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Northwestern School of Communication

Nineteen New Faculty Members Join SoC for Academic Year 2022-23

The other new faculty members joining the SoC Community this academic year are as follows:

  • Duri Long, assistant professor of communication studies;
  • Kayla Striker, assistant clinical professor in CSD;
  • Katherine Swem, assistant clinical professor in CSD;
  • Mehrnoosh Fetrat, assistant professor of instruction in RTVF;
  • Patrick Fiorilli, post-doc in RTVF;
  • Pierce Gradone, assistant professor of instruction in RTVF;
  • Alex Inglizian; assistant professor of instruction in RTVF;
  • Alexander Gemignani, associate professor of instruction in theatre

Every year a new batch of faculty joins the School of Communication community at the start of the Fall Quarter. Just like the incoming students, they are full of life, ideas, and a vast array of experiences that will undoubtedly uplift our School. This incoming class of 19 new faculty is no different. They join us from posts across the globe; they are costume designers, neuroscientists, vocal coaches, speech-pathologists, filmmakers, and more. Some are joining Northwestern for the first time, and some have been in the SoC orbit for many years, but all are here with the purpose to provide students with the opportunity to learn, explore, grow, and expand their knowledge in their respective fields. Read about 11 of our new faculty members and how they plan to foster a love for serious play.


Tony Award-winning actor and singer KO (Karen Olivo, they/them) is an associate professor and the new director of the music theatre program in the Department of Theatre. Though an accomplished and lauded Broadway star, KO pivoted their focus to educating a new generation of theatre artists. They join Northwestern from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music/University of Cincinnati. KO’s main research objective involves gathering knowledge around transformative arts educational spaces with an emphasis on restorative communication between faculty and student. They look forward to starting the academic year and “working with the students that will grace the SoC halls, if only briefly, before shaping the rest of the world". KO was the 2017 Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Visiting Artist in the School of Communication. 

Adrián Rodríguez-Contreras

A new associate professor in the Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), Adrián Rodríguez-Contreras joins Northwestern from City University of New York (CUNY), City College. His main area of research is developmental plasticity in the context of hearing development. His laboratory will investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms of brain injury caused by oxygen shortage in newborns and the long-term functional consequences of such damage for sound processing and voice production. Rodríguez-Contreras is most looking forward to participating in the academic life of the CSD department because, “the SoC’s provides a rich environment to develop teaching and research ideas and to engage the student community in an extraordinary way.”

Mercedes Spencer

It was the supportive environment of Northwestern University that drew assistant professor Mercedes Spencer to the CSD department. On the heels of her postdoctoral work at Vanderbilt University, Spencer is excited about the “multitude of opportunities and resources aimed at nurturing creativity as well as a balance between collaboration and independence.” Her work centers on the science of reading, and while at Northwestern she hopes that her “findings can substantively inform future scholarship, policy, and practice surrounding the identification, prevention, and remediation of reading and language difficulties.”

Brianna Borger

New assistant professor of instruction for theatre Brianna Borger had spent over 20 years as a performer when a friend asked if she would be willing to teach some of her overflow voice students. Borger’s studio filled up quickly—with Northwestern students and working theatre professionals alike—and thus her love for being a vocal coach and mentor was born. “As the founder of The Success Project I research the variety of fields that performing arts majors go into, how their arts training prepared them for these occupations, and how they define success for themselves, both as artists and as human beings,” she says. “Much of this research also addresses preparing students for the realities of life as an artist-citizen by helping them develop positive relationships with non-performance work and teaching them to define success in ways unrelated to their career aspirations.” Borger had previously worked with the Northwestern musical theater program and spent five years as an admission counselor and the assistant director of admission for the Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) at Roosevelt University.


Homer Mora

New assistant professor of instruction in the Department of Radio/Television/Film, filmmaker, and sound professional, Homer Mora, hails from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Mora has worked in a wide range of film production roles, including production sound mixer, sound designer, and sound workflow supervisor for multichannel editing. A collaborative leader, Mora hopes to help students develop fluency in their own creative cinematographic parlance. “I strive to create a common language and focus on making sound play a primary role in a film's narrative, not just to serve an aesthetic complement to the image,” says Mora. “My main research objective is focused on the relationship between filmic structures and the diversity of sound language.” He looks forward to working with students and colleagues with global worldviews. 

