New Social Sciences Faculty (Part One)

By Phyllis Jeffrey - Here, in the first of two features, we introduce some of the newest members of the social sciences faculty at UC Davis.

Damien Caillaud

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Dr. Damien Caillaud researches gorilla behavior and evolution, with a focus on how habitat variability and human activities influence gorillas’ social network, habitat use, demography and the spread of infectious diseases. Dr. Caillaud, who joins UC Davis this fall from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Atlanta, does most of his fieldwork on Grauer’s gorillas in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also studies mountain gorillas with the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda.

Initially trained as a veterinarian, Dr. Caillaud has been studying wild primates since 2003 and received his Ph.D. on western lowland gorillas at the University of Montpellier. He then worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and at the University of Texas at Austin. He has done fieldwork on wild African primates in the Republic of Congo, Namibia, Uganda, Madagascar, DR Congo and Rwanda. This quarter, he is teaching a graduate seminar, ANT 298: “Modern tools for data collection, management and analysis."

Drew Cingel

Assistant Professor of Communication

Dr. Cingel joins UC Davis this fall from Northwestern University, where his dissertation research focused on how children understand moral messages on television and apply them in real-world situations. Dr. Cingel’s research interests include the effects of social media on adolescent socio-emotional development, children’s learning from media, and the influence of media on child and adolescent moral reasoning.

Dr. Cingel has also investigated how text messaging impacts grammar skills in young teenagers. This quarter, Dr. Cingel is teaching CMN 141: Media Effects, which he will teach again in winter, and he is in the process of developing a new undergraduate course, CMN 147: Children, Adolescents, and the Media, which will be offered in spring.

James Cloyne

Assistant Professor of Economics

Dr. James Cloyne joins UC Davis this fall from the Bank of England, where he was a Senior Research Economist. Dr. Cloyne is already a familiar face at UC Davis, however, having previously taught as a visiting professor in fall 2015.

Among other activities of note, Dr. Cloyne has served as an economic policy adviser to the Office of the Prime Minister of the UK. With research interests including quantitative and applied macroeconomics, monetary policy, public finance and economic history, Dr. Cloyne focuses in the areas of empirical macroeconomics and monetary and fiscal policy.

Heather Hether

Lecturer PSOE

Department of Communication

Joining the UC Davis Department of Communication last June, Dr. Heather Hether brings a focus on health-related communication and social media. Currently, she is researching how health organizations use social media to build online communities with key publics, employing a multi-method approach to examine impacts on organizations and their stakeholders.

Dr. Hether, whose interests include digital pedagogy and communication ethics, has also explored the communication of health information through non-traditional channels, including the health content (and implications for audiences) of popular prime-time television shows. This fall, Dr. Hether is teaching CMN 161: Health Communication.

Justin Leroy

Assistant Professor of History

Dr. Justin Leroy joins UC Davis this fall from Harvard University, where he was a postdoctoral fellow in Global American Studies at the Charles Warren Center. Dr. Leroy’s research interests lie in African American history of the 19th-century United States, with particular focus at the intersections of: intellectual history; slavery and abolition; the Atlantic world; black political thought; comparative histories of empire; and the history of capitalism. Currently, Dr. Leroy is at work on his first book, Freedom’s Limit: Racial Capitalism and the Afterlives of Slavery, and he has also outlined a second project that will examine the history of race and finance.

Dr. Leroy will teach History 177A: History of Black People and American Race Relations, 1450-1860 in winter 2017; and History 177B: History of Black People and American Race Relations, 1860-Present as well as History 102X: Capitalism and Slavery in spring 2017.

Arman Rezaee

Assistant Professor of Economics

Dr. Arman Rezaee joins UC Davis this fall after completing his doctorate at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Rezaee is a development economist whose research seeks innovative ways to improve government services in fragile states through examining the intersections of service delivery, political economy and technology.

