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Columbia College Chicago
Core Faculty
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Core Faculty

In addition to the interdisciplinary Teaching Academy drawn from across the College's departments, the First-Year Seminar has five full-time Lecturers who serve as the instructional foundation for the program.

Doug Reichert Powell, Interim Director
Doug Reichert Powell has received degrees from Northeastern University (Ph.D. ’99), East Tennessee State University (M.A. ’92) and Washington and Lee University (B.A. ’90). His interest in social constructions of place and region (especially the southern Appalachian mountains) underwrites his research and writing in popular culture, landscape, literature, composition studies, and critical pedagogy. His publications and presentations cover subjects ranging from the 1998 manhunt for Eric Rudolph to the 1916 hanging of a circus elephant. In addition to publishing essays and reviews in Appalachian Journal, Historical Geography, and Southern Exposure, he has served as co-editor (with Anthony Harkins and Katherine Ledford) of the Media section of The Encyclopedia of Appalachia (University of Tennessee Press, 2006). Doug's book, Critical Regionalism: Connecting Politics and Culture in the American Landscape, was published in 2007 by the University of North Carolina Press, while Composing Other Spaces, a collection of essays about place and writing pedagogy Doug co-edited with John Paul Tassoni, appeared in Hampton Press’s “Research and Teaching in Composition and Rhetoric” series in 2008. Doug is currently at work on a documentary writing project about commercial caverns (or "show caves," as they are known in the trade) and other “geology tourism” sites—rock formations, mineral springs, and other landscape oddities—in the valley-and-ridge province of the Appalachian Mountains.

In addition to directing the First-Year Seminar program, Doug regularly teaches English courses such as Writing and Rhetoric I and II, Reviewing the Arts, American novel, and topical courses in American literature such as “Literature & Environment.”

Prior to joining the faculty of Columbia College Chicago English department, Doug was associate director of the University Writing Program at Duke University, and has also taught at Miami University of Ohio, Northeastern, East Tennessee State, and Northeast State Community College (Tenn.).  

Doug Reichert Powell

Doug Reichert Powell
Kris Brailey, Lecturer
Kris Brailey is a photographer whose work has been shown at the Chicago Cultural Center, City Gallery at the Historic Water Tower, Museum of Science & Industry, Gallery 312, and Fulton Street Gallery in Troy, New York. Kris is currently working on a documentary project entitled The Fred and Betty Show, which entails photographing her family during summer visits to their cottage in Michigan. Kris is the recipient of grants from Illinois Art Council, Art Council of San Francisco, and Columbia College Chicago. 
Kris received her BA from Grand Valley State University and her MFA from Columbia College Chicago. She has taught photography for College of DuPage, Roosevelt University, and Columbia Chicago Chicago. She has also done photographic workshops for the Terra Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Kris joined the First-Year Seminar faculty in 2005 and has been an FYS Lecturer since 2007.

Kris Brailey
Lisa DiFranza, Senior Lecturer
Lisa DiFranza is a theater director who has worked in educational, community-based, and professional settings.

At Portland Stage Company, where she is an Affiliate Artist, she has directed numerous productions, served as Literary and Education Director, produced the Little Festival of the Unexpected—an annual celebration of new work—and edited a volume of plays that originated at the festival. As Artistic Director of The Children's Theater of Maine for seven years, her leadership included the creation and direction of a successful multi-year Young Playwrights Contest, producing the work of students from throughout the State of Maine. She has an ongoing partnership with The University of Iowa's International Writing Program, where she has led several collaborative workshops and directed readings of new writing from around the world. In New York, she has worked at The Juilliard School—where she served on the faculty of the Drama Division for five years—Ensemble Studio Theater, numerous off-off Broadway theaters, and the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. She is currently working in collaboration with the Playwriting Department at Columbia College Chicago, directing readings of new works in progress.

Lisa holds a master's degree in Theology and the Arts from Andover Newton Theological School, and has a passionate interest in the ways in which theater and religion intersect. She has taught courses for seminarians at Andover Newton and Bangor Theological Seminary, and led workshops on the spiritual dimensions of voice and performance for numerous theological conferences, institutes, and retreats.

Lisa taught in the English Department the University of New England for three years, served as the Founding Director of the Arts Academy—an innovative public high school initiative—and she has worked as a freelance consultant guiding non-profit arts organizations in transition.

