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Palomar College Learning For Success

Faculty Directory

Full-Time Faculty

Dr. Jennifer Backman

Humanities Bldg – Room 302I
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2397

B.A. University of California, San Diego
M.A. The University of Chicago
Ph.D. Purdue University

No bio available.

Dr. Russell Backman

Humanities Bldg – Room 301M
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2835

B.A. University of California, Berkeley
M.A. University of Chicago
Ph.D. University of California, Davis

Professor Backman’s teaching and research focus is on narrative, contemporary literature, transmedia storytelling, aesthetics, and critical theory. He has written on the history of the epic and the novel, especially works that attempt to encompass and embody cultural identities. His interest in storytelling and serialization includes the study of fiction, television, film, comic books, video games, and the various adaptations between them. From an emphasis on form and media, his work touches on aspects of Science and Technology Studies and the Digital Humanities. He also has an abiding interest in classical Greek myth, literature, and philosophy.

Dr. Andrea Bell

Professor Emeritus

B.A. University of Wisconsin
M.A. Hunter College
Ph.D. City University of New York

Professor Bell’s teaching and research interests include contemporary memoir and creative nonfiction, literature of trauma, literature and psycho-dynamic theory, contemporary British and American fiction, and modern drama. She is working on a memoir, Touched, an early version of which was a finalist for the 2014 San Diego Book Award. Among the writers she returns to again and again in her teaching and research are James Baldwin, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, Lorrie Moore, and Toni Morrison. She has published on Samuel Beckett (Dictionary of Literary Biography and the journal, Central Park), and on Virginia Woolf (review of Louise de Salvo’s Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work). Professor Bell was the recipient of the 1995-1996 Palomar College Distinguished Faculty Award.


Dr. Abbie Cory

Humanities Bldg – Room 301O
(760) 744-1150 ext. 3637

B.A. California State University, Long Beach
M.A. University of California, San Diego
Ph.D. University of California, San Diego

Professor Cory’s academic interests include British and Irish literature, literature by women and LGBTQ authors, and poetry. Her composition classes are often taught through the lens of social justice issues and popular culture. Professor Cory is the Director of the Palomar College Pride Center and the Chair of the Palomar College Committee to Combat Hate and also serves on the Student Services Planning Council. She has published in the journals Intertext, Women’s Studies, and New Hibernia Review.

Dr. Brent Gowen

Professor Emeritus

B.A. University of California, San Diego
M.A. San Diego State University
Ph.D. University of California, San Diego

Professor Gowen’s favorite genre of writing to teach, to read, and to write is the essay. As much as he appreciates novels, encyclopedia entries, stories, user manuals, poems, newspaper and magazine articles, plays, and song lyrics, he is most intrigued by essays—especially those written by his students. His current research interest is place names—and placing names in a theory of language. Mostly, he is looking into California place names.

Dr. Melissa Haickel-Bagaglio

Humanities Bldg – Room 301G
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2685

B.S. University of Evansville (IN)
M.A. University of Memphis
Ph.D. University of Memphis

Professor Bagaglio’s teaching is influenced by her multicultural background and interest in science and politics. In her research, she focuses on the early modern British literature and the relationship between literature, politics, and justice. She explores ideas about law, mercy, and equity and their relation to royal prerogative in literary works and the authors’ attempt to influence a shift towards reduced prerogative powers and legally limited sovereignty. Understanding the relationship between power and justice is an important contemporary issue, and Professor Bagaglio’s experiences growing up in Brazil during the military dictatorship greatly influences her perspective. Her other research interests are in early sci-fi and fantasy works and how they influenced scientific discoveries as well as in questions of identity as they relate to language acquisition.

Dr. Richard Hishmeh

Humanities Bldg – Room 302P
(760) 744-1150 ext. 3638
Visit my website

B.A. University of California, Riverside
M.A. University of California, Riverside
Ph.D. University of California, Riverside

Professor Hishmeh’s teaching and research interests include Rhetoric, American Literature, Poetry, and Film and Visual Culture. His scholarship has appeared in journals including,  Modern Language Studies, The Journal of American Culture, the Hemingway Review, and various edited volumes. He is also the co-author (with Jason Spangler, Riverside City College) of the textbook, Writing Up: Reading and Writing for College Readiness (BVT 2016). Professor Hishmeh has served as a member of the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association’s (PAMLA) Executive Committee (2014-2017), and he is the recipient of Palomar’s Faculty Senate Award for Scholarly and Professional Achievement, 2016. For his complete CV and additional information, please visit his website (see link above).

Dr. Martin Japtok

Humanities Bldg – Room 302K
(760) 744-1150 ext. 3994

M.A. Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany
Ph.D. University of California, Davis

Professor Japtok is the author of Growing Up Ethnic: Nationalism and the Bildungsroman in African American and Jewish American Fiction (2005), editor of Postcolonial Perspectives on Women Writers from Africa, the Caribbean, and the U.S. (2003), and, with Professor Rafiki Jenkins, editor of Authentic Blackness/”Real” Blackness: Essays on the Meaning of Blackness in Literature and Culture (2011) and of Human Contradictions in Octavia E. Butler’s Work (2020). He has published essays in scholarly journals, books, and encyclopedias, mostly on African American and Afro-Caribbean literature. He was Professor of the Year at West Virginia State University from 2000-2003 and is also co-author of the 8th edition of Inside Writing and the 6th edition of The Writer’s Response: A Reading-Based Approach to Writing.

