Honors Program Faculty

Collaborating together from all disciplines

Gaelyn Aguilar is a cultural anthropologist whose work falls under the broad heading of performative ethnography, an area of interest that looks to performance as a site for both intervention and re/search. She initially explored this pivot point in the Republic of Macedonia, where as a Fulbright Fellow she conducted re/search on dance and the cultural politics of national identity. Following almost 24 months of fieldwork in the Balkans, Gaelyn turned her attention to the borderlands of North America, a shift that dovetailed into her role as the Co-Artistic Director of TUG, an interdisciplinary arts collective that creates contact zones where people can generate insights about, and produce actions around, contemporary social issues. Prior to becoming active as an ethnographer, Gaelyn was an independent filmmaker who produced documentaries that profiled individuals, organizations, and socio-cultural issues that lacked access to popular support and conventional media outlets. Her documentary work has appeared in National Geographic’s New Explorers Series and been distributed nationally to over 250 refugee resettlement programs. Gaelyn complements her identity with work as a live performing and studio-recording artist.

Since joining the faculty in 2006, Linda Beck has developed several new courses that reflect her research interests, such as Political Activism and Advocacy in which students work on a service-learning project with one of Maine’s many non-profit organizations. Linda has herself conducted research on social accountability in both Africa and Asia. She has also worked with Maine’s environmental community, serving as president of the Maine Conservation Alliance. Her work on environmental issues in the US and overseas informs her newly developed course, Environmental Politics in Comparative Perspective. Linda has published various articles, chapters in edited volumes and a book on ethno-politics and democratization in Senegal (W. Africa), and has conducted research for various development organizations such as the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank, Freedom House, and the International Budget Project.

Kristen Case teaches courses in American literature, environmental writing, and the intersection of 20th- and 21st-century American literature and philosophy.  She has published essays on Henry David Thoreau, Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and William James, and is the author of American Pragmatism and Poetic Practice: Crosscurrents from Emerson to Susan Howe (Camden House, 2011). Her poetry collection, Little Arias (New Issues, 2015) won the Maine literary Award for Poetry.  She is co-editor of the volumes Thoreau at 200: Essays and Reassessments (Cambridge UP, 2016) and 21|19: Contemporary Poets on Nineteenth-Century American Texts (forthcoming, Milkweed Editions). She directs Thoreau’s Kalendar: A Digital Archive of the Phenological Manuscripts of Henry David Thoreau and The New Commons Project, a public humanities initiative sponsored by the Mellon Foundation.

Born and raised just outside of Philadelphia, Jonathan R Cohen holds degrees from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the University of Pennsylvania. He was delighted that his academic job search wound up in Maine, where Life truly is The Way It Should Be. He has been teaching at University of Maine Farmington since 1992, teaching everything from Critical Thinking to Ethics to Logic to Consciousness and Reality, but his primary research interests are Nietzsche and Plato. His first book, Science, Culture and Free Spirits: A Study of Nietzsche’s Human, All-too-Human, came out in 2010 (Humanity Books). His second, In Nietzsche’s Footsteps, is a philosophical travel memoir recounting his family’s trip to three of Nietzsche’s favorite residences and his concomitant encounter with the livability of Nietzsche’s philosophy (2018, 8th House). His current work is on Nietzsche’s philosophy of music; it will utilize his multi-media performance pieces entitled “Born to Affirm the Eternal Recurrence” (on Nietzsche, Buber, and Bruce Springsteen), “’Wouldn’t It Be Nice’: Why You Need to Take the Beach Boys Seriously”, and “Disciples of Dionysus” (on the Ramones). He and his wife (the math specialist at Mallett School in Farmington) maintain a segment of the Appalachian Trail and enjoy Torah reading, kayaking, and Victoria. He has four grown children and a daughter-in-law, spread from Brooklyn to Denver. He used to say he loved basketball more than life itself, but after a career-ending Achilles tear, it turns out he actually loves life more.  

Christine Darrohn has always been a devoted reader--as a little girl she refused to take her naps unless she could take a book to bed.  Today Christine is devoted to guiding her students to become strong readers of literature who can explore the meanings of the very smallest of textual details.  In her scholarship, Christine also examines texts closely in relation to a variety of cultural contexts, such as the Great War and attitudes towards empire.  More fundamentally, she is interested in writers' representations of the possibilities and difficulties of forming human connections across social barriers.  Holding an MFA in creative writing in addition to a PhD in literature, Christine is a published fiction writer and is currently working on a novel.  Moreover, as Campus Writing Coordinator, Christine assists faculty across campus in supporting students' development as writers.  

