Columbia’s Newly Tenured Faculty

Clockwise from top left: Susan Kerns, Michelle Yates, Hilary Sarat-St. Peter, Jessica Jacobs, CM Burroughs, and Greg Corness.  Images courtesy of the professors. Clockwise from top left: Susan Kerns, Michelle Yates, Hilary Sarat-St. Peter, Jessica Jacobs, CM Burroughs, and Greg Corness. Images courtesy of the professors.
This year’s newly tenured faculty members share more about themselves and their work.

Six faculty members have become Columbia College Chicago’s newest tenured faculty members. The newly minted associate professors—five of whom are women—represent each of the three schools: the School of Media Arts, the School of Fine and Performing Arts, and the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In an announcement sent to the Columbia community on March 22, Interim Senior Vice President and Provost Suzanne Blum Malley announced that the new tenured faculty member are CM Burroughs, Greg Corness, Jessica Jacobs, Susan Kerns, Hilary Sarat-St. Peter, and Michelle Yates.

“I have the distinct privilege of recognizing the outstanding contributions our faculty have made to their fields and to the Columbia community through the tenure process. Achieving tenure is a significant career milestone, and an intensive and rigorous process that occurs over a six-year period in which faculty candidates are assessed by many individuals, including external reviewers, department colleagues, chairs, deans, and the All-College Tenure Committee (ACTC). I’d like to extend my gratitude to reviewers at all levels for their diligence in evaluating the applications,” said Blum Malley. “It was a tremendous pleasure to review the achievements of our newly tenured colleagues and to look forward to the ways in which they will continue to enrich our community. Please join me in congratulating them!”

Hilary Sarat-St. Peter
English and Creative Writing

Hilary Sarat-St.Peter

What are some challenges you’ve overcome or accomplishments you’ve achieved that you are particularly proud of?
I think that I have made very effective use of the academic freedom that Columbia College Chicago affords to early-career scholars. I am now working on a scholarly book project that examines cases in which individuals have used written instructions to coordinate, plan, and carry out a terrorist attack. The scholarly work that I published on the tenure-track laid the groundwork for the book project, and my mentors and colleagues at Columbia played a pivotal role in emboldening me to take intellectual and creative risks in my research.

When I started my tenure-track position, I had a very circumscribed sense of my own abilities. I can be quite socially awkward, so I was a little intimidated by the prospect of serving on committees or taking on leadership roles. I had to do those things in order to get tenure, and I ended up finding out that I am quite good at tasks that require facility with leadership or public relations.

What projects are you pursuing outside of your work as a tenured Columbia professor?
I am learning to play the bass recorder—a large, crowbar-shaped woodwind instrument that was very popular in the Renaissance. There is little music written for bass recorder, so I have to play pieces written for alto recorder, which is a much smaller and higher-pitched instrument. I think a lot of the alto pieces sound very funny on the bass.

I am also taking an online course in Mandarin Chinese. I tend to lag behind other students in the course in terms of quiz scores and progress. Learning Mandarin disrupts any sense of academic mastery that I might feel as college faculty, enabling me to empathize with students who may be struggling to understand material.

How did you celebrate upon hearing the news?
I took a walk, fixed a drink, and then sat down to prepare for the next morning’s class. The tenure process instills a dogged commitment to the mundane routines that sustain effective teaching and scholarship.

“I would like to thank the Columbia community for investing in my development as a teacher, scholar, and academic citizen throughout my tenure-track period. I promise to pay it forward by supporting students and colleagues and contributing to the intellectual and creative life of the college. I would also like to thank my husband, Austin St. Peter, for his unwavering support and many hours worked as an in-house, volunteer editor of my article manuscripts.” —Associate Professor Hilary Sarat-St. Peter

Susan Kerns
Cinema and Television Arts

Susan Kerns

What are some challenges you’ve overcome or accomplishments you’ve achieved that you are particularly proud of?
I’m thrilled that Merle Hayden, subject of the documentary Manlife, which I produced, was able to attend our premiere at the Chicago Underground Film Festival, where we won the Audience Award. Merle was 96 years old and passed away just a week after seeing the film, so that screening will always hold a special place in my heart. Manlife is now widely available streaming if you’d like to get to know Merle and his life’s work with the Lawsonomy movement.

Michelle Yates, assistant professor of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences at Columbia and I also started the Chicago Feminist Film Festival in 2016 and just completed our fourth year. During that time, our audiences have nearly tripled in size, filmmakers from around the globe have attended, and hundreds of Columbia students have been able to see films and meet filmmakers they would not normally have access to. I’m very proud of what we have done with this initiative.  