Dr. Jerry “Rafiki” Jenkins

Writing Center Director
Humanities Bldg – Room 301L
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2287

B.A. University of California, San Diego
M.A. University of California, San Diego
Ph.D. University of California, San Diego

Professor Jenkins is Professor of English and Multicultural Studies at Palomar College in San Marcos, California. He teaches courses in composition, critical thinking, literature, African American Studies, and Multicultural Studies. His research focuses on African American speculative fiction and film. He has presented papers at the annual conventions of the Pacific and Ancient Modern Language Association, South Atlantic Modern Language Association, National Association of African American Studies, and the Popular Culture Association. His articles have been published in Screening Noir and African American Review, and he is the co-editor (with Martin Japtok) of Authentic Blackness/Real Blackness: Essays on the Meaning of Blackness in Literature and Culture (Peter Lang, 2011).

Dr. Kevin Kearney

Humanities Bldg – Room 301E
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2379

B.A. Union College
M.A. University of California, Santa Barbara
Ph.D. University of California, Santa Barbara

Professor Kearney’s teaching and research interests focus on contemporary literature and queer theory. His work has explored representations of futurity and apocalypse, speculative fiction, and (most importantly) how the humanities inspire creativity, demand discipline, and hone critical thinking. He is active with the Palomar Faculty Federation, the Committee on Political Education, the English Majors Group, the Basic Skills Initiative, and the Gender and Sexuality Alliance.

Dr. Barbara Neault Kelber

Professor Emeritus

B.A. University of San Diego
M.A. University of California, Riverside
Ph.D. University of California, Riverside

Professor Kelber welcomes every opportunity to talk about literature and composition. Working with students as they become better writers is her primary focus. Her research interests include Critical Race Theory, literature of the American South, and theories of “place” and spatial relations. She has recently completed a project relating to the body in place and memory. Professor Kelber has spent years in faculty leadership at Palomar, and she looks forward to whatever’s next.

Dr. Lisette Ordorica Lasater

Humanities Bldg – Room 301H
(760) 744-1150 ext. 3410

B.A. California State University, San Marcos
M.A. University of California, Riverside
Ph.D. University of California, Riverside

Professor Lasater’s teaching is informed by her research interests, which include contemporary Chicana/Latina literature and cultural studies, Chicana feminism, twentieth century American literature, and theater and performance studies.  She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation college student. Her educational journey began at Palomar College, and she is thrilled to return as faculty to teach the next generations of students.

Dr. Michael James Lundell

Humanities Bldg – Room 302M
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2719
Visit my website

B.A. University of California, Berkeley
M.F.A. San Diego State University
Ph.D. University of California, San Diego

Professor Lundell’s teaching and research interests include The 1001 Nights, late 18th-early 20th c. English literature (particularly the Victorian Period in a transnational context), Arabic literature, film studies, and orientalism. His research has been published or is forthcoming in Approaches to Teaching the 1001 Nights; The Thousand and One Nights:  Sources and Transformations in Literature, Art, and ScienceAdaptation: The Journal of Literature On Screen StudiesInterdisciplinary Journal for Germanic Linguistics and Semiotic AnalysisCompanion to Victorian Popular Fiction; and The Encyclopedia of Literary and Cultural Theory. Professor Lundell is also the co-coordinator of The Palomar College Puente Project and the faculty advisor to the Puente Club. For more information on Puente at Palomar please visit:

Dr. Leanne Maunu

Department Chair
Humanities Bldg – Room 301N
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2288
Visit my website

B.A. University of California, San Diego
M.A. Indiana University
Ph.D. Indiana University

Professor Maunu specializes in British literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with an emphasis on Romanticism and its connections to French writers from the same time period.  She has published articles on Frances Burney, Charlotte Smith, and Mary Shelley, and her book, Women Writing the Nation: National Identity, Female Community, and the British–French Connection, 1770-1820 (Bucknell University Press, 2007), explores the role of nationalism in the works of female Romantic writers. Some of her more recent research interests include exploring the role of violence in literature and the contemporary Gothic novel. Besides teaching Palomar’s composition classes, she also teaches Survey of British Literature I and II, Introduction to Shakespeare, Women and Literature, Literature through Film, and Violence and Literature. She is also one of the advisors for the English Majors Group.


Pam McDonough

Professor Emeritus

B.A. San Diego State University
M.A. San Francisco State University

No bio available.

Dr. Adam Meehan

Humanities Bldg – Room 302N
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2723
Visit my website

B.A. University of California, Berkeley
M.A. San Diego State University
Ph.D. University of Arizona

Professor Meehan specializes in modernist fiction, the novel, and critical theory. He has published recently in Journal of Modern Literature and the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, and is currently working on a book that shows how modernist fiction anticipates theories of subjectivity that have been attributed to the rise of so-called postmodern theory in the late twentieth-century. He also runs the Palomar College Great Books Seminar.

