is especially interested in examining the rhetoric of place and protest. When not juggling the workload of graduate classes and research, Farzad-Phillips spends her time teaching public speaking for her department. She is currently developing a service-learning course-section of COMM 107 as part of the Oral Communication Program. Before enrolling at UMD, Farzad-Phillips graduated with a Masters of Education from Vanderbilt University, where she studied Higher Education Administration with an emphasis in service-learning, experiential learning, and student development.

As a Faculty Fellow, Farzad-Phillips hopes to energize the oral communications curriculum for COMM 107 with a focus on social justice and service-learning. COMM 107, also known as Oral Communication: Principles and Practices, explores the foundations of oral communication and students focus on preparing and delivering a variety of presentations, including informative, special occasion, persuasive, and group. Farzad-Phillips hopes to create new curriculum that teaches a blend of communication skills and social justice frameworks that will not only benefit the surrounding Prince George's County community but also build a foundation and commitment to justice within her students. Through the Faculty Fellows program, Farzad-Phillips aims to implement this curriculum into a number of COMM 107 course sections and designate them as service-learning courses each semester.

Jim Golden

Jim Golden is a faculty member in the Department of Communication and an owner/principal of Golden Opportunity Learning and Development, LLC. Golden is a sought-after national speaker and facilitator to Fortune 1000 corporations, state and federal government, and colleges and universities. Golden is a frequent blogger and soon-to-be author of Presentation Swagger®: 10 Keys to Delivering a Powerful Presentation, which provides information on how to captivate an audience and move them to action.  Golden received his Executive Business Education from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Master of Science from University of Maryland University College (UMUC), and Bachelor of Science degree from Central State University.

Golden’s proposal aims to support faculty members coach and develop students through the implementation of a high-impact and engaging public speaking curriculum or session. This new curriculum, Enhanced Communications and Public Speaking Strategies, will equip students with advanced public speaking skills and presentation techniques to build effective and confident storytellers and create impactful results for UMD students. This course will guide students to develop speaker confidence, charisma, credibility and trust, explore the key ingredients for improving verbal and nonverbal communication, learn how to effectively add stories and humor in presentations, and implement the “Rule of Three” to enhance communication persuasiveness.

Karen O’Brien

Dr. Karen M. O’Brien is a professor and Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland. Through her research, teaching, and service, she strives to generate knowledge to address social concerns, educate and mentor students to achieve their potential, and contribute to the communities where she lives and works. Dr. O’Brien studies factors related to successful management of work and family, domestic violence, dating violence, and end-of- life communication. She is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Counseling Psychology and the Journal of Career Assessment. Dr. O’Brien teaches courses on intimate partner violence and supervises service learning experiences for undergraduates in a shelter for abused women. She received her bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from Loyola University of Chicago, and her master’s degree in counseling and guidance from University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Dr. O’Brien's proposal seeks to educate undergraduate students about end-of-life topics, such as advance directives, palliative care, and hospice care with the goal of relieving some of the burden of end-of-life education in graduate and medical school and equipping the next generation of health care professionals with fundamental knowledge regarding end-of-life issues and culturally competent communication skills. Her proposed course will encourage students to reflect on their mortality and experiences of death and grieving to remove internal barriers or fear associated with end-of-life discussions. Moreover, similar to the PSYC318/319 course sequence, this course will offer service learning opportunities for students who successfully complete the course (e.g., volunteering in hospice-related organizations). The course will enable undergraduates to do good now through volunteer work in hospice related organization and in the future in their careers as healthcare professionals. 

Damien Pfister

Dr. Damien Smith Pfister is an Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Maryland studying the dynamic confluence of technology, digitally networked media, rhetorical practice, public deliberation, and visual culture. His interest in how nascent genres of digital communication provide new opportunities for citizens to influence public argument is reflected in his book, published in 2014, Networked Media, Networked Rhetorics: Attention and Deliberation in the Early Blogosphere. His work has appeared in Philosophy & Rhetoric, Argumentation and Advocacy, Rhetoric Review, Environmental Communication, and the Journal of Public Deliberation. Always On: Fashioning Ethos After Wearable Computing is the tentative title of his next book project, on the rhetorical and cultural implications of devices like mobile phones, head mounted displays, activity trackers, and smartwatches. Dr. Smith Pfister received his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 2004 and 2009.

