Academic Studio


Photo of  Parvathy  Anantnarayan
Parvathy Anantnarayan
English Academic Studio
Photo of  Martin  Authier
Martin Authier
History Academic Studio
Photo of  Katherine  Brooks
Katherine Brooks
Science Academic Studio

Dr. Katherine Brooks (Integrated Sciences) earned her B.S. in Psychology with minors in Animal Science and Wildlife and Fisheries from Texas A & M University in College Station, Texas. While at Texas A & M she focused her studies on ethology (animal behavior) especially in domesticated animals. She then continued her education at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln to earn her Masters degree in Biological Psychology. Her thesis research examined sexual selection and vocal communication in songbirds. Dr. Brooks worked and studied as a researcher and graduate student for several years in Conservation Biology at the University of New Orleans. She has recently completed her Ph.D. in Science Education at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her dissertation examined the graphical components of popular college textbooks for their adherence to Tuftian good graphics principles and their incorporation of systems-based thinking. She has taught college students for more than a decade at Our Lady of Holy Cross College covering a variety of courses including genetics, zoology, botany, ecology, animal behavior, nutrition, and human sexuality. She enjoys conducting research with students and furthering her research on the effects of problem-based and experiential learning. Dr. Brooks’ spend many years as a dancer, particularly ballet, and in drama but also enjoys cooking, photography and theater.

Photo of  Fanta  Diamanka
Fanta Diamanka
History Academic Studio
Photo of  Jean-Marc  Duplantier
Jean-Marc Duplantier
English Academic Studio

Dr. Jean-Marc Duplantier (Integrated Humanities) holds a bachelors degree in Comparative Literature (Colorado College, 1996), a PhD in French Studies (LSU, 2006), and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science (LSU, 2010). He was awarded Fulbright and Social Science Research Council grants to conduct dissertation research in Haiti. He has extensive experience teaching English at the high school level in the New Orleans area, and he continues to pursue research interests in the history and culture of Louisiana and the Caribbean.

Photo of  Travis  Haas
Travis Haas
Science Academic Studio

Mr. Travis Haas (Integrated Sciences) is a Ph.D. candidate at Tulane University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He holds a B.A. in Biology and Music (Piano) from Lawrence University (2007), where his piano studies culminated in an interdisciplinary lecture-recital entitled, “The influence of birdsong in the literature of the piano.” He also holds an M.S. in Biology (Ecology and Evolution) from Tulane University (2010). Before joining the Academic Studio faculty at NOCCA, Travis was a Visiting Professor of Urban Studies for Bard Early College New Orleans, where he taught an interdisciplinary science course about biodiversity and human well-being. In recent summers, he has taught a field biology course for gifted and talented rising high school freshmen as part of the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP) at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Travis’ research examines the evolutionary and ecological implications of dam construction in the Southeastern United States, with the majority of his fieldwork conducted in the rivers and reservoirs of Alabama. In addition to his work as a scientist, Travis continues to teach a small number of piano students and perform on a limited basis.


Photo of  Rosie  Hurtado
Rosie Hurtado
English Academic Studio
Photo of  Kate  Kokontis
Kate Kokontis
Social Studies & Assistant Chair of the Academic Studio Academic Studio

Dr. Kate Kokontis (History and Social Studies) Founding Academic Studio Faculty member and Assistant Chair, earned her B.A. from Yale in Theater Studies and Visual Art (2004), a post-baccalaureate certificate in Painting from Studio Art Centers, International (2005), and her Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley (2011).  At Berkeley, she taught undergraduate courses about critical race studies, representational practices, knowledge production, and writing, and her visual artwork has been shown at galleries in New Haven, Florence, and the Bay Area.  She is working on a book project emerging from her dissertation, Performative Returns and the Rememory of History: genealogy and performativity in the American racial state.  At NOCCA she also co-facilitates the Plessy Project Student Working Group and the Academic Studio Leadership Council.