Dr. Fergal O’Doherty

Humanities Bldg – Room 301I
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2970

B.A. State University of New York, Stony Brook
M.A. City University of New York
Ph.D. City University of New York

Professor O’Doherty began his studies at the Convent of Mercy in Derry, The Christian Brothers school in Derry, and St Columb’s College, also in Derry. He attended the State University of New York, Stony Brook (B.A., honors) and the City University of New York (M.A. and Ph.D.).  He is passionate about reading memoir, poetry and drama in his classes. He is also passionate about serving developmental writers from underserved backgrounds, such as International Students, older students, LGBTQ students, and disabled students. He believes that Palomar’s greatest strength is its diversity and the faculty’s commitment to servicing all sectors of our community.

Dr. Jon Panish

Humanities Bldg – Room 302H
(760) 744-1150 ext. 3331

B.A. University of California, Los Angeles
M.A. University of Iowa
Ph.D. University of California, Irvine

No bio available.

Dr. Clare Rolens

Humanities Bldg – Room 302L
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2710

B.A. University of California, Santa Barbara
M.A. University of California, San Diego
Ph.D. University of California, San Diego

Professor Rolens’ work focuses on crime and detection narratives in twentieth century American literature and film, with a sub-specialization in prison literature. She works especially with the role of identity passing in the crime narratives, exploring how ambiguous identity and social mobility are both criminalized and celebrated in U.S. culture. Her article “Write Like a Man: Chester Himes and the Criminal Text Beyond Bars,” examining censorship of same-sex sexuality in prison literature, appeared in Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters; her essay on absurdity and race in prison writing is forthcoming in the collection New Chester Himes Criticism. Her teaching interests include popular culture, gender studies, representations of the U.S. prison system, medical ethics, and passing/cross dressing in fiction and film.

Dr. Carlton Smith

Professor Emeritus

B.A. University of California, Los Angeles
M.A. San Diego State University
Ph.D. University of California, Riverside

No bio available.

Dr. Craig Thompson

Humanities Bldg – Room 302J
(760) 744-1150 ext. 3330

B.A. San Diego State University
B.A. University of California, Santa Barbara
M.A. University of California, San Diego
Ph.D. University of California, San Diego

With the exception of works by Shakespeare and Hemingway, Professor Thompson is interested in all types of literature and cinema.  He has published on Bruce Sterling (Science Fiction Studies), Native American oral literature (Studies in American Indian Literature), Zane Grey (Journal of the Southwest), and other topics. His two current obsessions are westerns (he is attempting to write one himself), and Yasujiro Ozu, whom he believes to be the greatest director of all time. He also has a long history of attempting—but failing—to summit Mt. Whitney.

Dr. Stacey Trujillo

Humanities Bldg – Room 301K
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2572

A.A. Chaffey College
B.A. San Diego State University
M.A. University of California, San Diego
Ph.D. University of California, San Diego

Professor Trujillo’s teaching and research interests focus on multi-ethnic and underrepresented voices in U.S. American Literature. Specifically, she specializes in multi-ethnic Latino/a literatures of immigration and migration and the diverse literature of U.S. empire. These areas of literature specialization also inform how she approaches critical thinking and composition courses. As a whole, her courses emphasize primary source analysis and she encourages students to push their analysis to engage with larger questions of privilege/oppression, race/ethnicity, and gender/sexuality.

Dr. Rocco Versaci

Humanities Bldg – Room 301F
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2971
Visit my website

B.A. University of Illinois
M.A. Indiana University
Ph.D. Indiana University

Professor Versaci has been a member of the English Department at Palomar since 1997. From 2000 – 2018, he served as Co-advisor for Bravura, the college’s award-winning literary journal, and he is currently one of the advisors for the English Majors Group. In addition to teaching literature, composition, and critical thinking courses, his academic interests are creative writing, 20th Century American literature, memoir, film, and comics/graphic novels. He is the author of This Book Contains Graphic Language: Comics as Literature (Bloomsbury, 2007) and That Hidden Road: A Memoir (Apprentice House, 2016). More information is available on his website (see link above).

Sue Zolliker

Humanities Bldg – Room 301J
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2562

B.A. Michigan State University
M.A. San Diego State University

Professor Zolliker teaches composition and humanities and is particularly interested in integrating firsthand experience with reading, writing, and traditional research.  Her travel-related projects include walking several hundred miles along medieval pilgrimage routes in France and Spain and, most recently, traveling around the Mediterranean, mostly on sailing ships, exploring Homer’s Odyssey.

Part-Time Faculty

InstructorE-mail Address
Leslie Beswick
Adam Bishop
Katherine Buffington
Richard Carr,
Will Dalrymple
John N. DeGennaro
Donna Fazio Di
Al Gardella
Matthew Griffing
Tucker Grimshaw
Sonia Gutierrez
Katie Montagna
Megen O'
Deborah Paes de
Ross Talarico
James Wenzell
Elsie Wilburn
Gary Zacharias