The Trinity College Board of Trustees voted in April 2021 to approve the promotions to the position of associate professor with tenure of Molly Helt, in psychology and neuroscience, Peter Kyle, in theater and dance, Timothy Landry, in anthropology and religious studies, and Robert Outten, in psychology. The Board also voted in June to appoint Priscilla Meléndez, who previously was professor of the practice in language and culture studies, as full professor with tenure.

“Our newly tenured faculty represent a range of liberal arts disciplines, but they are all passionate about connecting their work to the real world and to their students,” said Sonia Cardenas, acting dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs. “This is a highly accomplished, energetic group of faculty. Each of them boldly crosses boundaries in their scholarship, and all inspire engaged forms of learning in their students. We congratulate them on their numerous achievements and wish them long, distinguished careers as Trinity professors.”

The following faculty promotions and status changes were effective July 1, 2021:

Faculty Members Awarded Tenure

Molly Helt
Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Molly Helt

Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Molly Helt seeks to help students master concepts—such as “typical” and “atypical” development and how the environment shapes brain development—in such a way that they can apply the information in their daily lives. Helt benefited greatly from her own liberal arts education and her collaborative relationships with faculty members as an undergraduate; she now works closely with her own students to offer them personalized feedback about their strengths and to assist them in setting and attaining their personal and professional goals. Helt earned her Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, focusing on neuropsychology and child psychology. Her dissertation, for which she received a pre-doctoral fellowship, examined contagious processes such as yawning, laughter, and itching in typically developing children, as well as children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Peter Kyle
Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Peter Kyle

Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Peter Kyle is a dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, and the artistic director of Peter Kyle Dance. He has toured internationally as a soloist with Nikolais and Murray Louis Dance, and performed with the companies of Mark Morris, Erick Hawkins, Gina Gibney, Laura Glenn, and the theater company P3/east. He has taught at Bard College, Marymount Manhattan College, Sarah Lawrence College, University of Washington, and Cornish College of the Arts, among others. Kyle has received choreographic commissions and residencies across the U.S., in Scotland, Norway, Germany, Cyprus, Mexico, China, and Ukraine. From 2017 to 2020 he served as associate director at Bearnstow, a summer arts retreat in Maine, and from 2010 to 2019 he served on the Board of Directors at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn, New York. He currently is a member of the Board of Directors at Connecticut Dance Alliance.

Timothy Landry
Associate Professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies Timothy Landry

Associate Professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies Timothy Landry specializes in West African and Afro-Caribbean religions and his research examines the ways in which religious secrecy and material culture encourage the globalization of West African religious practices as new African diasporas are formed around the world. In the classroom, Landry directs students’ attention to the importance of human and religious diversity. In so doing, students are able to challenge the ways they have come to see African and Afro-Caribbean religious practice. Through classroom engagement, Landry shows students that one can no longer study African society only in Africa. As such, in many of his courses, Landry helps students to engage with established African and Afro-Caribbean communities in nearby urban centers such as Hartford, New York City, and Boston. Through community engagement, theoretical and ethnographic rigor, and dynamic classroom discussion, Landry instills in his students an appreciation for embodied learning and critical thinking.

Robert Outten
Associate Professor of Psychology Robert Outten

Associate Professor of Psychology Robert Outten’s research interests lay in understanding the psychology of intergroup inequality. The bulk of his research focuses on how members of historically disadvantaged groups cope with their lower status in society and how members of more advantaged groups in society respond to threats to their higher status in society. He aims to understand psychological factors that facilitate intergroup harmony and promote positive health outcomes amongst members of various social groups. Outten believes that his role as an educator is to help undergraduates explore their place in the world, embrace their own diversity—as well as that of their peers—and to promote self-efficacy. He tries to achieve these goals by creating an engaging learning environment, using diversity as a teaching tool and by providing students with guidance. These goals are important to how he conceptualizes teaching because he views learning as a process that should include both personal and intellectual growth.

Priscilla Meléndez
Professor of Language and Culture Studies Priscilla Meléndez

Professor of Language and Culture Studies Priscilla Meléndez, who previously held the title of professor of the practice in language and culture studies at Trinity, has been at the college for more than eight years and has served as co-director of Trinity’s Center for Caribbean Studies. She earned her Ph.D. in Romance Studies, Hispanic Literature from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Specializing in Spanish American theater, Meléndez was previously a tenured faculty member at Michigan State University and Pennsylvania State University. She teaches from introductory courses on literature and culture to upper level and graduate courses that reflect her own research interests in political and historical issues in the context of literary analysis. As a way of expanding the classroom experience in courses with a theatre component, Meléndez asks students to attend theatre performances at the university or in the community.

Full Professors and Professors Emeriti

Also this year, the Board of Trustees recognized the promotion to full professor of Carol Any, in language and culture studies, Lin Cheng, in engineering, Eric Galm, in music, Beth Notar, in anthropology, and Mitch Polin, in theater and dance.

The Board also voted to award emeriti status to several outstanding faculty members who have retired or are retiring this year: William Church; Diana Evans; Lucy Ferriss; Ronald Kiener; Michael O’Donnell; Katherine Power; Gary Reger; and Maurice Wade.

Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney, writing on behalf of the Board of Trustees, said, “Faculty are at the heart of the academic enterprise, shaping the curriculum, advancing knowledge, and mentoring and teaching students. … Congratulations to these professors, each of whom is committed to the education of our students and the advancement of knowledge in their respective fields.”