New Faculty Biographies

Art and Design

Nicole Benefield 

In Fashion Design/Apparel, we welcome Nicole Benefield, who comes to FIT with more than 20 years of industry experience as a successful creative designer, design director, and consultant, primarily in the lifestyle branded sportswear, denim, and casual/athleisure arenas.  Her most recent position was as a design consultant with Banana Republic.  Nicole holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Fashion Design from Parsons. 

Su Ku

In Fashion Design/Art, we welcome Su Ku, who is an alumna of FIT, earning an Associate of Applied Science degree in Fashion Design. She also holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Yale University, as well as two Master of Arts degrees—one from Harvard University and the other from Columbia University.  She brings a total of thirteen years of industry experience as a designer, design director and associate designer at large well-known companies, and has earned numerous awards for her work, including an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities and the Outstanding Design Team at Liz Claiborne Award. 

Suzanne Lettieri

In Interior Design, we welcome Suzanne Lettieri, who joins FIT from her previous position as a Michigan-Mellon Design Fellow at the University of Michigan.  Suzanne brings a strong interest in interdepartmental, cross-disciplinary, and community-based collaborations that reflect thoughtful and novel teaching strategies focused on the understanding of the broader social, cultural, economic, scientific, and technological forces of our times.  Suzanne holds a Master of Architecture degree from Cornell University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design from FIT.

Marie Lorenz

In Fine Arts/Printmaking, we welcome Marie Lorenz, whose accomplishments include an extensive exhibition record as a solo artist and as a participant in numerous and varied group shows and exhibitions, in prestigious venues in New York City, as well as in venues throughout the United States and Europe.  Marie holds an Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the Yale School of Art, along with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design, and has also pursued additional study at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine.    

Tom Scott

In Fashion Design/Art, we welcome Tom Scott. Tom is a versatile designer of knitwear, sportswear, womenswear, menswear, and accessories, who brings extensive experience as a business entrepreneur and consultant to the position. He has been a member of the adjunct faculty here at FIT, and was one of twelve designers selected for the CFDA Fashion Incubator in 2010.  Tom holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Textile Design from the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.   

Business and Technology

Preeti Ayra

In Textile Development, we welcome Preeti Ayra.  Preeti has held full-time faculty positions at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Troy, Michigan, and at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Bhopal, India. She has also been a doctoral fellow at Eastern Michigan University, an adjunct faculty member at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan, and a visiting professor at Wayne State University. She holds a Ph.D. in Technology from Eastern Michigan University, and Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in Clothing and Textiles from Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda, India.  

Robin Baxter

In Fashion Business Management, we welcome Robin Baxter, who has been an adjunct instructor and faculty advisor in Fashion Business Management since the fall of 2013, and has spent this past year launching and leading our new Fashion Business Management program at the Songdo Campus of SUNY Korea.  Robin has taught at LIM and Parsons University, and has held executive positions with various retailers in Chicago, Atlanta, and New Jersey, in the areas of sales, merchandising, design and corporate leadership. She holds a Master of Public Administration from Rutgers University and a Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University.  

Sonja Chapman

In International Trade and Marketing, we welcome Sonja Chapman, who in addition to serving for a number of years as an adjunct faculty member at FIT, has also built an extensive career as a fashion supply chain strategist, serving as the Director of International Traffic and Customs Compliance at Golden Touch Imports.  Her global experience includes teaching in Moscow, Russia, and Bangkok, Thailand, and just recently, she was appointed to the Executive Committee of the Cotton Board as the Treasurer, which puts her in line to serve the organization in upcoming years as Secretary, Vice Chair, and ultimately, Chairwoman.  Sonja holds her Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from CUNY, and earned her Customhouse Broker’s License in 1990.  She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in the Business of Fashion at Rutgers University.

Imran Islam

In Textile Development Marketing, we welcome Imran Islam, who comes to FIT from his previous position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Design and Retailing at Framingham University in Massachusetts.  He has worked in the apparel industry in a variety of positions, and has published in the Journal of Fibers and Polymers, the International Journal of Innovation & Development Strategy, and others.  Imran holds a Ph.D. from Kansas State University, a Master of Business Administration from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, a Master of Science and Master of Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, and a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Textile Technology in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

Jennifer Lee

In Fashion Business Management, we welcome Jennifer Lee. Jennifer comes to us from her most recent position as a faculty member at Montclair State University. She has held several executive positions in industry, including eight years at Samsung in marketing, merchandising, and design, to include work as a task force manager responsible for ERP and PLM systems while based in Seoul, Korea.  Jennifer earned her Ph.D. in Apparel Design from Iowa State University, along with a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of Houston, and a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising Management from FIT.  

Liberal Arts

Nada Ayad

In English and Communication Studies, we welcome Nada Ayad. Nada comes to us from a postdoctoral fellowship at Cooper Union, and has previously taught at the University of Southern California, Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris, Orange Coast College, and Fullerton College. She has an extensive background in non-western Arabic and Anglophone literature, and has spent her career discovering both the historical and present-day context of political agency, revolution, and activism within the realms of Arabic women studies, race, gender, sexuality, post­-colonial, and Middle Eastern literary studies. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Literature, a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a Master of Arts in Twentieth-Century English Literature from Leeds University.   

Deborah Bernahu

In Science and Mathematics, we welcome Deborah Berhanu, who joins FIT as an expert in inorganic chemistry. She brings an extensive background in environmental research and education from her previous work as Associate Researcher with the American Museum of Natural History, and as a research assistant at the Natural History Museum and Imperial College in London.  She comes to us from Kingsborough Community College, where she has been serving on the faculty in Chemistry since 2013. She holds a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry from the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Science from the Université Claude Bernard Lyon I in France.   

