Amazing Alumni: LAS Class Notes

Jeff Allen

Jeffrey Renard Allen.

Jeffery Renard Allen (PhD ’92 English; MA, ’88 English; ’86 English), is a poet, novelist and professor of English. His latest novel—Song of the Shank (Graywolf Press, 2014) was featured on the cover of the June 22 New York Times Book Review. The novel is the story of the 19th-century blind piano prodigy Thomas Wiggins, who was born into slavery in 1849 and it weaves Wiggins’ personal history with the cultural history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The review calls the book “masterly” and “the kind of imaginative work only a prodigiously gifted risk-taker could produce.” Allen is also the author of Rails Under My Back (2000), which won the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Fiction. Read more about Allen and his work at

Lea Crowley (2014 anthropology and history) has received a Fulbright U.S. Student award for teaching. She is currently in South Korea teaching English to elementary and secondary school students. Crowley will spend a full year in South Korea and then return to the U.S. to pursue a graduate degree in education.


Dartunorro Clark.

Dartunorro Clark (2013 political science), will join the Lafayette Journal & Courier in Lafayette, IN as a multimedia reporter. Clark, who in May completed a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, was a McKelvie Scholar for Government Service while an LAS undergraduate. As a McKelvie, Clark interned with the Better Government Association, where he created and analyzed a local government data base and wrote a referendum for the November 2012 election.

Keith Dorwick

Keith Dorwick.

Keith Dorwick, (PhD, ’98 English), associate professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, will be on sabbatical during the 2014-15 academic year to complete his manuscript, "Towards the Good: Depictions of Teaching, Learning and Education in the Oxford Seven's Writing and Letters.” The book will be published by ULL. Dorwick is also the editor of Technoculture: An Online Journal of Technology and Society. 

Sarah Correa Granahan (2002 anthropology) launched her creative company, Color My Spirit, LLC, last year. Among her current projects are the novel Koko’s Gift and the inspirational comic book series, Chakrula. Through her writing and artwork Granahan seeks to provide original content and imagery that has a positive message and spiritual origin.

Jennifer Brier and Cindy Ibarra

Ibarra (right) & GWS Director Jennie Brier. Photo: Joshua Clark

Cindy Ibarra (2004 Latin American and Latino Studies) is a recipient of the 2014 CESCO Award from the LAS Department of Women and Gender Studies. The award is given in recognition of an individual’s civic engagement, community service, and community organizing. Ibarra is the program associate at Crossroads Fund, a public foundation committed to support issues of racial, social, and economic justice in the Chicago area. Ibarra has a long-standing history of working on issues of homelessness, youth involvement in street economies, violence, and incarceration through the Young Women’s Empowerment Project, the Southwest Youth Collaborative’s Center of Change, and the Broadway Youth Center. She also has served on the Youth Fund for Social Change grant-making committee at the Crossroads Fund. She continues to engage in community advocacy through presentations with the Chicago Public School District and U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights/Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Ibarra received her award at a program May 1.

Melissa Talaber

Melissa Talaber Matwyshyn.

Melissa Talaber Matwyshyn (2004 biological sciences and chemistry) won the 2014 Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Education. A seventh-grade science teacher at St. Nicholas Cathedral School in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village, she works with students on science fair projects. She also partners with the Field Museum, Loyola University, and the Big Shoulders Fund science enrichment program to enhance her students’ education beyond the classroom. School principal Dr. Susan Kurland noted, in part, that “Melissa is a joy to behold as a teacher. She inspires others [and is] a major catalyst for school transformation.” Matwyshyn, who received her award in her classroom on May 8, also holds a Master of Education degree from UIC.

The Rev. Dr. William A. Mueller (’74 psychology) has served as a pastor at Winnetka Congregational Church since 2007, working in the areas of pastoral counseling and adult education. Mueller is also an adjunct professor and academic advisor at Loyola University Chicago Graduate School of Social Work where he teaches clinical methods. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Psychotherapy and a Doctor of Psychology degree. Dr. Mueller was ordained in the United Methodist Church in 1976, graduating from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary at Northwestern University. He was a defensive back on the former UICC football team in the early 1970s.

James R. Padar (’73 criminal justice) has co-authored, with his son Jay, a memoir about their combined 45 years of experience as Chicago police officers. On Being a Cop contains 53 true stories recounting moments of humor, loss, and tragedy. Padar, Sr. worked out of the Maxwell Street homicide office while attending classes at UICC, “The Circle.”

Ponnu Padiyara

Ponnu Padiyara. Photo by Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Ponnu Padiyara (2014 biological sciences and psychology) has received a Fulbright U.S. Student award for teaching. Beginning in September, she will spend 10 months in Turkey teaching English to engineering students. In addition to teaching, she will lead a project to raise awareness about water pollution. Padiyara plans to pursue graduate studies in health policy after returning to the U.S.

Tana Witt Villafana (2008 chemistry) is currently a PhD candidate in chemistry at Duke University. Villafana is working in the area of fine-art conservation and her paper, “Femtosecond pump-probe microscopy generates virtual cross-sections in historic artwork,” was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. She is working on developing a noninvasive 3D method to study paint in historic works which “will make it possible to extract microscopic information for a broad range of applications to cultural heritage.”

Tiziana Vistarini

Tiziana Vistarini

Tiziana Vistarini (MS, 2012 physics; PhD, 2013 philosophy), now a postdoctoral associate at Rutgers University working in the multi-university Philosophy of Cosmology project, received an outstanding thesis award from the UIC Graduate College. Vistarini, who was honored at a ceremony on April 23, did her UIC philosophy thesis on “Emergent spacetime in string theory” under the direction of Professor Nick Huggett. As a graduate student in physics, Vistarini worked closely with Professor Emeritus Arthur Licht, who served on her dissertation committee.

John Wasik

John Wasik.

John Wasik (’78 psychology; MA, ’88 communication) has been a business writer for Forbes and Reuters magazines, Bloomberg news and the New York Times. A specialist in the area of investing, Wasik’s 14th book was recently published by McGraw Hill. Keynes’s Way to Wealth: Timeless Investment Lessons from the Great Economist (2013) explores how Keynes managed to make money during some of the worst markets in history and influenced Warren Buffett, George Soros, David Swensen, and many others. Visit Wasik’s website at

Photos courtesy of subjects, unless otherwise noted