Meet the Faculty

Melba Beals MELBA PATTILLO BEALS
Chair and Assistant Professor
Department of Communications


Beals chairs the Department of Communications at Dominican, where students learn to present themselves and their opinions with clarity and authority. Her students gain hands-on experience producing campus media, including Dominican’s award-winning Internet radio station, the student-run newspaper The Habit, and creative student film productions.

Ms. Beals is one of the Little Rock Nine, the group of African-American students who, following the defeat of separate-but-equal schooling laws in Brown v. Board of Education, braved violent resistance to the integration of Little Rock Central High School in September 1957.

After Little Rock segregationists closed the city’s public high schools in 1958, Ms. Beals moved to the Bay Area to complete high school. She then gained a BA from San Francisco State University and a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University. She became an NBC News reporter and staffer for People Magazine, and has written several books on her experiences and the path of American society.

Question: Over fifty years ago you and eight other students walked through the doors of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, and in doing so, made civil rights history. How do you view race relations in the United States today?

Beals: I always view life and its circumstances as “The glass is half full.” It is unfortunate that following the 50th anniversary, we cope with the challenge of a newly rendered Supreme Court decision that questions the Brown decision that ruled separate is not equal. Nevertheless, race relations have come a long way. What is being addressed by those who stand for civil rights for all is the issue of the new racism.

Question: As a reporter you were tenacious in your pursuit of truth and justice. As a professor, how do you inspire your students to seek truth and justice?

Beals: As a professor, it is my duty to guide the students in seeking the truth. I prayerfully inspire them through discussions, debates, and by helping them to see how the truth relates to their own integrity and survival, and the survival of humanity.

Question: In 1998 you were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. How many other Americans have received this prestigious honor?

Beals: Only 322 other Americans have been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Among those incredible folks are Dr. Mandela, Mother Theresa, and me. I am humbled by this honor and it gives me a lot to think about and to live up to.

Question: Why do you tell your students to “stay nosy?

Beals: As an NBC Television News reporter and as a reporter for several local and national periodicals, the key to my success was to be nosy about every event and every person. It’s always the person you walk past, like the doorman, the garbage collector, the quiet soul walking slowly by, that really knows what happened on the scene and is sometimes willing to help you discover the truth.

 

Matthew DavisMATTHEW DAVIS
Professor
Department of Psychology

Davis has succeeded in marrying his interests in social psychology and earth sciences by studying perceptions of, and responses to, natural disasters —volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. An avid researcher, his disaster studies have taken him from the Pacific Rim to Mount Vesuvius. In the classroom, Dr. Davis also explores issues in social psychology and human sexuality, media influences on attitudes and behavior, and social influence tactics.

Question: Research is a key component of the psychology program at Dominican. What skills do your students gain through this exposure to research? 

Davis: Conducting a research study requires students to become adept at using online databases to search for scholarly work that has been done on their topic in the past. Once they develop familiarity with that work, they must use critical thinking skills to develop their own research question and design a study that will help them answer that question. The process of doing an independent research project builds their confidence, and I am always impressed at the end of their year-long thesis experience by how they have matured and developed professional skills that will help them in graduate school or in any career path they might pursue.

Question: Why do disasters bring people closer?

Davis: Disasters don’t always bring people closer together, however we do have many examples of people behaving heroically and coming together to face a crisis. One of the reasons I feel my work on trying to prepare people for disasters before they strike is so important is that we know that the more prepared the population is before disasters strike, the more quickly and successfully they will recover in the aftermath.

Question: What advice do you give a student preparing to present his or her research for the first time?

Davis: No matter how much you may want to do so, try not to use any detailed notes during your presentation and, whatever you do, never read notes or the text of your presentation’s slides to your audience word-for-word. Try to use a more conversational style in your presentations and “talk people through” the slides. Assume that having spent almost a year studying your topic, you know more about it than 95 percent of the people listening to you, and never try to bluff your way through an answer to a question that is posed; it’s perfectly OK to admit it when you don’t know the answer to something.

Question: What is a social psychologist?

Davis: Social psychologists study the effects that our social environment (other individuals, groups we belong to, the social norms present in our society, etc.) has on our attitudes, thoughts, and behavior. It focuses on questions such as why we conform, why we act aggressively or altruistically, why we are attracted to some people and not to others, how our attitudes form and can be changed, and how we make judgements and decisions.