Dr. Rezaee, who is particularly concerned with challenges of service provision in rural settings, focuses much of his research on Pakistan, where he has employed large-scale field experiments utilizing cellular technology, as well as natural experiments using historical archival data. He also has active projects in Uganda and the Philippines.

Jeanette B. Ruiz

Lecturer PSOE

Department of Communication

Dr. Jeanette Ruiz, who joins the Department of Communication as a Lecturer PSOE this fall, specializes in strategic communication with a focus in emerging concepts and practices in digital and social media. Dr. Ruiz, who completed her doctoral work at UC Davis last year, focused her dissertation on the ways that online communication and social networks influence vaccine compliance, shedding light on the persistence of the "anti-vaxxer" movement.

Currently, Dr. Ruiz is continuing research related to the effects of media advocacy and media campaigns on public health initiatives and how social network factors affect student success outcomes. Her past work has examined how international Internet social networks affect public health communication, issues of Internet ownership and governance, and offered critical cultural assessments of media advocacy.

This fall, Dr. Ruiz is teaching two large courses in Communication: Strategic Communication in Public Relations and Interpersonal Communication Competence which has been recently revamped to focus on professional interpersonal communication.

Kenji Sagae

Assistant Professor of Linguistics

Dr. Kenji Sagae joins UC Davis this fall from his year-long work as a co-founder of KITT.AI, an artificial intelligence platform for voice-controlled applications. Previously, Dr. Sagae was a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California’s Computer Science Department and Project Leader at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies. Dr. Sagae’s research interests, which lie in the area of computational linguistics, comprise data-driven and linguistically-motivated models of structure in natural language.

He is interested in automatic analysis of child language, human language technology applications, multimodal processing and human communication dynamics; and he has conducted research in areas including child language development, bioinformatics and virtual human dialogue systems. In winter, Dr. Sagae will teach LIN 127: Corpus and Text Analysis.

Monica Singhal

Associate Professor of Economics

Dr. Monica Singhal joined UC Davis in January from Harvard University, where she has been an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government since 2010. Dr. Singhal, who specializes in taxation and redistribution and public finance in developing countries, also serves as a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a Faculty Affiliate of the International Growth Center. In addition, Dr. Singhal is on the Board of Directors of the National Tax Association.

Rachel St. John

Associate Professor of History

Dr. Rachel St. John joins UC Davis this fall after teaching previously at New York University and Harvard University. Dr. St. John’s research focuses on nineteenth and twentieth century North American history, with a particular emphasis on state-formation and nation-building. Her first book, Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border, explored the history and transformation of the western U.S.-Mexico border up to the creation of the modern boundary line.

Currently, Dr. St. John is engaged in work on a second book, The Imagined States of America: The Unmanifest History of Nineteenth-century North America, which will examine the rise of diverse nation-building projects in North America in the nineteenth century.

Takuya Ura

Assistant Professor of Economics

Dr. Takuya Ura joins UC Davis this fall after completing his doctoral work at Duke University, where his dissertation developed and applied microeconometric techniques to empirically relevant problems, such as improving measurement in areas including return to college attendance and rates of labor force participation. Concentrating in econometrics, Dr. Ura maintains a focus in microeconometrics and causal inference. Dr. Ura will teach second-year Ph.D. Econometrics in winter quarter, and Undergraduate Econometrics in spring.

Jingwen Zhang

Assistant Professor of Communication

Dr. Jingwen Zhang, who joins UC Davis this fall, brings a focus on health promotion, social influence, and interventions utilizing innovative online communication platforms. Dr. Zhang recently completed her doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, where her dissertation, entitled Online Social Network Physical Activity Intervention for Young African American Women, examined the efficacy of interventions via online social networks for promoting health behavior in young adults.

Dr. Zhang’s current research examines development of persuasive online networks using mobile technologies and computational approaches. She is also involved in research on communication for development, an interest that traces back to her work with UNICEF.

Dr. Zhang, who begins teaching in winter, will teach CMN 112: Theories of Persuasion in winter and spring 2017, and will teach a graduate seminar, CMN 232: Health Communication, in spring as well.