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Synthesis Program Team 

Program Staff

  • Jill Gladstein, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

    Jill Gladstein, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

    Director and Full Teaching Professor
    Jill earned a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from University of Wisconsin - Madison. She graduated with a M.S. Ed. in TESOL and a Ph.D. in Reading, Writing and Literacy from the  University of Pennsylvania.
    What I hope students gain from the Synthesis program: I hope students will learn how to communicate in order to bring about change.
    Best writing tip I’ve learned: Find a process that works for you!
    On the Playlist: Wherever my mood takes me.
    Recommended TV shows:  So many to list. 
    Favorite hobby/activity: Walking my dogs, spending time with family and friends, watching musicals. 
    Go-to-Food: French fries and chocolate
  • Brenna Gormally, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

    Brenna Gormally, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

    Associate Director, Project-Based Learning
    Brenna went to Pomona College where she received a BA in Biology. She then went on to get a PhD in Biology at Tufts University. Most recently, she was a Teaching & Research Postdoctoral Fellow in the Grand Challenges Initiative at Chapman University. 
    What I hope students gain from the Synthesis program: I hope that Synthesis students develop their passions while gaining the skills to tackle some of society's most pressing challenges. I also hope that students become confident working on open-ended projects in team settings. Finally, I hope that Synthesis students can communicate how systemic inequities have led to disparities in the effects of climate change.
    Best writing tip I’ve learned: Getting the words on the paper is the hardest part. Do whatever you can to get your first draft down on paper and then revise, revise, revise. And read it aloud!
    Favorite hobby/activity: Playing with my dog Archie
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    Associate Director, Writing

  • Jessica Pham (she/her), M.P.A.

    Jessica Pham (she/her), M.P.A.

    Assistant Director, Program Operations

    Jessica received her B.A. in Political Science from UC San Diego, Master of Public Administration (MPA) from San Diego State University.

    See Jessica forSynthesis 100, Synthesis project and program, Information about Synthesis Program ideas

    Advice to Seventh College studentsStay curious! Learning opportunities outside of the classroom is one of the greatest joys of the undergraduate experience.

  • Nathaniel Edds, M.Ed. (he/him/his)

    Nathaniel Edds, M.Ed. (he/him/his)

    Program Coordinator
    Nathaniel graduated with a B.A. from Denison University, where he majored in Psychology with minors in Educational Studies and Philosophy. Nathaniel completed his M.Ed. in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs from the University of Southern California in 2021. 
    What I hope students gain from the Synthesis program: I hope that students explore topics that excite them, instigate passion, and find connections across disciplines to create a meaningful interdisciplinary foundation for knowledge.
    Go-to-Food: Cha Siu Bao, Nasi Goreng, and Pulled Pork
    Recommended San Diego must eat/do: Explore the tide pools of La Jolla at low tide and enjoy the view from the top of Mt. Soledad.
  • Vivien Yeh (she/her/hers)

    Vivien Yeh (she/her/hers)


Instructional Team

  • Adrian Vega, M.A. (he/him/his)

    Adrian Vega, M.A. (he/him/his)

    Unit 18 Lecturer
    Transfer College Student, First-Generation College Student, Additional Language Spoken - Spanish

    Hometown: San Bernardino, California 

    Adrian transferred to UC Irvine from San Bernardino Valley College. After working as a tutor at SBVC, Adrian received his MA in English from SDSU. While working on his thesis, he worked as a tutor at SDSU and Mesa College. As a tutor, he worked as an embedded tutor for PUENTE and KAPWA learning communities. After graduating, he worked as a lecturer for the RWS department at SDSU.

    Academic Specializations: Adrian specialized in American Literature, where he focused primarily on Chicanx/Latinx authors in his MA program. 

    Advice to Synthesis studentsAsk for help when you need it, and don't be afraid to ask for help. All of us will be more than happy to help with anything that comes up during the school year.

  • Aditi Kini (she/her/they/them)

    Aditi Kini (she/her/they/them)

    Graduate Teaching Assistant

    Aditi Natasha Kini writes prose and scripts. Her essays and cultural criticism have been published in the New York Times, Lithub, The Rumpus and elsewhere. In 2021, she was named an Alternate for the Jerome Award in Literature, 2021-22. She is an MFA candidate at UC - San Diego, and holds an MALS in Humanities and BA in Psychology and Writing from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.