Lisa joined the First-Year Seminar faculty in 2007.


Visit Lisa's website here.

James Falzone, Lecturer
When James Falzone is not in the First-Year Seminar classroom, you'll most often find him making music. As a clarinetist and composer, he is an acclaimed member of Chicago's jazz and creative improvised music scene, a veteran contemporary music lecturer and clinician, the longtime Director of Music for Grace Chicago Church and an award-winning composer who has been commissioned by chamber ensembles, choirs and symphony orchestras around the globe. He leads his own ensembles KLANG, The Renga Ensemble, and Allos Musica and has released nine highly regarded recordings on Allos Documents, a label he founded in 2000.

James has performed in recital halls, festivals and jazz venues throughout North America and Europe, appears regularly on Downbeat magazine's Critics' and Readers' Polls, was nominated as the 2011 Clarinetist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association, and was a candidate for the Herb Alpert Prize in Music in 2014. He has been awarded grants from the Illinois Arts Council, The Rotary Foundation, New Music America, and ASCAP and his work has been featured in the New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, New Music Box, Point of Departure, and many other publications. Read more about James' professional work at his website: allosmusica.org

Educated at Northern Illinois University and New England Conservatory, James has been teaching in the First-Year Seminar Program since 2008 and was a finalist for the Excellence In Teaching Award in 2013. He has also been on faculty at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, and was a Visiting Professor at Deep Springs College in California in 2013.

Read more about James and the First-Year Seminar Program in this article at Columbia College's @LAS Magazine.

Visit James's website here.

Michael Lawrence, Lecturer & Acting Assistant Director
Michael Lawrence holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from the University of Iowa, and a B.A. with emphasis in Cultural Studies and Visual Arts from Bard College at Simon’s Rock. Additionally, he has studied in Amsterdam through the School for International Training, completed are and design coursework at Parsons and RISD, and earned a certificate from the University of Iowa’s Project on Rhetorics of Inquiry.

Dr. Lawrence’s academic research sits at the intersection of rhetorical theory, rhetorical criticism, and cultural studies. More specifically, his scholarly interests include queer representation in film and television, public memorialization, and discourses of aesthetics. He has presented work at the annual conventions of the National Communication Association and the Cultural Studies Association. His doctoral dissertation explores the rhetorical force and function of the list of names of the dead as figured by 9/11 memorialization discourse.

At the University of Iowa, Michael taught for both the first-year rhetoric program and the department of communication studies. In addition to introductory speaking and writing courses, his teaching has included courses such as Gender, Sexuality and the Media; The Politics of Popular Culture; and Rhetoric and Public Advocacy. He has given presentations to teachers both locally and nationally on pedagogical topics such as teaching about gender and teaching in a time of terror. Before moving to Iowa, Michael worked at Bard High School Early College in New York. 

Michael joined the First-Year Seminar faculty in Fall 2009.

Fereshteh Toosi, Senior Lecturer
Fereshteh Toosi is a multidisciplinary artist who collects and recombines sounds, words, images, and actions. Her participatory social practice ranges from community-driven oral history projects to guerrilla interventions in public places.

Fereshteh's creative research explores social geography, ethnobotany, sustainability, and migration. Fereshteh's projects have been shown at the Freies Museum in Berlin, Morono Kiang Gallery in Los Angeles, Transformer Gallery in Washington DC, Art in General in New York, Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, La Centrale Galerie in Montréal, Hallwalls in Buffalo, and the Boston Center for the Arts. Fereshteh's work has been supported by grants and residencies from the Illinois Humanities Council, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Experimental Sound Studio, the Experimental Television Center, Virginia Center for the Arts, the Berwick Research Institute, the Flaherty Film Seminar and the Society for Contemporary Craft. She has participated in Toronto's Subtle Technologies Festival, the Performance Studies International Conference, and the International Summer School of Arts and Sciences for Sustainability in Social Transformation in Gabrovo, Bulgaria.

Fereshteh received a BA from Oberlin College and lived in Japan for two years before completing her MFA from Carnegie Mellon University's School of Art. She held teaching positions in media art and theory in Maryland and was the Faculty Fellow in Arts and Civic Engagement at Syracuse University before joining the full-time faculty at Columbia College Chicago. You may find samples of her work at fereshteh.net.

Fereshteh joined the First-Year Seminar faculty in 2008.

See samples of Fereshteh's work here.