What projects are you pursuing outside of your work as a tenured Columbia professor?
I’m currently producing a 3-D stereoscopic virtual reality experience called The Scapegoat, which I’ll be talking about at the Faculty Showcase on April 24. I’m also working on a short documentary called Mudslingers about my father’s pottery and his changing relationship to the business of being an artist as he ages. 

How did you celebrate upon hearing the news?
Michelle Yates and I actually were at a job candidate’s dinner when we found out! So, we stayed and had an additional celebratory cocktail.  

“Everyone at Columbia has been so supportive throughout this process, from my department colleagues to the Provost’s office and everyone in between. I feel incredibly lucky to work with such a talented, committed, kind, and often hilarious group of people. I can’t wait to pay it forward to the next group of tenure-track professors. And to the students–thank you!!! You’re the best. You keep me on my toes in so many ways that I value (keep the pop culture recommendations coming!) and your energy, projects, and perspectives continually inspire me to continue writing, creating, and thinking in new ways.” —Associate Professor Susan Kerns

Michelle Yates
Humanities, History, and Social Sciences

michelle-yates-610.jpg

What are some challenges you’ve overcome or accomplishments you’ve achieved that you are particularly proud of?
I’m particularly proud of the Chicago Feminist Film Festival, a grassroots festival of predominantly short films featuring issues of gender, sexuality, and social justice often missing from mainstream media that I run with Susan Kerns. I'm also proud of the work I’ve participated in as a member of the Academic Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Executive Committee.   

How did you celebrate upon hearing the news?
In addition to a celebratory cocktail with Susan Kerns, my husband cooked me a fantastic rib roast.

"I challenge students to consider the ways in which “nature” is a cultural construct, as well as how images and discourses of nature are used ideologically to justify social inequalities around gender, race, class, sexuality, and (dis)ability." —Associate Professor Michelle Yates

CM Burroughs
English and Creative Writing

CM Burroughs

What are some challenges you’ve overcome or accomplishments you’ve achieved that you are particularly proud of?
A Black woman at the helm of a college classroom makes for a unique student experience, even in 2019. To be open learners, my students have to deconstruct the American stereotype of what looks like authority and broaden concepts of who may possess and impart knowledge. Academia can be a diverse space, and I’m glad to be a part of the faculty landscape at Columbia. In terms of accomplishments, I am proud to have reached tenure in my career—it has been a long path and years in the making to reach this height. I am also proud of many students who’ve passed through my and my colleagues’ classrooms—students of the English and Creative Writing Department’s undergraduate and graduate programs who have gone on to publish and make their marks in the field of arts and letters. Lastly, I eagerly await the publication of my second book of poems, Master Suffering, to be released by Tupelo Press in Summer 2020. 

What projects are you pursuing outside of your work as a tenured Columbia professor?
I’m delving into archival work at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in preparation for a book that I am editing. I am also beginning to conceive my third book—my upcoming sabbatical will give me plenty of time to work on it!

How did you celebrate upon hearing the news?
I called my parents first, then shared the news with all the people who have had a hand in my development along the way—family, mentors, friends, etc. 

“Looking forward to more time together!” —Associate Professor CM Burroughs

Jessica Jacobs
Business and Entrepreneurship

Jessica Jacobs

What are some challenges you’ve overcome or accomplishments you’ve achieved that you are particularly proud of?
I am proud of developing my work as a researcher as well as continuing my work as a designer and artist. I really appreciate that Columbia values and supports faculty in pursuing both creative/artistic endeavors and scholarly research.

What projects are you pursuing outside of your work as a tenured Columbia professor?
I am currently pursuing a PhD in Design at IIT Institute of Design here in Chicago. The premise of my research is exploring ways that designers can collaborate and develop new practices that intentionally work to address systemic inequities.  

How did you celebrate upon hearing the news?
Rye Manhattan, up.  

“I want to thank everyone who provided mentorship, guidance, support and friendship along the way. I feel very fortunate to be a member of this incredible creative and diverse community.” —Associate Professor Jessica Jacobs

Gregory Corness
Interactive Arts and Media

Greg Corness

What are some challenges you’ve overcome or accomplishments you’ve achieved that you are particularly proud of?
I am happy with new framing I am finding for my research and research interests. This year, I am having more success applying my research to related domains.

What projects are you pursuing outside of your work as a tenured Columbia professor?
I identify largely as a research academic, so besides family, all my work is related to my work as a tenured professor.

How did you celebrate upon hearing the news?
I had a special dinner with family, then left for a conference.

“Receiving tenure has been a very appreciated sign of support and has helped renew my commitment to Columbia College Chicago.” —Associate Professor Gregory Corness