    Advice to Synthesis students: I hope they gain key tools in how to think about, comprehend and confront difficult topics about the changing world, while also the habit of challenging themselves.

  • Arthur L. Atkinson, Ph.D. (he/him/his)

    Arthur L. Atkinson, Ph.D. (he/him/his)

    Unit 18 Lecturer

    Hometown: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  

    Having attended undergrad to study film and media, followed by a master's degree in education, Arthur decided to pursue his growing interest in the field of sociology by moving to New Zealand to earn a Ph.D. After living in NZ, Arthur anded in San Diego and worked at USD in the Department of Sustainability for 6 years before arriving to UCSD. I'm looking forward to this year!

    Academic Specializations: Neoliberal Globalization, Postcolonial Theory, Public Service, Student Volunteerism, and Environmental Studies. 

    Advice to Synthesis studentsLearning to become a good writer is a skill that you can take with you forever and is transferable in every field of study from the sciences to the humanities. And one of the best ways to enact change is to engage in the practice of reading and writing, so approach the texts with an open mind and let's become writers equipped to read and write change.

  • Bibi Renssen, B.A. (she/her/hers)

    Bibi Renssen, B.A. (she/her/hers)

    Graduate Teaching Assistant

    Additional Language Spoken - Dutch

    HometownWestlake Village, CA

    After graduating from USD with a B.A. in Environmental and Ocean Sciences, Bibi worked for two years as a lab assistant at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). In this lab, she examined ecological relationships and biogeochemical interactions between microbial organisms inhabiting coastal marine ecosystems. She is currently in a master's program in this field at SIO.

    Academic Specializations: Marine Biology, Biodiversity, Biogeochemical Cycling, Coral Reefs, Cryptic Fauna, Molecular and Microbial approaches, Ocean Conservation and Awareness.

    Advice to Synthesis studentsGive yourself patience and forgiveness as you navigate school and ready yourself for a career. Allow yourself to go out on whims, try new things, make mistakes, then learn and grow from them. This will make you much more prepared for the world than never taking chances and playing it safe. Hand in hand, asking questions is totally normal, and people are much more willing to help you than you might think!

  • Brenna Gormally, Ph.D.  (she/her/hers)

    Brenna Gormally, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

    Associate Director of Project-Based Learning, Teaching Professor

    See Program Staff for Brenna's biography.

  • Brie Iatarola, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

    Brie Iatarola, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

    Unit 18 Lecturer
    Triton Transfer Ally, Additional Language Spoken - Spanish

    Hometown: Tucson, Arizona

    Brie Iatarola holds a Ph.D. in Communication and an M.A. in Latin American Studies from UC San Diego. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, and previously worked in the U.S. media industry as a research assistant, copy editor, and freelance journalist.

    Academic Specializations: Academic specializations and research expertise include environmental communication, coastal cleanups, community science, cultural studies, political ecology, and surf politics.

    Advice to Synthesis studentsBe kind to yourself, especially during the brainstorming and drafting stages of writing.

  • Brittany Birberick, Ph.D.

    Brittany Birberick, Ph.D.

    Unit 18 Lecturer

    HometownGilbert, Arizona

    Brittany is a trained sociocultural anthropologist and writer. She received her B.A. from the University of Chicago and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She was a postdoctoral research fellow with the African Centre for Migration & Society at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she remains an affiliated researcher.

    Academic Specializations: Brittany's writing and research explore a range of topics: urban histories, African cities, ethnographic methods, gambling and divination, grief, film and photography, labor, US Southwest and Mexico, herbalism, migration, poetry, and art practice

    Advice to Synthesis studentsSometimes you have to write first to find out what you think about something. Don’t be afraid to write without knowing what you’re doing. And don’t shy away from editing after exploring. It can be fun to pull things apart and put them back together.

  • Emily Browne, M.F.A. (she/her/hers)

    Emily Browne, M.F.A. (she/her/hers)

    Unit 18 Lecturer

    HometownOrange County, California

    Emily Browne is a poet and lecturer. She received her B.A. in Creative Writing and Narrative Studies at USC and her M.F.A. in Poetry at Brooklyn College. In her creative work, she communicates emotions surrounding death, grief, and spirituality through Californian landscapes and biota. Her poems have been published in BigCityLit and Rush Magazine.

