Humanities Welcomes New Faculty and Staff

October 06, 2021

The Humanities Division is pleased to introduce our new faculty and staff. As we begin the 2021-22 academic year, three outstanding new tenure-track faculty members join our community. As scholars in Languages and Applied Linguistics, Feminist Studies, and Linguistics, their research interests include syntactic influences between Spanish and indigenous languages, the role of policing in shaping how we understand Latinxs and their place within American society, and investigating the phonology of Ladin, a threatened minority language spoken in Northern Italy.

Our new staff members support the Linguistics, History of Consciousness, and Feminist Studies departments, as well as divisional academic planning, communications, human resources, and IT services. Please join us in offering a warm welcome.

New Faculty


Josefina Bittar, Assistant Professor, Languages and Applied Linguistics 

Josefina Bittar received her Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of New Mexico. After completing her bachelor's degree in Spanish Language and Literature from the Universidad Nacional de Asunción (in Paraguay), she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to obtain a master's degree in Linguistics, also at UNM. Being born and raised in a highly bilingual country such as Paraguay sparked Josefina's interest in bilingualism and mutual influences between languages. Josefina's research focuses on the syntactic influences between Spanish and Paraguayan Guaraní, the two official languages of her home country. She has taught Linguistics courses at UNM and at Universidad Nacional de Asunción, and looks forward to serving UCSC students.

Fun fact: If you're nice to Josefina, she'll make you Paraguayan empanadas (which are usually fried and really really good).


Marisol LeBrón, Associate Professor, Feminist Studies 

Marisol LeBrón is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research and teaching focus on race, social inequality, policing, violence, and protest. Prior to arriving at UCSC, she held appointments at the University of Texas at Austin, Dickinson College, and Duke University. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University and her bachelor's degree in Comparative American Studies and Latin American Studies from Oberlin College.

She is currently at work on a new book project, Up Against the Wall: Policing and the Making of Latinxs, which aims to uncover the centrality of policing to the emergence and consolidation of Latinx identity in the United States. She is currently the Vice President/President Elect of the Puerto Rican Studies Association and a member of the Executive Committee of the American Studies Association.

Fun fact: Marisol loves cooking, reality TV, sports documentaries, and building Lego Brickheadz in her free time (which she doesn't have much of lately since she welcomed her daughter Isla home in June).


Rachel Walker, Professor, Linguistics 

Rachel Walker is a theoretical phonologist, with central contributions on the cognitive representation of consonants and vowels, positional prominence, and long-distance processes in sound patterns of the world’s languages. In recent research, she has examined the complex nature of liquid consonants and investigated the phonology of Ladin, a threatened minority language spoken in Northern Italy.

Fun fact: Rachel has a deep appreciation of mountains, especially for hiking around lakes and alpine meadows. Her love of mountains pairs well with her love of melted alpine cheese, especially in the form of cheese fondue and raclette.

New Staff and Promotions

Sarah Arantza Amador, Department Manager, Linguistics 

Sarah Arantza Amador brings a wealth of experience from across the university, including undergraduate teaching, graduate advising and program management. She received B.A.s in Literature and Philosophy (with Honors) from UCSC in 2005. She then completed an M.A. in Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures at NYU in 2010. She returned to UCSC in 2010 as a lecturer in Merrill & Stevenson Colleges. Since then, she has served as Graduate Programs Coordinator and Advisor for Politics, Latin American and Latino Studies, MCD Biology, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Most recently, she supported Community Studies as Administrative Manager. 

Sarah’s deep love for universities, their students and research is reflected in her commitment to student success, her strategic vision for program sustainability, and her agile leadership in our ever-changing environment.

Fun fact: Sarah is a flash fiction author and is currently working on her first novel. She is also an avid knitter, and hasn't worn commercially-made socks in at least five years.

Ruby Barnett, Department Manager, History of Consciousness 

Ruby (Ruthanna) Barnett has a lifelong interest in communication, conflict resolution, and the development of a meaningful life. She has over twenty years of experience managing projects and people, in academia, the nonprofit sector, and social justice and legal environments. After earning her Ph.D. in Linguistics from Lancaster University, she entered the nonprofit sector, providing advocacy in housing and homelessness, debt, employment and welfare. As a lawyer in Oxford, she specialized in immigration and human rights.

After moving to Santa Cruz in 2012, Ruby worked in the DA’s office, and then at UCSC where she carried out climate-related research for an ecological artist professor. She is deeply aware of the urgency of our climate emergency and committed to working on the necessary transitions for a paradigm shift. She is a recent alumna of the Capra Course where she facilitates a study group. 

