College of Arts and Sciences Brings Diversity and Equality Change Agents to Campus for the New Academic Year

Distinguished Visiting Scholars 2023-2024 Cohort Announced


This fall, a group of 10 highly accomplished scholars and artists will begin their year-long Distinguished Visiting Scholars (DVS) program within the College of Arts and Sciences at UB. Their work will help to elucidate social inequality and advance social justice within the university and Buffalo community.

The new cohort is a dynamic group of scholars and artists who will make strong contributions to UB through their projects, engagement with faculty, staff and students and their interaction with community members throughout Buffalo and Western New York," says Donte McFadden, PhD, director of the Distinguished Visiting Scholars.

The 2023-2024 DVS cohort and their respective home departments in the College include:

Sara Maria Acevedo.

Sara María Acevedo

Global Gender and Sexuality Studies

Acevedo is an Autistic Colombian-born scholar-activist and critical educator. Her research is committed to anti-colonial, anti-racist and anti-ableist praxis and is informed by transnational feminisms, subjugated knowledges and post-humanism. She is an assistant professor of disability studies at Miami University, where she advances disability justice across campus. Her work blends critical pedagogy, research and activism in solidarity with historically marginalized communities. Acevedo has received multiple DEI awards and a grant from the Ford Foundation’s Disability Rights Program.

Will Bridges headshot.

Will Bridges

Comparative Literature, Asian Studies

Bridges is the Arthur Satz Professor of the Humanities, associate professor of Japanese and core faculty member of the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies at the University of Rochester. His research and teaching has been recognized by the Fulbright Program, the Japan Foundation, the Association for Asian Studies and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Claudia Ford Headshot.

Claudia J. Ford

Environmental Sustainability, Indigenous Studies

Ford’s career in international development and women’s health spans four decades and all continents. She is professor and chair of the department of environmental studies at the State University of New York at Potsdam. Ford is a midwife and ethnobotanist, who teaches, conducts research and writes about traditional ecological knowledge, spiritual ecology, entheogenic plant medicine, women’s reproductive health and sustainable agriculture.

Christy Garrison-Harrison headshot.

Christy Garrison-Harrison


Garrison-Harrison is an assistant professor of History and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College. Her primary research foci are on the American South, with a concentration on Black women’s political leadership and influence upon economically developing Black communities within the region, Black Womanist Geographies and the cultural dynamics of White American matriarchy. Her secondary research interests include Afro-Latinx community advocacy and Black Women in colonial Europe and America. Outside of research, writing and teaching, Garrison-Harrison is currently workshopping the peer-mentoring cohort model she developed to support junior faculty.

Al Heartly Headshot.

Al Heartley

Arts Management

Heartley is a passionate and mission-driven consultant based in Atlanta, GA. He is a co-founder and partner at Evolution Management Consultants, a search and strategic planning firm working with arts and culture organizations across the country. He co-founded the firm out of a need to bring equity and inclusion to hiring, planning and organizational development. Heartley teaches in graduate programs at Northwestern University, Florida State University, and Yale School of Drama. He studies arts organizations with intention and specificity to solve today’s most challenging problems.

Nicole Horsley Headshot.

M. Nicole Horsley

Africana and American Studies

Horsley is an assistant professor of African Diaspora Studies and affiliate faculty in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Screen Cultures at Ithaca College. Her primary research and teaching centers the interplay between Black visual culture, sexual economies, Black ontologies, consumption, material culture, dis/ability and sensualism to explore the politics of pleasure and perversion grounded in close contextual reading practices. Horsley is also a member of the Pleasure Project, a collective of scholars in Canada and the U.S. who were recently awarded an Emerging Projects Award for the 2023-2024 year at the Queer and Trans Research Lab (QTRL) in the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto.

AJ Kim headshot.

AJ Kim


Kim is an Associate Professor of City Planning in the School Public Affairs at San Diego State University. Kim’s research is focused on immigrant participation in the informal economy and ethnic labor markets, as well as problems of community development and urban inequality more broadly. They have partnered with Los Angeles and Atlanta area municipalities and NGOs on planning for immigrant integration, with a focus on the experiences of undocumented/unauthorized Asian, African and Latinx immigrants and refugees. Their research has received grant awards from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, American Studies Association, GT Center for Urban Innovation, UC Center for New Racial Studies and the UCLA and Berkeley Institutes for Research on Labor and Employment.

Bakari Kitwana headhsot.

Bakari Kitwana

Africana and American Studies

Kitwana is an internationally known cultural critic, journalist, activist and thought leader in the areas of hip-hop and Black youth political engagement. He is the executive director of Rap Sessions: Community Dialogues on Hip-Hop, which for the last seventeen years has conducted over 150 townhall meetings around the nation on difficult dialogues facing the millennial generation. Kitwana has been the Editor-in-Chief of "The Source" magazine, the Editorial Director of "Third World Press," and co-founder of the 2004 National Hip-Hop Political Convention. During the height of COVID-19 pandemic, he cofounded the "Hip-Hop Political Education Summit," which convened two major virtual gatherings: "The Hip-Hop Political Education Summit on Voter Suppression" and "The Hip-Hop Political Education Summit on Black Men and the Vote."

Rosy Simas headhsot.

Rosy Simas

Theatre and Dance/Indigenous Studies

Simas is a transdisciplinary and dance artist and an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation, Heron clan. She lives and works in Mni Sota Makoce (Minneapolis, Minn.). Her knowledge of her Haudenosaunee family and lineage is the underpinning of her relationship to culture and history—stored in her body—which is expressed through her work—of moving people, moving images, and moving objects that she makes for stage and installation. Simas’ work weaves personal and collective identity themes with family, sovereignty, equality and healing. She creates dance work with a team of Native and diverse artists, driven by movement-vocabularies developed through deep listening.

Salvador Vidal-Ortiz headshot.

Salvador Vidal-Ortiz


Vidal-Ortiz is an associate professor of Sociology at American University. He has published over 50 peer reviewed articles, book chapters, and special collection essays, and will use the time as a Fellow to work on his sole-author manuscript on Santería, race, gender and sexuality. Vidal-Ortiz co-authored the book "Race and Sexuality;" co-edited, in English, "The Sexuality of Migration: Border Crossings and Mexican Immigrant Men" and "Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism," and in Spanish, "Travar el Saber" (“Trans-ing Knowledges”) – on education and trans people in Argentina.

The DVS will bring their impressive resumes to campus in August and collaborate throughout the year to promote diversity, equity and inclusion at UB. The DVS program will engage the entire UB community, providing opportunities for new scholarly, artistic, curricular and pedagogical collaborations and access to scholars’ work through public presentations, performances, exhibitions, guest lectures, workshops and informal social gatherings. Scholars will also take part in mentoring circles, where they will meet and engage with undergraduate and graduate students.

“As the new director of DVS, I am excited to work with this cohort because I have a lot to learn from them in their multiple areas of expertise," says McFadden. “I also want to provide a productive and memorable experience that will be a highlight in their professional careers and their personal lives.”