University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

Faculty Achievements

Pitt-Johnstown is proud of its highly talented faculty of dedicated teachers and productive scholars, who facilitate the success of highly motivated and ambitious students in an up-close-and-personal learning environment.

Our faculty achievements are as interesting as they are varied.

Alvaro Antonio Bernal's interview with the Colombian author Luis Fayad, published in L’Érudit franco-espagnol (Volume 10, fall 2016), was cited in an article ("La autobiografía es más que lo que le ha sucedido al escritor") in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo (2/19/18). El Tiempo is a daily newspaper with the highest circulation in Colombia. His book Bogotá: realidades, delirios y ficciones was chosen by Instituto Cervantes in Spain ( as the book of the week on February 6th 2018.

Catherine S Cox’s paper, “Performative Subjectivity and the Queerness of Anachronism in the Second Shepherds’ Pageant,” has been accepted for presentation at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Convention, in Chicago, in January 2019.

Michael W Cox’s essay "Privileging the Sentence: David Foster Wallace's Writing Process for 'The View from Mrs. Thompson's'" appears in the current issue of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies. He presented a paper on George Orwell, "Reflection in the Personal Essay: Why We Care About an Elephant's Death a Century After the Fact," at the 2018 Pennsylvania College English Association conference in Bethlehem on March 24. He read from his novel The Best Way to Get Even on a panel of Mammoth Press authors at the Northeast Modern Language Association conference in Pittsburgh on April 13.

Ako Inuzuka will present her paper, “A Dialectic between Militarism and Pacifism: Japan’s Constitutional Amendment Discourse,” at the 2018 Cultural Studies Association conference held at Carnegie Mellon University in June.

Jeremy C Justus served on the Pitt system-wide Technology Accessibility Committee this semester, which resulted in the hiring of an Accessibility Coordinator and the development of an American Disabilities Association compliant policy to be rolled out in the 2018-19 academic year. He also worked with MMDC major Patrick Stahl, JAHA, and the Historic Pittsburgh organization to create a digital archive of Johnstown Flood photographs hosted by the Historic Pittsburgh website.

Marissa Landrigan Justus's book, The Vegetarian’s Guide to Eating Meat, was published in Germany by Benevento Books. Her essay “Skin: A Matroyshka” was published by the journal Hotel Amerika. 2

Derek Leben’s article "In Defense of Ought Implies Can" was officially published in Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy. He gave a talk at the Year of Healthy U conference along with Steve Kilpatrick titled "Intelligence, Opportunity, and Enhancement.”

Paul Lucas had a book chapter published, “Heavy Rain” (about the video game) in 100 Greatest Video Game Franchises, edited by Robert Mejia (North Dakota State University), Jaime Banks (West Virginia University), and Aubrie Adams (University of California, Santa Barbara), published by Rowman & Littlefield.

Kristen Lynn Majocha published two research articles: “They’re Monstrous! Teaching Flashed Face Distortion to Improve Speaking Apprehension” co-authored with John W. Mullennix, PhD in Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 11.2, 2018; and “From Mother to Prophet: Examining Mother Teresa’s Narrative as Prophetic” co-authored with Pitt-Johnstown graduate Dominic Didomenico, in RES Rhetorica, 1, 2018. A chapter entitled “Communication Ethics: Lawrence Kohlberg” in An Encyclopedia of Communication Ethics in is press with Peter Lang Publishing. She published three book reviews with CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries this springA presentation based on flashed face distortion was accepted at the Pittsburgh Regional Faculty Symposium in Pittsburgh in March 2018. She also attended the Eastern Communication Association's annual conference in Pittsburgh in April to fulfill duties as the editor of Qualitative Research Reports in Communication.

Maryl McGinley will be presenting her paper, "Cultivating Connections: Agrarian Metaphors for Technological Spaces" at the Eastern Communication Association Conference this weekend.

Patty Wharton Michael had two works accepted for presentation at the Eastern Communication Association Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. She presented her paper, “TED Talk insights: Co-Constructing Learning in the Public Speaking Classroom,” and served as a panelist with Susan Wieczorek for the session titled, “Innovating the Public Speaking Course: Delivering High Quality Courses that are Flexible, Affordable, and Efficient.” Additionally, she served as panelist for the panel titled “Immunizations & Vaccinations: Understanding Concerns and Evaluating Risks” at the Healthy U Conference at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. She and Diane Nicodemus and Paul Lucas were awarded a Teaching & Innovation Grant (awarded by the Provost’s Office) in the amount of $16,000 to develop a “One-Button Studio” at UPJ.

Barbara Petrosky has a forthcoming peer review article entitled L’architecture hispano-mauresque de l’Hôpital-Saint-Blaise: Croisades au Pays Basque, Proceedings from the 30th Pennsylvania Foreign Language Conference. Duquesne University, 22-23 September 2017. It will be published this fall in a journal entitled Rondas Literarias de Pittsburgh. This spring she received three grants. The first one was an European Studies Center Undergraduate Student Directed Research Grant (with French Major Dennis Marshall Kuhn, who studied the linguistic differences between French from Canada and from France). She also received two grants: the 3

Funding for Teaching and Research in Germany Grant (Summer 2018) and the Hewlett International Grant (Summer 2018). These two grants will allow her to do research for a book manuscript about medieval French literature and the representations of Charlemagne in Medieval epic poetry. After spending five weeks in Paris with Pitt students for the Literature in Paris program, she will be staying in Europe and traveling in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium

Eric Schwerer and Tuangtip Kilnbubpa-Neff presented a panel titled "In Wellness and Distress: Poetry's Marriage to Language, Judgment, Expression, and Healing" at the Healthy U Medical Humanities Conference held in April on our campus.