Fun fact: Ruby lived on a narrowboat on the Oxford canal.

Kimberly Hwe, Humanities Divisional Liaison

Kim Hwe (pronouns: she/her/hers) has been promoted to the position of Humanities Divisional Liaison. Kim’s experience as our Local IT Specialist during the past three years has elevated the technical support for the division, in addition to continuing the services offered through the Humanities Academic Services Center. She supported the division’s quick transition to remote instruction while launching the campus-wide Zoom Corps instructional support model, which she continues to oversee today; and her leadership has been critical to the conference room and classroom upgrades being planned for this academic year. Kim served as the inaugural chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Group for the ITS Division (DIG IT), an advisory group to the Vice Chancellor of Information Technology that examines diversity and inclusion efforts within the ITS Division, and her advocacy has led to the engagement of ITS in thinking about how to address inclusivity through system improvements. Kim is leading an effort to pilot an inclusive internship program in ITS to support student personal and professional development and success.

Fun fact: Kim is a vegan and has her own online vegan cookbook! If you want any good vegan recipes, feel free to email her.

Sarah Jordan, Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications, Humanities 

Sarah Jordan comes to us with deep connections to UC Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz area. As an alumna with a B.A. in environmental policy and planning, and a minor in journalism, Sarah has most recently worked at the UCSC Arboretum as their media and event specialist. Prior to working at the Arboretum, Sarah was the publications and communications specialist at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), where she helped to update their brand and messaging to reach bipartisan audiences around the world. Sarah supports the Humanities Division in its marketing communications efforts, from elevating news stories to promoting events and supporting strategic outreach.

Fun fact: Sarah loves to swim in the ocean year-round, and shares homemade snacks with her swimming buddies to warm up on the beach.

Magdalena Keyes, Academic Human Resources Analyst

Magdalena Keyes was previously in Staff Human Resources where she was an Operations Service Specialist. Magdalena has a healthy record of HR experience with local companies and will bring with her much creativity, HR knowledge, and UCPath experience. Colleagues praise Magdalena for her communication, ability and willingness to jump into situations, and her kind directness.

Xiao Li, digital humanist

Xiao Li joined the humanities computing team in August, 2021, and provides digital humanities research, instruction and web consultation. She has a PhD in history from Southern Illinois University and digital public humanities graduate certificate from George Mason University and Python for data science certificate from Cornell University. Before joining UCSC, she worked with the Smithsonian to digitally preserve the cultural heritage sites destroyed by war, served as digital humanities specialist of Phillips Academy Andover to archive the school’s rich historical heritage, and taught digital humanities and history courses in Southern Illinois University.

Her research expertise bridges humanistic and computational methods. She is passionate in improving humanities education and research by leveraging technology and digital methods. She believes the humanities are vital to developing socially responsible technology in the world today. Currently she is coordinating campus resources to establish a digital humanities lab.

Fun fact: Xiao is friendly and easygoing but often has an expressionless face when you are in her sight, that’s because she often forgets to wear her glasses!

Jessica McKenna, Director of Academic Programs and Planning 

Jessica McKenna received her B.A. in English, minor in American Studies from Wittenberg University, a M.A. in English from Simmons University, and coursework towards a M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also completed a certificate in Equity and Diversity from the University of Minnesota. 

Jessica spent nine years as the Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction in the Department of English at the University of Minnesota, where she managed the curriculum for English Literature and Creative Writing and provided interim curriculum management and training for other departments in the College of Liberal Arts.

Fun fact: Jessica has run twelve marathons, including Boston and NYC, and plans to run the Chicago Marathon in 2022.

Laura Wilson, Department Manager, Feminist Studies

Laura Wilson is a UCSC alumna, who received her M.A. from UC Santa Barbara and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Integral Studies. For the past five years she worked in College 9 and John R. Lewis College, first as the assistant to the College Academic Officer, then as the College Academic Manager.  

Laura has extensive administrative experience managing schedules, curricula, budgeting, special projects; researching and applying university policies; running personnel reviews, recruiting and assisting new faculty. Her colleagues praise her ability to think big while also attending to detail, and her kind, thoughtful and supportive presence.

Fun fact: Laura enjoys playing DnD and occasionally LARPing. During the early days of the pandemic, she stress-crafted a handmade Adventurer's Pack suitable for trekking to Mordor if necessary. It includes a compass pocket and waterproof map case.