Series: Meet HSU’s Newest Faculty Members - Humboldt State Now

Series: Meet HSU’s Newest Faculty Members

Over the course of the fall semester, Humboldt State NOW will be profiling our new tenure-track faculty. In this edition, we introduce Professor Melanie Michalak, Dept. of Geology, whose expertise is in tectonic geomorphology, landscape evolution and geochronology, and Professor Troy Lescher, Dept. of Theatre, Film, & Dance, who holds a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts from Texas Tech University.

Professor Melanie Michalak, Dept. of Geology

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Melanie Michalak, Dept. of Geology

Where are you originally from?
Santa Barbara, CA

Where did you complete your education?
Undergrad: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
MSc and PhD: UC-Santa Cruz, CA

Why did you choose your field?
I took a seminar when I was a freshman about the Amazon river. It had never occurred to me that the subjects I love- chemistry, physics and math- could be applied to natural settings. I changed my major to Earth Science after that experience.

Where have you taught prior to coming to HSU?
UC-Santa Cruz

What are your specific areas of expertise?
Tectonic geomorphology, landscape evolution and geochronology.

What classes are you teaching this year?
1) General Geomorphology, 2) Earth Resources and Global Environmental Change, and 3) Earthquake Country.

What attracted you to Humboldt State?
Its long-standing excellence in natural sciences, its commitment to community and inclusiveness, and its beautiful natural setting. Finally, I can’t help but be excited to live near the junction of three tectonic plates- this is not something most people get to do!

What do you do in your free time outside the classroom?
If I’m not teaching or working- you can find me running! I love running everywhere around Humboldt County, especially the trails. I also enjoy sitting back and listening to music. I’m slowly trying to learn to play some piano.

What is your favorite classroom technique to engage students?
My preference is to take students on field trips during class time, but when I can’t always do that I love playing video clips (e.g., natural disasters, documentaries, laboratory demonstrations) followed by a group discussion about the main points, and effectiveness of the visuals.

What is the best thing about being a university professor?
Working with the staff, faculty and students of HSU to discover new and better ways to teach, and get students involved in original research.

Where is the strangest place you’ve done research?
I once collected some rock samples from someone’s front yard near Lima, Peru, which is a very big city. I was granted permission, but everyone was curious what I was doing and I had a large audience. The rock was very hard and dense, so it took me a couple minutes with my sledge to get a piece loose. It was pretty embarrassing actually.

If you weren’t an HSU professor, what would you be?
I’d be a middle school science teacher, a pizza parlor owner, or a photographer.

What superpower would be most valuable to your research?
Being able to speak every language in the world- then I could travel anywhere and tell anyone who would listen about it, and get people involved!

Professor Troy Lescher, Dept. of Theatre, Film, & Dance

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Troy Lescher, Dept. of Theatre, Film, & Dance

Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from Bloomington, Illinois. However, I’ve also lived in Charlottesville,Virginia; Brooklyn, New York; Lubbock, Texas; and Fort Collins, Colorado.

Where did you complete your education?
Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts – Texas Tech University
Master of Fine Arts in Theatre/Acting – Brooklyn College, City University of New York
Bachelor of Arts in Drama – University of Virginia
Associates of Arts in Liberal Arts – Piedmont Virginia Community College

Why did you choose your field?
The power of storytelling has always attracted me to the theatre arts as well as the shared experience that live theatre offers a group of spectators. I also very much enjoy the way in which drama and theatre (or any art form for that matter) often navigates the gray and murky waters of the world around us.

Where have you taught prior to coming to HSU?
I’ve served as an instructor at three City University of New York institutions (e.g. Brooklyn College, Borough of Manhattan Community College, and Bronx Community College), Texas Tech University, and College America. I’ve also taught theatre arts in New York City Public Schools and among several performing arts organizations.

What are your specific areas of expertise?
My areas of expertise include Acting, Directing, Voice and Speech for Actors, and Movement for Actors. My dissertation itself focuses on clown pedagogy and contemporary clown training for actors. I’ve also spent several years working exclusively in faculty development and best teaching practices.

What classes are you teaching this year?
I’ll be teaching Classical European Acting and a Directing/Performance Workshop this Fall.

What attracted you to Humboldt State?
HSU students were an immediate attraction to me. Their level of social awareness, community engagement, environmental activism etc. communicated a level of sophistication that is rare in my experience. The relatively small size of the HSU learning community (faculty, staff, students etc.) was a big draw as well as the fact that HSU and its surrounding area recognize the role that the arts play in a community. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, HSU really values sound teaching and celebrates excellence in student-learning. Hooray!

What do you do in your free time outside the classroom?
I like volunteering, traveling, hiking, watching baseball, reading the New York Times, and going to the theater (and the circus whenever possible!).

What is your favorite classroom technique to engage students?
I have too many favorites to choose only one! I enjoy incorporating quick writing activities into my lessons in order to promote participation and critical-thinking. I love bringing in recent news articles/news stories as a way to capture students’ attention, cultivate discussion, and to prove the relevance of course content. I also enjoy utilizing complex and stimulating case studies to push the students into performing some problem-solving.

What is the best thing about being a university professor?
Easy – being in the company of students. I love helping students refine their identities, perspectives, and especially their voices. Too, I get pretty excited about equipping students with a solid skill set so that they can better achieve personal and professional fulfillment.

Where is the strangest place you’ve done research?
I suppose the strangest place that I’ve done research would be in Bali. I lived in Batuan village for two months while completing a self-directed study abroad that incorporated clowning, dance, and mask-making. Alternatively, I lived with a group of artists in a barn theater in Maine for one week while collecting data for my dissertation.

If you weren’t an HSU professor, what would you be?
Hmmm…great question…I’d likely work at a non-profit arts organization as an administrator or an educational coordinator.

What superpower would be most valuable to your research?
Time travel. I’d love visit the Golden Era of the American Circus (circa 1870-1890) to witness and examine the inner workings of clown training within the contexts of the master and apprentice system. Too, it would be a pleasure to watch the “old timers” perform their comedy routines.