Question: Discovery Channel aired a documentary that featured your research into risk awareness and preparedness related to the potential eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. What drew you to this project?

Davis: I think what drew me specifically to Vesuvius is the fact that hundreds of thousands of people living in the area reside directly on top of or beside the ruins of ancient Roman cities like Pompeii and Herculaneum, which were destroyed by Vesuvius in the past, and that despite these vivid reminders of what the volcano can do, generations of people continue to live their lives there.

 

Jayati GhoshJAYATI GHOSH
Professor
School of Business and Leadership
Director Honors Program


Ghosh’s research interests are in the areas of economic development and health, with a special emphasis on women’s health in Africa and Asia from an economic and social perspective. Dr. Ghosh has written a number of articles dealing with the AIDS epidemic and economic development in India and Africa. She also co-edited the book HIV and AIDS in Africa: Beyond Epidemiology. Her current research focuses on HIV/AIDS in India and Malawi.

Question: You encourage your honors students to present their research at conferences. Why is this so important and how do you prepare a student for his or her first presentation?

Ghosh: Presenting and attending professional conferences is a wonderful learning experience for students. Upon graduation, students may be heading to graduate or medical schools or applying for jobs. It is very competitive, and having presented at conferences gives them that edge. It also provides them an opportunity to meet experts in the field and make important connections.

Question: Enrollment in Dominican’s Honors Program has grown in recent years. Describe the attributes of an honors student. JG: The Honors Program at Dominican promotes holistic development of scholars with global perspectives. We engage students to be creative learners, critical thinkers, writers, and responsible citizens of the world. Our program’s foundations are the four pillars of a Dominican education: study, service, community, and reflection.

Question: Your research has focused on the increase in the number of AIDS orphans in Southern Africa and India. How can academics and students help these vulnerable victims?

Ghosh: My research goals are:

  • To make contributions towards a theoretical framework
  • To increase the understanding and awareness among the population in developing countries such as Malawi and India 
  • To understand policy implications 
  • To recruit undergraduate students who can participate in the research, if funding is available

Question: Dominican offers its students many travel opportunities, with faculty leading students on voyages to discover ancient civilizations and diverse cultures. How do these trips enhance the student?

Ghosh: The students get first-hand knowledge, in addition to readings from the books. For example, while in India, everyone was captivated by the urban and rural life. The highlight of the trip was a boat ride on the river Ganges and watching the Hindu evening prayer “Arati” in the city of Benaras. It is hard to explain this in a book: one has to experience this to know and feel this personally. In China, Dominican students met with their peers from Suzhou University and Shanghai Normal University. The students went to the homes of Chinese students in Shanghai, and this was a learning experience for them as they met the families of the students, and experienced the hospitality.

 

Alison HowardALLISON HOWARD
Assistant Professor Undergraduate Program Coordinator
Department of Political Science and International Studies

Howard teaches courses on the presidency, Congress, media and politics, and political parties and interest groups. She is co-author of Addressing the State of the Union: The Evolution and Impact of the President’s Big Speech, and has published articles in PS and Politics and American Behavioral Scientist.

Question: What is UVote2008?

Howard: UVote2008 is a research group of university faculty and students in the United States and Europe focused on engaging young people in the electoral process. This is the second presidential election in which UVote has gathered data and conducted experiments. Professors are asked to participate in various research projects centered around the presidential election to study the effects of political advertising, presidential debates, websites, newspapers, television news, and alternative media on young voters. This year, I had my students participate in a political advertising experiment.

Question: How does the President use the State of the Union Address to convey his message to the American people?

Howard: Presidents use the State of the Union Address as a rhetorical tool to speak to the public, the Congress, and the world, to set the policy agenda. The pubic has come to expect the president to be a policy initiator and the State of the Union Address is one way presidents do this. In addition, we wanted to measure how successful presidents are in getting Congress to enact the policy requests in the Addresses—in essence Does Congress follow where presidents lead?

Question: Tell us about your recently published book, Addressing the State of the Union: The Evolution and Impact of the President’s Big Speech.

Howard: I co-authored the book with Donna R. Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa, and it is a culmination of a series of papers we presented at conferences. We look at how the State of the Union Address evolved, the type of communication that takes place, and how presidents use the Address to further their policy making, re-election, and secure a positive legacy.

Question: This semester, you are teaching a course titled "The Craft of Politics." How does it engage students in the political process?