Dan Gunn:  In the fall of 1982, in my third year at UMF, I was asked to teach the first course in our new Honors Program, and I have been regularly involved with the program ever since, as instructor, Honors Council member, and Interim Director.   I have taught first-year classes on Greek Civilization and advanced seminars on the Irish novelist James Joyce and have led Honors trips to Portland, Boston, New York, and Ireland.  This past January, I took a group of students to Dublin to visit the Martello Tower and other Joyce sites and to walk in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom, Stephen Dedalus, Gabriel Conroy, and other Joycean characters.   I have always appreciated the ambition, intelligence, and friendliness of Honors students and the combination of serious intellectual engagement and informal good will in Honors classes.  At its best, the Honors program has been a college within the college for UMF’s best students, and it has certainly provided me with some of my most fruitful and rewarding experiences as a faculty member here.  I am grateful to Eric Brown, Michael Burke, Marilyn Shea, and all of the other Honors directors for making these experiences possible.      

Luke Kellett is an environmentally minded archaeologist who has taught in the Anthropology department since 2011. He has broad experience working as an archaeologist for the US Forest Service in New Mexico and since 2002 has conducted various research projects in the Peruvian highlands. He is especially interested in the long-term interaction between humans and the environment during periods of climate change. Luke has co-authored a monograph entitled, The Chanka: Archaeological Research in Andahuaylas (Apurimac), Peru (Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, 2010), as well as an edited volume entitled, Settlement Ecology of the Ancient Americas (Routledge Press, 2017). In Fall 2020, he is teaching his first Honors course (HON 101) examining the mythological, scientific, biological and cultural basis of the Bigfoot phenomenon. Luke co-leads travel courses to Peru and Newfoundland, Canada and also worked for many years (2012-2019) as UMF’s sustainability coordinator. He loves adventures in the outdoors and traveling internationally.  

Nicholas Koban has been a mathematics professor at UMF since 2006, and he teaches a wide variety of courses in the mathematics major as well as for other disciplines.  He is interested in studying sets on which algebra can be performed (not necessarily sets of numbers), but uses geometry to study these algebraic sets instead of algebra.  Each year he hires a research assistant to help with studying these algebraic objects.  These students will usually assist in his research projects along with working on their own individual project.

Misty Krueger is an assistant professor of English at the University of Maine at Farmington. She teaches First-Year Seminar as well as writing and literature courses for the English department and Honors program. In the summer of 2017, Misty was the Jane Austen Society of North America International Visitor in Chawton, where she conducted research and volunteered at Chawton House Library and the Jane Austen’s House Museum. She has published on Austen, juvenilia, adaptation, and pedagogy. She is at work on a book about Austen’s juvenilia, and she is editing a collection of essays on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century transatlantic women travelers. In her free time, Misty loves to play board games and card games, blog about fashion, and watch sci-fi and British detective shows.  

Honors Director

John Messier is an economist and advocate for social justice.   He has worked with informal vendors in Quito Ecuador and coffee growers in Mexico and Nicaragua.  He led a student group to Chiapas Mexico on a research project investigating the impact of fair trade participation on childhood nutrition and education.  Most recently he spent time in Matagalpa Nicaragua working with fair trade and traditional coffee growers and plans on returning with a student group.  His course offerings include International Economic Development, International Trade and Finance and Behavioral Economics.  When not in the classroom, John enjoys hiking, traveling and gardening.

Nancy Prentiss teaches courses in Marine Biology, Tropical Island Ecology and Field Botany. Her research focuses on surveying marine worms (polychaete) in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, USVI, where she is developing a database for polychaete biodiversity. She currently employs UMF students as research assistants to conduct polychaete taxonomy and to develop a UMF lab protocol for the DNA barcoding of new species found in the collection. Other interests include monitoring rare plant species in Maine.

Michael Schoeppner is a legal historian who writes about race and citizenship in the United States. His recent Honors course, History Road Trip, took students around the state to examine historical monuments, consider how and why we commemorate the past, and eat ice cream. In his history courses, Dr. Schoeppner often uses role-playing games to alter students' perspectives of past events. In his course, Making the Constitution, students "became" James Madison, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and the other members of the Constitutional Convention. Students quickly realized the difficulty in framing a government and the contingency of historical developments. He loves sports, coffee, his wife, beer, politics, his son Liam, reading, and traveling (though not in that particular order). 

Acting Honors Director

André Siamundele teaches French and courses on African Cinema and Postcolonial studies.  He has presented papers and published articles on the question of Identity in Africa and the Diaspora.  André earned his PhD from Yale University in 1999.

Shana Youngdahl is a writer and educator who loves to help students embrace the stories they need to tell. Shana teaches first-year writing and first-year seminars in the Honors program, piloting the first Honors Fusion course on Success and Failure in 2020. Students in her courses have created web-publications, choreographed an interpretive dance, hiked a local mountain, and endured the COVID shutdown during a course titled "It's A Disaster." Shana has also directed the Longfellow Young Writers Workshop and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. The author of several poetry chapbooks and one volume of poems, her debut Young Adult novel As Many Nows As I Can Get, was noted as a Best Book of 2019 by Kirkus, The New York Public Library, and Seventeen Magazine. A believer in the importance of research and cross-discipline study as fundamental for creative work, Shana has also been the recipient of an Iowa Arts Council mini-grant and an American Antiquarian Society Artist Fellowship. 

University of Maine at Farmington Honors Program 2020-21