    Academic Specializations: Emily loves to teach eco-poetics, climate fiction, and rhetoric surrounding the climate crisis.

    Advice to Synthesis studentsWrite about what interests you, have patience with the process, and ask as many questions as you can.

  • Graham Bishop, M.F.A , Ph.D. (he/him/ze/zir)

    Graham Bishop, M.F.A , Ph.D. (he/him/ze/zir)

    Unit 18 Lecturer

    Additional Language Spoken -  Spanish, French; Fellowships - Fulbright Scholarship

    HometownSan Diego, CA

    Graham grew up in San Diego and earned a BA in English from Pomona College. After spending a year in France on a Fulbright Scholarship, he completed a PhD in Comparative Literature from Brown University. He then received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama, where he wrote a sci-fi novel that he hopes to publish in the near future.

    Academic Specializations: Animal studies, climate fiction, postcolonial ecocriticism, queer theory, disability studies, artificial intelligence, new media studies.

    Advice to Synthesis studentsYour inner critic isn't as smart as they think they are. Every word on the page is better than none.

  • Hanna Tawater, M.F.A. (she/her/hers)

    Hanna Tawater, M.F.A. (she/her/hers)

    Unit 18 Lecturer

    Transfer College Student, First-Generation College Student

    HometownSan Diego, California

    Hanna is a UCSD alum, having received her MFA in writing here in 2014. She also studied Fine Art at San Diego City College before transferring to SDSU to complete her BA in Literature. She's published two books of poetry and is currently writing her first sci-fi novel. Synthesis is the third writing program at UCSD she's worked in!

    Academic Specializations: Interdisciplinary and multigenre writing, specifically in merging hard sciences and creative writing.

    Advice to Synthesis studentsEngage openly and actively. Be curious. Pursue what interests you. Take risks. Mostly, take advantage of this time to explore different subjects and different ways of thinking and communicating. College is a great opportunity to learn not just about the world and people around you, but also yourself, but you have to be open to it!

  • James Deavenport, Ph.D. (he/him/they/them)

    James Deavenport, Ph.D. (he/him/they/them)

    Unit 18 Lecturer

    HometownSan Diego, California

    James received his B.A. in history and political science from George Washington University and his M.A. in World History at New York University. James completed his Ph.D. at the University of California San Diego in Latin American history in 2018.

    Academic Specializations: James' recent academic research concerns historical consciousness of Amazonia, environmental history and transnational history using digital mapping and 3D imaging along with a project concerning connections between the rise of neo-fascism/authoritarianism and the climate crisis.

    Advice to Synthesis studentsPlease feel free to let me know how I can help you all and looking forward to the year ahead!

  • Jill Gladstein, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

    Jill Gladstein, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

    Director and Full Teaching Professor

    See Program Staff for Jill's biography.

  • Julia Moncur, B.S. (she/her/hers)

    Julia Moncur, B.S. (she/her/hers)

    Graduate Teaching Assistant

    Transfer College Student, Community College Graduate

    HometownBoston, Massachusetts 

    Julia went to community college and state school (psychology major). She decided to become pre-med her junior year, completing all pre-reqs and MCAT, however, ended up pursuing an MFA at a fully funded creative writing program. Julia's path continues to evolve the more she learns and grows. have taught composition & various creative writing courses at UCSD.

    Academic Specializations: Critical race, feminist, queer, crip and mad theory/studies

    Advice to Synthesis studentsWatch tv, eat good food, and get outside - life is short

  • K Jacobson, B.A. (they/them)

    K Jacobson, B.A. (they/them)

    Graduate Teaching Assistant

    Additional Language Spoken - Mandarin

    HometownBridgewater, NJ

    K is a creative writing MFA candidate here at UC San Diego, as well as a visual artist and educator. They received their BA in Art from Reed College. This is K's third year teaching with Seventh College and their second year in San Diego. K has been working in various youth education programs for the last eight years.

    Academic Specializations: K's current research is mostly focused on Taiwan and East Asia, colonial history, translation, queer archives, and literature. Their visual practice encompasses performance, video, ceramics, illustration, and installation.

    Advice to Synthesis studentsThis class is your opportunity to work on something that you feel passionately about--take it!! If you're not sure if your interests are applicable to the class, check in with your instructor: I bet there is a way to make it work. Past students have worked on projects through the lens of art, surfing, politics, cooking & food, video games, fashion: take risks!

