MCLA Welcomes Six New Faculty Members

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Six new faculty members will be joining the MCLA community for the college's fall semester: Lisa Arrastia, Thomas Burton, Whitney Gecker, Sharon Head, Sudipto Sarkar, and J. Antonio Templanza. 

• Dr. Lisa Arrastia joins MCLA's Education Department as assistant professor of education. Her fields of concentration are audioethnography, critical childhood studies, and critical race theory. Her scholarship investigates the pedagogies of culture, racial capitalism, masculinity, and the intersections of race, social class, place, and school. 

Originally from New York City, Dr. Arrastria has a Ph.D. in American Studies from University of Minnesota, and she is founding director of The Ed Factory, president of the board at Kite's Nest in Hudson, N.Y., a center for liberatory education; an executive advisory board member of New York University’s PACH (Project for the Advancement of our Common Humanity) in Manhattan; the founder of a high school in Chicago; and a former middle and high school principal in NYC and Chicago. 

She is a consulting editor for the peer-reviewed journal Schools and the editor, with Marvin Hoffman, of "Starting Up: Critical Lessons from 10 New Schools" (Teachers College Press). She is currently working on a book, "The NCLB Generation: An Oral History Remix," a cultural analysis of the first students from throughout NYS to experience 12 years of schooling under the No Child Left Behind Act. 

• Dr. Thomas Burton is joining MCLA’s Physics Department as an assistant professor of physics this fall. His background is in Materials Science and Engineering, for which he attended Virginia Tech in 2011, earning his B.E. Taking his studies down to the University of Alabama, he researched boron-based materials in extreme environments as a research assistant while earning his Ph.D in Materials Science in 2016. 

He continued his work as a postdoctoral researcher in electron microscopy, investigating magnetic materials for aerospace applications. His current research interests are in developing thin-film carbide and boride materials for high temperature systems, as well as building an undergraduate vacuum systems curriculum. 

• Dr. Whitney Gecker joins MCLA’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work as an assistant professor of social work. Whitney earned their Ph.D from Boston University in the interdisciplinary Sociology and Social Work program. She holds an M.A. in Applied Sociology from UMass-Boston, and a B.A. in Race, Gender, and Activism from George Mason University. 

Whitney's research interests center on the experiences and social development of teenagers, with a particular focus on the inheritance of privilege in shaping a young person’s understanding of inequality. Outside of their passion for research and teaching, Dr. Gecker enjoys being outside, collaborating on art projects with her partner, and keeping up with family and friends.   

• Dr. Sharon Head joins MCLA’s Education Department as an assistant professor of special education. She did her undergraduate work at a small liberal arts college in central Maryland. It was this early, life-changing experience that brought her to a school like MCLA, where teaching and transforming lives is at the heart of our shared work. Dr. Head worked for 15 years as a special educator in rural and urban settings. She has expertise in literacy instruction, positive behavior supports, and trauma-responsive teaching. 

Dr. Head's research interests center on empowering teachers to construct classroom communities that are just and inclusive of all students through active inquiry and self-reflection. Her recent work focuses on the collection and analysis of teacher narratives as a way to uncover, discuss, and challenge beliefs about how children with significant disabilities develop as readers and writers. She plans to continue her work in investigating the connections between teacher narratives/beliefs and classroom practice as a part of her work at MCLA.  

• Dr. Sudipto Sarkar joins MCLA’s Business Administration Department as an assistant professor of marketing. He graduated with Bachelor of Commerce (Honours in Accountancy) from the University of Calcutta in 2005. He then earned his master of business administration (specialization in finance) from University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2015 and Ph.D. in Business Administration (marketing) from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2020. His research interests include pricing, services marketing, consumer behavior, marketing strategy, and consumer privacy. 

Prior to entering academia, Dr. Sarkar has worked in accounting firms as an assistant auditor for about six years. He started his auditing career at an accounting firm in Kolkata, India, where he worked a little over five years. After completing his MBA, he joined a Big Four accounting firm in Tampa, Fla,m where he worked for about six months. 

• Dr. J. Antonio Templanza joins MCLA's English and Communications Department as an assistant professor of early modern literature. He comes to MCLA from the State University of New York at New Paltz as an assistant professor in the department of English & Communications. He earned his B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley in 2007 and his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2016. 

He teaches courses on early modern British literature, academic writing, and literary theory. His research interests include the histories of science and philosophy, postcolonial studies, and queer/feminist cultural critique.

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North Adams Committee Recommends Against Hydrant Ordinance

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The General Government Committee is recommending a proposed ordinance creating a fire hydrant division be filed, saying it raised a number of complicated issues and legalities, and was best addressed by the policies and procedures of the departments involved.
"We're not voting on hydrants tonight, we're voting on whether to put in a new department in order to maintain hydrants," said member Wayne Wilkinson. "I see no need for that. We have a plan from the mayor which I fully support. When he brings it to council I'll certainly vote on it. Let's just fix the problem."
Mayor Thomas Bernard, just hours before the meeting, gave an update on the completed audit of the hydrant system and proposed a borrowing of $300,000 to have the current 55 or so nonfunctioning hydrants replaced. 
The ordinance was introduced by City Councilor Jason LaForest at the Feb. 23 City Council meeting in response to a number of nonfunctioning fire hydrants at two recent fires. The city has been slowly addressing the aged hydrant infrastructure for a decade but the lost minutes in searching for functioning hydrants to battle the two structure fires greatly alarmed the community.
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