Howard: We study why people choose to run for office, how they run their campaigns, what they do once in office, and what role the public has in elections. Guest speakers who are elected officials or staffers for various political offices visit and talk about “the craft of politics.” Students select a competitive, congressional race and analyze all aspects of the race from media coverage to specialized issues for particular parts of the country, present the race to the class, and predict a winner. We have our own ballot and the student who predicts the most winners is awarded a prize. After taking the course, ideally students will have a better understanding and appreciation for the political process ranging from campaigning to governing.

 

Louanne Linnard-PalmerLUANNE LINNARD-PALMER
Chair and Professor
Department of Nursing

Linnard-Palmer practices pediatric nursing and oncology at the bedside. Her areas of particular interest include the influence of religion and culture on decisions parents make regarding their children’s health care and the rise of childhood obesity.

Question: Is nursing a profession or a calling?

Linnard-Palmer: How can you separate out the two? I have been called to be a professional nurse, educator, and scholar. Our students are prepared to answer their calling of becoming a competent, professional nurse ready to save lives and administer sensitive, safe, and culturally-sensitive care.

Question:You are both a teacher and practicing pediatric oncology nurse. Why do you feel it is important to combine both roles?

Linnard-Palmer: I am first and foremost a nurse. I am a better mom, teacher, administrator, and scholar because of my continued bedside practice. Pediatrics is a tough field and pediatric oncology requires a commitment to life-long learning and state-of-the-science knowledge.

Question:What types of students are drawn to nursing, and how do you help your students become great nurses?

Linnard-Palmer: All types of men and women are drawn to the professional service of nursing care. I could not describe to you one “type.” Our students proceed through a challenging and rigorous program with high standards. They are exposed to the rich diversity of the greater Bay Area. They have the very best clinical sites that the state can offer and see the highest state-of-the-science technology. They are sought-after by employers and many continue to graduate school. Between our wonderful MSN and BSN programs, we have over 10 alumni teaching for us. That says a lot about the academic preparation of our students and their commitment to professional growth!

Question:In your new book, you explore religious and cultural doctrines that lead a parent to refuse medical care for an acutely ill child. Why is it important that the medical team caring for the child understand these doctrines?

Linnard-Palmer: A pediatric health care team needs to first be aware of the tremendous cultural diversity found within patient populations. When faced with diversity, it is imperative that health care professionals be educated on the potential impact of cultural or religious doctrine on the care of a child.

 

Maggie LouieMAGGIE LOUIE
Assistant Professor
Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Louie teaches Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biotechnology. Her current research is focused on understanding the development and progression of hormone refractory breast cancer—cancers that gradually become unresponsive to hormone or endocrine therapies—and the roles of heavy metals in cancer development.

Question: You began your career at a major research university. What attracted you to Dominican?

Louie: I particularly like that at Dominican we use research as a tool for training students to think critically and develop scientific theories. Here I am able to combine
my passion for research and my love of teaching.

Question: The National Institute of Health is supporting your breast cancer research. What projects are you and your undergraduate students studying?

Louie: Another aspect of my research is looking at environmental contaminants and their role in breast cancer. I specifically focus on heavy metals, such as cadmium, nickel, and mercury; all of these chemicals contaminate our soil, water, and air. Cadmium is a contaminant found in cigarette smoke. My lab is trying to figure out what their role is and how it affects breast cancer. Over prolonged time, people develop resistance to the drug Tamoxifen, which is used in breast cancer treatment. One aspect of my research is to understand how that occurs and maybe identify pathways for pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs against this resistance.

Question: You are involved with several non-profit organizations, including Search for the Cause and Teens for Safe Cosmetics. Why is community outreach an important aspect of your work?

Louie: We must keep the community informed of the advances in breast cancer research because this is a disease that impacts so many people. Teens for Safe Cosmetics is trying to promote greener cosmetics because there are potentially harmful chemicals in cosmetics. We want to educate the younger teens and also get scientific data to back up the teen group’s campaign. My university students can serve as mentors to these younger scientists, so we create a dynamic learning environment.

Question: Why is research an important aspect of your teaching?

Louie: We use research to train students to think scientifically. When an experiment works, it adds a different depth to learning. You read the book, and yes, DNA is a double helix. When you actually go into the lab and show students something they’ve seen in the book, they can visualize it and get a different experience.

 

Souresh AppavooSURESH APPAVOO
Associate Professor
School of Education
Director Center for Diversity Initiatives

Appavoo teaches courses on education and culture, cultural pluralism, and leadership and change in the School of Education. His areas of specialization include international and multicultural education, critical and cross-cultural pedagogy, equity and diversity in higher education.