  • Kirstyn Hom, M.F.A. (she/her/hers)

    Kirstyn Hom, M.F.A. (she/her/hers)

    Unit 18 Lecturer

    Fellowships - Akiyoshidai International Art Village Fellowship (Japan)

    HometownSan Francisco, CA

    Kirstyn received her BA in Art Practice at UC Berkeley and her MFA in Visual Arts at UC San Diego. She has worked in several UCSD writing programs, such as Dimensions of Culture and Humanities. She has also taught performance and sculpture courses at both UCSD and USD.

    Academic Specializations: Kirstyn’s research uses sculpture and textile methods to explore themes of language and memory.

    Advice to Synthesis studentsDon’t be afraid to take risks, revise, and reflect in your writing. When you let go of expectations for perfection, it’s easier to find processes that help you grow and learn throughout your academic journey.

  • Leslie Meyer, M.F.A.  (she/her/hers)

    Leslie Meyer, M.F.A. (she/her/hers)

    Associate Director of Writing

    See Program Staff for Leslie's biography.

  • Mark DiFruscio, Ph.D. (he/him/his)

    Mark DiFruscio, Ph.D. (he/him/his)

    Unit 18 Lecturer

    HometownHolbrook, NY

    Mark received a BA in Creative Writing and an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California. After several years working as a script reader for Creative Artists Agency, he returned to school for an MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University, and a PhD in English from Oklahoma State University.

    Academic Specializations: Metafiction and intertextuality

    Advice to Synthesis studentsWriting is always a conversation.

  • Martin Rock, M.F.A, Ph.D. (he/him/his)

    Martin Rock, M.F.A, Ph.D. (he/him/his)

    Unit 18 Lecturer

    Additional Language Spoken - Japanese

    HometownTallahassee, Florida

    Martin holds a Ph.D. from University of Houston and an M.F.A. from NYU. He has worked as a climate and energy storyteller at Google, for Tom Steyer's 2020 presidential campaign, and at San Francisco's Exploratorium. Publications include Best American Experimental Writing, and the poetry collections RESIDUUM and Dear Mark. Martin co-directs the Unsung Masters Series.

    Academic Specializations: Poetry, environmental communication, ecocriticism, climate and clean energy communications, literary publishing, literary archaeology

    Advice to Synthesis studentsFind something you love that helps the planet (or at least does no further harm). Learn everything you can about it. Learn to love the process of learning. When you act out of love and don't compromise your values you will bring immense value to anything you do. And try not to become discouraged by the immensity of the challenge. Resilience = success!

  • Okilbek Abdumavlanov, M.I.P. (he/him/his)

    Okilbek Abdumavlanov, M.I.P. (he/him/his)

    Graduate Teaching Assistant

    Additional Languages Spoken - Mandarin, Turkish, Persian, Russian, Uzbek, and Japanese.

    HometownTashkent, Uzbekistan

    Academic Specializations: UC San Diego, School of Global Policy and Strategy, Master of International Affairs with a regional specialization in Japan on the Economic/Political track.

  • Ryan Rosenberg, M.I.A. (he/him/his)

    Ryan Rosenberg, M.I.A. (he/him/his)

    Unit 18 Lecturer

    First-Generation College Student, Additional Language Spoken - Japanese

    Hometown: Hilo, Hawai'i 

    Ryan is a first-generation college student born and raised on Moku o Keawe in the state of Hawai'i. He earned his B.A. in Linguistics from the University of Hawai`i at Hilo and his Masters of International Affairs from UCSD. He has taught for many years at Denshukan High School in Japan, Hawai'i Community College, and he has served the UCSD writing programs since 2019.

    Academic Specializations: Environmental Policy, Energy, Language Revitalization

    Advice to Synthesis studentsExpand your definition of what being a "writer" means so that it includes you

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    Tarang Tripathi, M.A. (he/him/his)

    Graduate Teaching Assistant

    Additional Language Spoken - Hindi & Assamese

    Hometown: New Delhi, India

    Academic Specializations: Teacher and Student Agency, Equitable Education, Social Network Studies

    Advice to Synthesis students: Writing is a skill! Like with other skills, this can be developed too!