Arts and Sciences Welcomes New Post-Doctoral Research Associates

The College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to welcome photographer Celestia Morgan and poet Kwoya Maples to join our esteemed faculty as post-doctoral research associates.

The post-doctoral research associate positions were created to attract members of underrepresented communities to the College, offering mentorship from other faculty, a wide range of resources, and a smooth transition to future tenure-track positions. Morgan and Maples will join the department of art and art history and the department of English, respectively. Here, they will participate in high-caliber research, mentor students, and further their crafts.

“Universities are, by their very nature, deeply influenced by, and beholden to, tradition,” Dean Joseph Messina said. “Universities struggle to innovate. The traditional methods for bringing new people into the professoriate limited the diversity of the candidate pool by undervaluing academic profiles and trajectories that deviated from the historical norm. The new post-doc program opens the door a little wider.”

Celestia Morgan in front of her her Redline exhibit
Celestia Morgan in front of her Redline exhibit. (photo by Nik Layman)

Morgan, who graduated from UA with her BFA and MFA in photography, is known for her innovative, socially-conscious work. A Birmingham native, Morgan’s work is often traced back to Alabama while reflecting issues around the globe. Her work has been shown throughout the country, and included in publications like The New York Times, LenScratch, and New Southern Photography.

Her most recent exhibit, Redline, explores the history of race-based housing discrimination in Birmingham, documenting houses and zoning maps throughout the city’s history. The exhibit was featured in PBS’s Monograph, where she discussed her work and her family’s own experiences with redlining.

As she explores the past, Morgan uses a variety of mediums to create her art, which assistant professor Allison Grant says is a vital skill for students to learn.

“She works across several artistic mediums, as she incorporates sculpture, map making, and community engagement in her work,” Grant said. “It is critical for students to see the breadth and depth that a research-based art practice can have. I have had the opportunity to observe her as she works with students and she is an excellent teacher, using her own way of working to encourage others interested in telling their story or engaging with the political and social realities of the present.”

Kwoya Maples
Kwoya Maples (photo by Natylie Ravenell)

Maples, who graduated from UA with her MFA in creative writing, is an accomplished poet. Her book Mend was shortlisted for many international poetry prizes, including the 2019 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry and the 2019 Housatonic Poetry Award. She was a fellow of the prestigious Cave Canem Foundation, which fosters the development of young, Black poets, and is the recipient of grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

While she will be housed in the department of English and sit on the faculty of UA’s creative writing program, Maples’s interdisciplinary work will allow her to interact with faculty across campus. This, along with her long list of fellowships and residencies and passion for the students in UA’s creative writing program, will allow her to fill a critical role in the department, according to assistant professor Cassader Smith.

“She brings a clear vision and commitment to the recruitment of students and is committed to fostering a greater atmosphere of diversity and inclusivity on campus,” Smith said. “Her creative work and approach to mentoring students, particularly graduate students, fills much needed gaps in the creative writing program in terms of diversifying the faculty.”