Photo of  Byron  Lilly
Byron Lilly
History Academic Studio

Mr. Byron Lilly (History and Social Studies) moved to New Orleans in 2003, following a two-year commitment to the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa.  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in American Studies from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA (2001) and a Master’s Degree in U.S. History from Tulane University (2009), where he is currently a interdisciplinary doctoral candidate.  In addition to his scholarly pursuits, Mr. Lilly is a master carpenter who, in the years following Hurricane Katrina, operated a contracting company while also pursuing an interest in urban farming.

Photo of  Thomas "Spree"  MacDonald
Thomas "Spree" MacDonald
Chair of Humanities Academic Studio

Thomas Spreelin “Spree” MacDonald is the Chair of Humanities and founding faculty member of the Academic Studio. He holds a Ph.D. in African Arts and Literatures from Ohio University’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts, as well as an M.A. in International Affairs/African Studies (Ohio University), and a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary English Education (Northern Michigan University). He has taught and mentored students at all levels, including with the American Reads Program, the Upward Bound Program, the U.S. Peace Corps in South Africa, and at Ohio University, where he taught courses in English and African Studies. As a scholar, Spree has published a number of essays on Africana literature, performance, and philosophy, and has held several research fellowships. As a poet, Spree has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has published poetry in journals in the U.S., South Africa, and the U.K.

Photo of  Haley Holt Mehta
Haley Holt Mehta
Science Academic Studio

Mrs. Haley Holt Mehta (Integrated Sciences) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Anthropology Department at Tulane University studying Mesoamerican Archaeology. She holds an M.A. in Anthropology from Tulane University and a B.A. from the University of California, San Diego. Mrs. Mehta has taught undergraduate archaeology courses at Tulane and has instructed environmental studies and archaeology students in the field. Her dissertation research focuses on the archaeology of central Mexico, and she also is interested in the geologic and cultural prehistory of the southeastern United States.

Photo of  Blake  Minnerly
Blake Minnerly
Math Academic Studio
Photo of  Kit  Nelson
Kit Nelson
Science, Chair Integrated Sciences Academic Studio

Dr. Kit Nelson (Science) is the Chair of Integrated Sciences for the Academic Studio.  She earned her Ph.D. from Southern Methodist in 2001.  Following a post-doctorate research position with noted Anthropologist Lewis Binford, she worked for Tulane University for 9 years.  During this time she taught undergraduate and graduate classes, mentored students, and conducted archaeological fieldwork in Egypt, Peru, and the American Southwest. For her dedication to students in the classroom and the field she was awarded the Newcomb Distinguished Faculty Award (2010).  She continues to publish and is currently carrying out archaeological research in the American Southwest at a Puebloan site near Taos, New Mexico in association with Southern Methodist University.

Photo of  Amy  Tilling
Amy Tilling
Math Academic Studio

Mrs. Amy Tilling moved to New Orleans in July of 2005 and despite being welcomed by Hurricane Katrina only a few weeks later, she is here to stay in New Orleans. Mrs. Tilling earned her Bachelors of Science in Secondary Mathematics Education from the State University of New York College at Cortland (2000) and has just earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Texas at Arlington (2014). After teaching in traditional high schools for the past 14 years and having to pursue her love for the creative arts on the side, Mrs. Tilling is extremely excited to join the NOCCA team and experience the arts on a daily integrated basis.

Photo of  Russell  Wolfe
Russell Wolfe
Math Academic Studio

Dr. Russell Wolfe (Integrated Sciences) earned his B.S. in Physics and Biology with minors in Mathematics and Biophysics from Creighton University (2007) in Omaha, Nebraska. While at Creighton he researched the physical properties of bone cells using lasers with a focus on improving cancer detection techniques. He received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane University (2013) where his research focused on understanding the effects of physical forces which stem cells are often exposed to during large-scale bioprocessing.  While at Tulane, he taught hands-on undergraduate courses in robotics, electronic circuits, and medical device design, in addition to mentoring undergraduate students in research practices, public presentation, and professional career development. Dr. Wolfe’s artistic endeavors include ceramics and digital photography.