Susan Wiezorerk in January of 2018 was awarded a “Year of the Healthy U” matching grant scholarship sponsored by the Provost’s Office, the Vice President of Academic Affairs Office, and the Humanities Division to conduct a Medical Humanities Conference entitled “Healthy U for a Healthy Community: Scholarship in the ‘Real World,’” at the Living Learning Center and Murtha Center. Beginning with the Faculty Resource Center’s Faculty Teaching Showcase on April 5 (Patty Wharton-Michael) and continuing on April 6 from 9:00 am - 5 pm with panel presentations, workshops, posters, and a keynote speaker (Deepu Gowda, MD of Columbia University), over 300 people participated including faculty (22), students (22), invited scholars (7), community leaders (16), and attendees (245+) from our campus and the community at large. Eighteen unique panels, workshops, and poster sessions demonstrated how interdisciplinary research beginning with faculty and student research may lead to healthy, applied scholarship that not only benefits our students but the entire Johnstown community. Also at the Healthy U Conference, she presented with Roelof DeVries, Liz Harkins, Christine Dahlin, April Kelly, David Kupas, and Eve Wilder on a panel entitled, “Inclusiveness for a Healthy Classroom Environment” which demonstrated their collective findings as Extended Diversity Fellows. She likewise presented the poster, “’Normalizing’ Diversity in the Public Speaking Classroom,” and the collaborative workshop, “Metaphors Matter” with members of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis. In addition to the Healthy U, she also presented at the Eastern Communication Association Conference in Pittsburgh on April 26 with “Diversity-Enhanced Narrative Speeches: Topics and Assignments for Inclusive Instruction.”

News of Emeritus Faculty

An essay about the recent book by Kamal Verma, Understanding Mulk Raj Anand: His Mind and Art (2017), by Rumina Sethi (a widely published international scholar) appeared in The Tribune, a reputable English daily published in Chandigarh; Professor Sethi was the keynote speaker at the New Delhi Book Launch even organized by the US Embassy at the American Center and moderated by US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma, son of Professor Verma. Read the Tribune essay »

Faculty News Archives

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown professors Susan Wieczorek and Patty Wharton-Michael received the 2016 Top Panel Award from the National Communication Association.

Pitt-Johnstown instructor Neil M. Coleman and the late professor emeritus Uldis Kaktins teamed with researcher and Pitt-Johnstown alumna Stephanie Wojno to analyze the hydraulics of the South Fork Dam to challenge the 127-year-old findings of the cause of the 1889 Johnstown Flood. 

  • John McGrath, PhD and associate professor of marketing, was recognized for excellent teaching by the Marketing Management Association (MMA) at the national conference in Chicago on March 25, 2015.

The MMA’s competition is held each year to recognize outstanding university marketing educators from around the nation. McGrath was one of the top three finalists this year and received the 2015 Teaching Excellence Award.

McGrath also led a research team in a major research project to measure the economic impact of tourism at heritage sites throughout Pennsylvania.

  • Katherine Reist, PhD and an associate professor of history, has been elected to a four-year term as Trustee of the Society for Military History.  Her article The American Military Advisory Missions to China, 1945–1949 was published in the Journal of Military History in 2013. 
  • Bruce Robart, PhD and an associate professor of biology, was published in Systematic Botany for the article. Phylogeny and Biogeography of North American and Asian Pedicularis (Orobanchaceae), which was co-authored by Carl Gladys, Tom Frank and Steven Kilpatrick PhD of Pitt-Johnstown. 
  • Chris Coughenour, PhD, (pictured at right) energy and earth resources assistant professor, was a member of the team that discovered  the mega-dinosaur Titanosaurian sauropod known as "Dreadnoughtus" in 2005. 

The account of this discovery was reported in the September 2014 Scientific Reports article in and, according to, the report is the 35th ranked academic paper of 2014.

  • Miron Bekker, PhD, a mathematics assistant professor, has presented at international conferences and has authored several publications in the past few years.
  • Self-proclaimed "Mad Scientist" David Willey, a retired physics instructor, held the world record for fire walking (165-foot) across hot coals - which occurred on the Pitt-Johnstown campus in 1998.

His demonstrations have earned international recognition, including 19 appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He retired after the 2016 spring term and a memorable last lab.

  • Rebecca Webb, PhD, assistant professor in biology, has multiple research projects ranging from developmental biology to cell biology and to genetics. The research of Webb and a team of four undergraduate students led them to a presentation of findings from a project working with Chironomus riparius larvae to determine the effect of contaminated waterways on gene expression, development, and reproduction.
  • The Division of Natural Sciences presented Webb with the 2015 Edward A. Vizzini Teacher of the Year Award. Division chair Steven Stern, PhD, noted that:

“Becky’s lectures, labs, and course materials bespeak a professor who is strongly dedicated to providing a truly enriching learning environment. She works hard to make her courses hands-on, and to keep her information relevant to students. Her students clearly prize her efforts to ensure that they learn the material. They say this on her evaluation and they even talk about this in the hallways.

“Becky’s love of teaching goes beyond how she works in the classroom. Her professional accomplishments encompass has a wide range of activities including the development of an app that brings computerized 3D models of chick and frog embryos to students, and effects of exposure of midges to Prozac and copper. Her persistent dedication to undergraduate research has always impressed me and surely impressed the award committee.”