Question: What role does culture play in the preparation of tomorrow’s teachers and educators?

Appavoo: Teaching and learning are one of the most intense cultural activities that we can participate in. It is an arena of possibility for students and teachers to develop relationships that reveal the world more completely together, rather than singularly apart. What we teach and what we learn is influenced by what our cultural values, beliefs, and attitudes deem are important, meaningful and necessary for our success and survival. In any diverse society, learning to be culturally versatile has to be both a source for and a function of formal education.

Question: What is the connection between learning and culture?

Appavoo: How we learn, what we learn, why we learn, where we learn and when we learn is informed and influenced by culture. Culture and learning are both dynamic and simultaneous processes. What is interesting is that we are not initially culturally aware that learning itself is a cultural process and this is why we often feel that our way of doing things is the only right way. So while there are individual cultural nuances, we often perform our culture as a reflection of our socializations. It’s only when we encounter cultural difference that we learn to test our cultural socializations and begin to learn multiple cultural roles.

Question: You serve dual roles, as an Associate Professor of Education and the Director of the Center for Diversity Initiatives at Dominican. How do you synthesize the two roles in your work?

Appavoo: The two roles complement each other, intersecting and inter-relating theory and application in the classroom, the institution, and the community. The professorial role prepares educators to understand and apply cultural learning in the classroom for the benefit of future generations. The directorial role facilitates learning within the University and the larger community about issues of diversity and advocates for policies and practices that sustain inclusion and equity. I believe
that educational institutions provide the empirical theater for individuals to learn and synthesize new ways of being for application in progressive and systemic change agency to transform old ways of being.

Question: What diversity initiatives have been successful at Dominican?

Appavoo: Since 2001, the Center for Diversity Initiatives has propelled the University toward ratifying a Diversity Declaration, developed and implemented diversity affirming institutional policies, transformed curricula university-wide, and has begun to substantially reflect the diversity of California in its students, faculty and staff. The primary success has been in progressively establishing diversity and equity as core institutional values that enhance academic innovation and creativity.

 

David ToumajianDVID TOUMAJIAN
Assistant professor
School of Business and Leadership

Having traveled, worked and studied in Europe and the United States for many years, David Toumajian has become a keen observer of variations in cultural messaging and has developed an expertise in International Marketing. A dynamic and engaging presence in the classroom, he strives to attune his students to the pervasive social and cultural impacts of marketing, and inspires them to closely observe and question their world.

Question: You present your students with many project-based learning opportunities. Why is project-based learning so important?

Toumajian: Theory and abstract thought have to be at the forefront of academic instruction. However, in a field such as marketing, I have the opportunity to help students apply their abstract knowledge in real-world cases. For example, in my Marketing Principles class, I have students think of a brand extension, a new product idea for an existing brand (e.g., a Harley-Davidson® moped). It is through application that many of marketing’s key strategic principles can be critically analyzed and ultimately understood.

Question: Why do you encourage your students to understand branding as it relates to consumer behavior?

Toumajian: Branding extends beyond the narrow walls of marketing. Branding is so fascinating because it brings to life the symbolic aspect of why we buy what we buy, of how identity is so integrally connected with the products we choose. And that’s where consumer behavior comes in. Contrary to most traditional economic theories on consumption, we are not rational in the marketplace. Consumption is a realm of fantasy and desire. We try on different identities, try to find communities of similar consumers who share our interests, and enact our cultural values in the process.

Question: What first sparked your interest in marketing?

Toumajian: The beauty of marketing as a field of study is its ubiquity. Academically, I became interested in marketing as a third-grade teacher when I noticed the growing proliferation of corporate-sponsored materials in the classroom. My mailbox was practically overflowing with materials being sent to me by various companies giving me free “lesson plans” in which their products played a central role (e.g., learning to count with Doritos® chips, etc.). My first intellectual interest was more critical than strategic.

Question: What skills would you tell your students they must possess to succeed in the challenging business world of today?

Toumajian: I would encourage students not to try and possess “skills,” but to focus more on “perspectives.” Of course I want them to learn skills in my classes that they can use in careers, in or outside of the marketing industries. However, nothing is more important than two qualities: an open mind and a love of learning. These are hard to teach but their value transcends professional pursuits and would serve them well as the lifelong learners I hope they will be.