Pfister plans to focus on developing a unique civic engagement module for COMM 301, Rhetorical Theory and Principles, which would help students see how the theories and principles of rhetoric can be enacted in their everyday life. Although civic engagement is often thought of as tied to electoral politics, he envisions it more expansively, as an effort to improve the quality of life. In a previous course Pfister taught, he encouraged students to identify a problem in their community - students developed a list of the best and worst drinking fountains on campus, which ultimately led facilities  to update and fix the problem areas identified by students. He is hoping to encourage students to draw on the rhetorical principles taught in class to improve our collective lives by editing Wikipedia pages, creating social support groups, helping university facilities evaluate possible areas for improvement, among many other projects that improve our collective condition. 

Rashawn Ray

Dr. Rashawn Ray is Associate Professor of Sociology, the Edward McK. Johnson, Jr. Endowed Faculty Fellow, and Director of the Applied Social Science Research Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park. Ray’s research addresses the mechanisms that manufacture and maintain racial and social inequality. He has published more than 40 books, articles, book chapters, and op-eds and his research is cited in CNN, Washington Post, Associated Press, MSN, The Root, and The Chronicle. Ray is co-investigator of a study examining implicit bias, body-worn cameras, and police-citizen interactions with 1800 police officers with the Prince George’s County Police Department. He obtained a Ph.D. in sociology from Indiana University.

As a Faculty Fellow, Dr. Ray will develop a project-based course, focused on social issues impacting residents of Prince George's County and the greater Washington area: policing, education, wealth, and health care. Using virtual reality technology, the course will enable students to create scenarios of the challenges facing residents in a given area and encourage students to develop effective solutions based on what they saw, experiences they had with community members, policymakers, and more and present what they learned.

Marie Thoma

Marie Thoma is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Science in the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland. Grounded in a life course perspective, Dr. Thoma’s research focuses on population-based methodologies for assessing women’s gynecologic health, family planning, and maternal and infant health in the U.S. and internationally. Her research has appeared in the Lancet, Lancet Global Health, Fertility and Sterility, Journal of Women’s Health, Statistics in Medicine, Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases among other outlets. Prior to her appointment at the University of Maryland, she was a Senior Service Fellow at the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she played an integral role in developing nationally-standardized and accredited e-learning training for hospital staff to improve the quality of data collected on birth certificates. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Philadelphia and her masters of health science and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

As an undergraduate student, Dr. Thoma worked extensively with social innovation projects and high-impact public engagement and she continues to pay it forward through her participation as a Do Good Faculty Fellow. As a Fellow, she hopes to get more immersed in the social impact space at UMD, making meaningful connections between her government and social innovation contacts and students as they explore new ideas and projects. As part of this, she is seeking to assess the public health needs in a nearby underserved community in partnership with her current course, Maternal, Child and Family Health.

Leah Tobin

Leah Tobin is the Assistant Director of Student Engagement for the Gemstone Honors Program. In her role with the Program, Tobin facilitates first-year experience, including two first-year seminars and coordinates the co-curricular opportunities which complement the students' four-year research project. She is currently in her third year of doctoral work in the Student Affairs Concentration. Her research seeks to explore the construct of resilience, examining how students perceive their own self-rated resilience and the impact of experiences throughout college. Tobin majored in elementary education at American University and later received her master’s degree in higher education administration with a concentration in student affairs administration from The George Washington University.

Within the Gemstone Honors Program, Tobin co-teaches Gems 104, a Science, Technology and Society course which seeks to help first-year Gemstone students better understand research. Students explore research through the lens of social impact, asking fearless questions: why, how, and so what? Through the Do Good Faculty Fellows Program Tobin plans to expand the Gems 104 curriculum to enhance the course experience from the crossroads of social innovation, social change and research and help students understand the connection between - and importance of - research and doing good. 

David P. Weber

David P. Weber is the Academic Director of the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School’s graduate certificate programs in Fraud Management and Anti-Money Laundering Management, an executive education partnership with the American Bankers Association. He teaches a number of courses, including fraud and forensic investigation ethics and ethical leadership. Recently, Weber served as the U.S. banking expert who assisted journalists in reviewing information now known as the Panama and Paradise Papers, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. A Certified Fraud Examiner, attorney in private practice, and registered private investigator, he previously served as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, the SEC’s Chief Investigator. Weber earned a law degree from Syracuse University College of Law and a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, also from Syracuse University.

As part of the Do Good Faculty Fellows, Weber will train and use undergraduate students in Weber’s top-ranked i-series course BMGT 289D Fraud, Scams and Thefts, to manually mine and review the ICIJ databases to identify yet-unknown cases of tax fraud, money laundering, kleptocracy, bribery, and terrorism finance. Using Weber’s unrivaled knowledge and access to the data, UMD undergraduate students will participate in bringing new cases of impunity to light, and given the right set of circumstances, to justice. Students will directly interact with U.S.-based reporters on the ICIJ team, who will visit the College Park campus as part of the investigation.