New Faculty

The College of Social Sciences welcomes eight new faculty members, Serena E. Alexander, Matthew Capriotti, Mary Currin-Percival, Oona Hatton, Katharine Olson, Evan M. Palmer, Justin D. Rietz, and Nikki Yeboah.

Serena E. Alexander

Newly Appointed Assistant Professor in Urban and Regional Planning

Dr. Serena Alexander is an urban and regional planning scholar and educator with expertise in environmental planning, sustainable urban design and community economic development. Dr. Alexander’s research focuses primarily on sub-national climate action planning efforts, and particularly ways to enhance chances of plan implementation and significant greenhouse gas emissions mitigation. Her passion is to help communities realize their own visions for building more economically viable, sustainable and livable regions while taking action on climate change. As a teacher of urban and regional planning and urban studies, Dr. Alexander’s goal is to prepare her students to address the climate change and adapting to its adverse impacts through innovative approaches to community and economic development, transportation and land use planning challenges of the century ahead. In many ways this objective overlaps with the core of her research program—the question of whether, and to what extent, our communities are mitigating, urban design, and energy efficiency measures.

Before joining the SJSU faculty, Dr. Alexander conducted community economic development and environmental policy and planning research at the Center for Economic Development and the Great Lakes Environmental Finance Center at Cleveland State University, where she also received her doctorate in Urban Studies, specializing in urban policy and development. She holds master’s degrees in Urban and Regional Planning from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and Architecture from Azad University of Tehran, with a specialization in urban design. In addition to her academic achievements, Dr. Alexander has more than six years of experience working as a planning and urban design practitioner. She is eagerly looking forward to working with the problem solvers and vision builders at SJSU!

Matthew Capriotti

Newly Appointed Assistant Professor in Psychology

Dr. Matthew Capriotti earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2015. He has completed predoctoral and postdoctoral fellowships in child clinical psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Dr. Capriotti is thrilled to merge his passions for teaching and research as he joins the Department of Psychology at SJSU this Fall.

Dr. Capriotti’s teaching interests are in clinical psychology, behavior therapy, and behavior analysis. His research aims to harness the power of behavior science to improve the lives of young people. His primary program of research focuses on developing, testing, and disseminating evidence-based behavioral interventions for youth with chronic tic disorders (e.g., Tourette Syndrome) and other obsessive-compulsive spectrum conditions. With collaborators at UCSF, Dr. Capriotti maintains an active line of research focused on understanding and resolving mental health disparities faced by sexual and gender minority (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals. Outside of his professional life, Dr. Capriotti enjoys hiking, going to concerts, running, and practicing yoga.

Mary Currin-Percival

Newly Appointed Assistant Professor in Political Science

Dr. Mary Currin-Percival earned her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of California, Riverside in 2006. She previously held positions as Instructor and Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She and her husband Garrick Percival (Associate Professor of Political Science) joined the SJSU faculty in 2012. She has been a full-time lecturer in the Political Science Department and has previously served as Associate Research Director and then Research Director of the former Survey and Policy Research Institute.

Her main areas of research are public opinion, the news media, and political participation. She is especially interested in how the presentation of public opinion polls in the news media affects citizens’ perceptions of these polls and the extent to which polls affect citizens’ political decisions. Her work has appeared in journals including PS: Political Science and Politics, Digital Journalism, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, and Newspaper Research Quarterly. Her teaching interests include research methods, political participation, public opinion, and the presidency.

Oona HattonOona Hatton

Newly Appointed Assistant Professor in Communication Studies

After three years as a lecturer, Dr. Oona Hatton is now an Assistant Professor of Performance Studies at San José State University, where she teaches performance ethnography, devised performance, and performance theory for undergraduate and graduate students in the Communication Studies department. She is a former co-director of COMMSA’s Finland program, served as an assistant coach to the Forensics team, and is one of the faculty advisors for Califia, Comm Studies’ student performance collective.