Maria Hwang

In Science and Mathematics, we welcome Maria Hwang. Maria brings an expertise in instructional technology and media, cognitive studies, and neuroscience with a strong interest in game development to FIT.  She previously taught at Geumgang University in South Korea, and comes to us from Columbia University Medical Center, where she explored human-computer interaction and emerging technologies in the health field.  Maria holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology and Media and a Master of Arts in Cognitive Studies from Columbia University.  She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degrees in Neuroscience and Behavior and East Asian Studies, both from Wesleyan University.  

Joshua Koury

In Film and Media, we welcome Joshua Koury. Joshua is an accomplished director, producer, and educator, who brings impressive industry experience in original documentary film making to FIT.  His timely and inspiring projects have premiered at some of today’s most prominent film venues, including SXSW, the Sundance Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, and IFC Cinema, as well as on Netflix. Currently an adjunct instructor here at FIT, he comes to us from a faculty position at the Pratt Institute. Josh holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and Video from Pratt Institute. 

Alexander Nagel

In History of Art, we welcome Alexander Nagel, who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from his previous work at the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution. In addition to his scholarly pursuits and field work in Greece and Iran, he has undertaken numerous collaborations with organizations such as the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, and Cooper-Hewitt. Alexander holds a Ph.D. in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a Master of Art in Ancient History and Classical Archaeology from Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.  

Evelyn Rynkiewicz

In Science and Mathematics, we welcome Evelyn Rynkiewicz, who joins FIT in the Ecology division. Evelyn is a trained community and disease ecologist, who brings an inquiry-based learning style that will allow students to further build on important scientific foundations while exploring the interesting world of immunology, disease epidemic, and climate change, and how they all tie together in culmination with today’s current issues. She has taught previously at Columbia University, and at the National Science Foundation at the University of Edinburgh.  Evelyn holds a Ph.D. from Indiana University, and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. 

Kasra Sardashti

In Science and Mathematics, we welcome Kasra Sardashti, who brings a strong focus on sustainability in advanced materials and processes, along with a significant research background in solar cells and solar energy.  Kasra has mentored and taught students at Duke University, the University of California, and Tehran Polytechnic, and his findings have been published in peer reviewed journals and presented at professional conferences. Kasri holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of California, along with a Master of Science in Advanced Material and Processes from Fredrich Alexander University of Erlangen in Nuremberg, Germany, and a Bachelor of Science in Materials Engineering from Tehran Polytechnic in Iran.

Graduate Studies

Margaret Joseph

In the School of Graduate Studies, we welcome Margaret Joseph, who joins FIT in the Global Fashion Management program. In addition to teaching as an adjunct instructor in Global Fashion Management here at FIT, Margaret has taught at Baruch College, LIM, Westchester Community College, and the University of California, San Diego. Earlier in her career, she had appointments in sales at Lord & Taylor, and in global advertising at The Coca-Cola Company.  She holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing and the Management of Information, Communication, and Media from Columbia University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in French Civilization from Brown University. She has also completed doctoral coursework in organization management at Baruch College. 

Brendan Leach

In the School of Graduate Studies, we welcome Brendan Leach, who is serving as Associate Chair of our graduate Illustration program. Brendan began at FIT in 2013, as an adjunct instructor and thesis advisor in the Illustration MFA program.  His professional accomplishments include invited guest lectures, panels and discussions, published graphic novels, contributions to comics anthologies, gallery exhibitions, and presentations at festivals and exhibitions. Brendan holds a Master of Fine Arts in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

Non-Classroom Faculty

Frantz Alcindor — Career and Internship Services

Frantz Alcindor joins FIT as the Director of Career and Internship Services. Frantz brings an extensive career in student services that includes serving as the Program Manager of the Entrepreneurial Technology Apprenticeship program at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, where he directed the career and internship placement program for science and business students. Frantz has also served in two key student services roles at the City University of New York (CUNY) as the Director of New Student Advisement at Hostos Community College, and in his most recent role, as the Director of Academic Advisement at Queensborough Community College. Frantz holds a Master of Science in Human Resources Development from the University of Scranton, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political and Economic Philosophy from Wheeling Jesuit University.  

Christie Graziano — Student Life

Christie Graziano joins FIT as the Associate Director of Leadership and Civic Engagement in the Student Life department. She comes to us from Stevens Institute of Technology, where she served as the Director of Pre-College Programs, overseeing academic and social enrichment programs for high school students. Prior to her role at Stevens, she worked for John Jay College in the Student Transition Programs Office, managing major student events, including New Student Orientation, Commencement, Weeks of Welcome, Convocation, Family Weekend, and the Peer Ambassador Leadership Program.  Christie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Marketing from Loyola University, Maryland, and a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration from Baruch College. 

Jessica Mooney — Career and Internship Services

Jessica Mooney joins FIT as a Career Counselor in the Career and Internship Services department.  Jessica comes to us from John Jay College at CUNY, where she served as Assistant Director of Career Advising and Externships in the Master's Program in the Department of Psychology. She has also taught for several semesters as an adjunct instructor in our Internship Studies program here at FIT. Jessica holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stony Brook University, a Bachelor of Science in Design and Environmental Analysis from Cornell University, and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Fashion Merchandising Management from FIT. 

Carli Spina  — Library

Carli Spina joins FIT as the Head of Research and Instructional Services in the Library. She comes to us from her most recent position as Head Librarian of Assessment and Outreach at Boston College Libraries in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Carli earned a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, in East Asian Studies with a focus on Modern Social Sciences from Harvard University, a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, where she also served as the John M. Olin Fellow in Law & Economics, a MLIS Degree from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, and a Master of Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education, with specialization in Technology, Innovation and Education. Carli also holds a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies from the Harvard Extension School.