Christina Nguyen

RTVF assistant professor of instruction Christina Nguyen joins Northwestern from the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles, Calif. She draws her inspiration from science and structuralism, while her work is informed by the interfacing of analog and digital technologies. “The University's varied programs allow for exciting cross-pollination that mirrors how I came to filmmaking and sound design,” she says. “I'm looking forward to becoming part of the SoC community and spending time with the students to help them further their art practices in sound and moving image.”

Nathan Rossi

RTVF assistant professor of instruction Nathan Rossi credits his Salvadoran heritage, especially his experience as a Central American who grew up in the United States, for informing his work. “I'm most interested in contesting the invisibility of Central Americans in the U.S. and Latinx media imaginaries,” says Rossi. His current book project explores how transnational Central American youth and young adults, who were adopted from El Salvador and Guatemala during each country's respective Civil War period, have used social media to bring attention to their war displacement narratives and to find support among one another. The project highlights both the affordances of social media and its limitations. Rossi, who joins NU from the University of Texas at Austin where he completed his PhD in Media Studies, as well as, a Graduate Certificate in Mexican American and Latino Studies, looks forward to being a part of the Radio-Television-Film department in part because of the ways it emphasizes theory, praxis, and collaboration.

Amy Sindelar

Assistant clinical professor Amy Sindelar has specialized in pediatrics for over 10 years, with specific clinical focuses in fluency disorders and language development and disorders. A practicing pediatric speech-language pathologist, Sindelar holds a PRN position at Northwestern Medicine at Central DuPage Hospital in pediatrics. Having worked for Northwestern University in various roles for the past eight years, she is looking forward to being a part of the School of Communication because of the opportunity for “continued collaborations within the department of SoC and beyond, as well as working on a team to foster continued departmental excellence.”

Rylie K. Young

Incoming assistant clinical professor of instruction Rylie K. Young joins SoC from the Long Beach (Calif.) Unified School District, one of the most diverse school districts in the country. During her time there, the Northwestern graduate witnessed firsthand the complex needs of school-aged children, which she hopes to channel in her Northwestern work to prepare incoming speech-language pathologists to deftly meet the needs of their future patents. “Being amongst some of the leading researchers in our field,” she says, “there is a sense of empowerment and excitement to continue my work as a clinician and starting my role as a professor.” 

Mancosh Fellowships*

Raquel Adorno, an incoming Mancosh Fellow in theatre, comes to Northwestern from San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she was working as a freelance costume designer for the past three years. Adorno is excited to join the SoC because on the innovative spirit in our community. “Ideally universities and theatre programs such as SoC are where ideas and concepts are born, nurtured, explored, and implemented,” Adorno says. “I am excited to be part of a community that does exactly this so well.”

Michael Anthony Turcios, Ph.D., an incoming Mancosh Fellow in RTVF, comes to Northwestern from Los Angeles, Calif., the unceded ancestral land of the Gabrielino-Tongva people. Turcios’ work engages with global and non-traditional film ephemera that visualize and detail anticolonial and decolonial thought that resists oppressive regimes of displacement and is anchored in interdisciplinary ground. One of the questions that he will work to answer as a Mancosh Fellow is how centering media produced by underrepresented communities transforms and shifts the canons, discourses, and ideas that define our fields and our intellectual investments. “I am keen on forming systems of research support with faculty and graduate students, which includes forging space via a writing group and colloquium, to address interdisciplinary questions,” Turcios says. “Most importantly, I want to produce scholarship that is committed to transformation, accessibility, and justice.”

*Developed in 2021, the Mancosh Fellowship Fund ensures that the School of Communication elevates the voices so often left out of the dialogue. It will allow SoC faculty to strategically recruit new PhDs to become tenure-track faculty members, through a two-year process creating a more representative community by identifying and empowering promising postdoctoral scholars and PhD candidates.