Dr. Hatton’s research interests are both theoretical and applied; they include the (dramatic) adaptation of history, community-based performance, performance ethnography, devised theatre, and childhood studies. Her work has been published in Theatre Journal, Theatre Topics, Theatre Research International, and Youth Theatre Journal. Oona is also a dramaturg specializing in new play development. Recent/ongoing projects include The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga! (Theatreworks New Works Festival), Beneath The Tall Tree (Theatre 1st), and See You in My Dreams, a play she adapted from the letters of Jack L. Morris, a man who served over thirty years in solitary confinement. As a performance maker as well as a scholar, Dr. Hatton is committed to creating opportunities for students to use performance as a method for both conducting and sharing research. In the spring of 2017, her students will be performing as part of “Living the Indebted Life,” a conference put on by SJSU’s Humanities Department.

Katharine Olson

Newly Appointed Assistant Professor in History

Dr. Olson is a native of Santa Clara County. She received her B.A. in History from the University of Chicago and her M.A. (Celtic Languages and Literatures) from Harvard University. She earned her Ph.D. (a joint degree in History and Celtic Studies) from Harvard University in 2008. Before joining SJSU, Dr. Olson has held positions as the Sir John Rhys Scholar in Celtic Studies at Jesus College, Oxford University, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in Medieval and Early Modern History, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Celtic Studies at Harvard University, and as Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern History at Bangor University in Wales in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Olson’s interdisciplinary research is concerned with medieval and early modern history, languages, and literature, and she has published a wide range of articles, book chapters, essays, and reviews and has appeared regularly on BBC, ITV, and other TV and radio programs relating to the medieval and early modern world. She is currently completing her first book on popular religion, culture, and Reformation in late medieval and early modern Wales and the Marches, to be published by Oxford University Press and the British Academy. Her research interests include medieval and early modern religious, cultural, intellectual, and social history, literature, languages, European and global history, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, interdisciplinary studies, and British, Irish, and Celtic Studies. She has special interests in popular culture, religion and piety, lifecycle, folklore, travel and exploration, identity, gender, popular beliefs and practices, the history of the book, native culture, and minority cultures and languages.

Evan M. Palmer

Newly Appointed Assistant Professor in Psychology

Dr. Evan Palmer received his Ph.D. in Psychology from UCLA in 2003, majoring in Cognitive Psychology with a minor in Behavioral Neuroscience. His dissertation titled “Spatiotemporal Relatability in the Perception of Dynamically Occluded Objects” won the Joseph A. Gengerreli Distinguished Dissertation Award from the UCLA Department of Psychology and the James McKeen Cattell Award for Outstanding Dissertation in Psychology from the New York Academy of Sciences. Dr. Palmer then spent four years as an NIH-supported post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School studying the computational modeling of visual attention. For the last nine years, Dr. Palmer was a member of the Human Factors Psychology program at Wichita State University, where he combined basic and applied research methodologies to tackle real-world problems. He joins the Psychology Department at San José State University this Fall as an Assistant Professor.

Dr. Palmer’s research focuses on cognition, attention, and perception, with an emphasis on visual processing. Through the Learning, Attention, Vision, and Application (LAVA) Lab, Dr. Palmer has studied gamification, visual search, data visualization, and human factors in healthcare. In addition to basic research, LAVA has done contract work including eye tracking analyses of restaurant menus, usability analyses of websites and products, and design of supplementary materials and website activities for a sensation and perception textbook.

Justin D. Rietz

Newly Appointed Assistant Professor in Economics

Dr. Justin Rietz received his Ph.D. in Economics from UC Santa Cruz, and he also has an MBA from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. He previously worked in the software industry in Silicon Valley as a product manager.

Justin's research interests are in the fields of monetary theory, macroeconomics, and experimental economics. +Motivated by the growth of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, his current work includes experimental research on the acceptance of secondary currencies, both in a controlled laboratory setting and in artificial economies simulated via agent-based modeling.

Nikki YeboahNikki Yeboah

Newly Appointed Assistant Professor in Communication Studies

Dr. Nikki Yeboah received her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University. As an artist-scholar, her research brings together creative ethnographic and oral history methods to create alternative records of black life through staged performance. Her work, which has been staged at venues such Links Hall, the Chicago Cultural Center, and Northwestern University, interrogates questions of social justice, racial identity, migration, and Afrocentricism within transnational black communities. She is invested in ensuring the accessibility and relevance of the social sciences to the general public, and has worked as a researcher for television shows, and plays, organized exhibitions, and developed programming for the Chicago Humanities Festival. Alongside her academic research and performance experience, Nikki also applies her ethnographic training to the field of health communications, specifically looking at the health concerns of women and racial minorities.