Carleton announces winter 2024 faculty promotions

The promotions are approved by the Board of Trustees and will take effect in the fall.

18 March 2024 Posted In:
Collage of nine professor's headshots.

Three members of the Carleton College faculty have been promoted from associate professor to full professor, five others have been awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor, and an additional associate professor has been awarded tenure. The promotions were approved by the Board of Trustees at its February meeting and take effect September 1, 2024.

Diane Nemec Ignashev, a retiring member of the faculty, was also named emerita by the Board of Trustees at its October meeting. The designation took effect January 1, 2024.

Meet the newly promoted faculty members:


Jason Decker, associate professor of philosophy and cognitive science

Headshot of Jason Decker
Professor Jason Decker

Professor Decker came to Carleton in 2007 as a visiting professor of philosophy, and now teaches for the philosophy department and the cognitive science program. He earned his BA from Grove City College in 1998 and his MA from Arizona State University in 2000. He finished his graduate work in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT, earning his PhD in 2006. In addition to teaching regular courses in the philosophy of language; the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and logic; and cognitive science, Decker has also taught courses in the philosophy of physics, the philosophy of probability, and the epistemology and cognitive science of conspiracy theories. Decker has also joined Julia Strand (psychology) and Marty Baylor (physics) to offer an interdisciplinary team-taught course on color. Decker has published papers on the epistemic significance of disagreement, moral testimony, the moral limits of philosophical discourse, and other topics. He recently finished writing a logic textbook and is working on another book project on the epistemology and cognitive science of conspiracy theories. Decker has chaired Carleton’s philosophy department and filled in as interim chair of cognitive science. He is currently serving on the Academic Standing Committee, and has, in the past, chaired the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee and served on the Library and Information Technologies Committee.

Julia Strand, associate professor of psychology

Headshot of Julia Strand.
Professor Julia Strand

Professor Strand joined the Department of Psychology as a visiting assistant professor in 2011 and as an assistant professor in 2013. She received her PhD in psychology in 2010 from Washington University in St. Louis after receiving her MA from the same institution in 2008 and her BA in psychology and English from Tufts University. Strand offers a range of courses from Principles of Psychology to the Capstone Seminar preparing senior psychology majors for comps. As a cognitive and sensory/perceptual psychologist by training, Strand has taught courses including Sensation & Perception with a lab, Psychology of Spoken Words, and Perceptual & Cognitive Expertise. Strand has also joined Jason Decker (philosophy and cognitive science) and Marty Baylor (physics) to offer an interdisciplinary team-taught course on color. Strand’s research focuses on how humans perceive speech, the cognitive demands of doing so, and the cues available to listeners that facilitate speech processing in a noisy world. Her work also aims to increase representation in speech research and experimental psychology by demonstrating the value in collecting data from diverse participant pools rather than the homogeneous samples that have traditionally been used in speech research. Strand serves as chair of and comps coordinator for the Department of Psychology, and has previously served on the Education Curriculum Committee, the IRB Committee, and College Council, among others.

Cherlon Ussery, associate professor of linguistics

Headshot of Cherlon Ussery.
Professor Cherlon Ussery

Professor Ussery joined the Carleton faculty in 2009, initially as a visiting professor and then as a tenure-track faculty member. She earned her PhD in linguistics from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst after completing her MA in linguistics at the University of South Carolina. Prior to making a career shift, Ussery worked in the nonprofit sector after earning a BA in political science and Black studies at the University of Michigan. Trained as a theoretical syntactician, Ussery offers linguistics courses focused on foundational and advanced material related to syntax, semantics, and morphology. Themes related to linguistic diversity and complexity recur throughout her courses, including her A&I course, The Noun. Ussery’s research investigates various components of the syntax, semantics, and morphology of Insular Scandinavian languages. Her work has primarily focused on Icelandic, and in recent years, has extended to include Faroese. Ussery’s research examines the ways in which speakers of Insular Scandinavian languages use components of these languages in ways that are more nuanced than what has been documented in grammars or in previous literature. Ussery currently serves as the faculty coordinator for Carleton’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program, a PhD pipeline program with the long-term goal of diversifying the humanities, arts, and humanistic social sciences. She is also the current chair of the linguistics department and served on the IDE planning committee during the initial phases of the plan’s development.


Eric Alexander ’10, assistant professor of computer science

Headshot of Eric Alexander.
Professor Eric Alexander

Professor Alexander joined the Carleton computer science faculty in 2017. He earned his BA in computer science from Carleton in 2010 and earned his MS and PhD in computer science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2012 and 2016, respectively. Alexander teaches a wide range of courses at Carleton, from Introduction to Computer Science, Data Structures, Math of CS, Software Design, and Algorithms, to electives that build bridges with other academic disciplines, including Human Computer Interaction and Data Visualization. Central to his teaching is his emphasis on the digital humanities and his design of civic engagement units in his courses that enable students to apply CS skills in order to build tools and design products for organizations in Northfield and for other courses and groups at Carleton. Alexander’s research is on data visualization. His work on topic modeling enables scholars of literature and history to develop new ways of analyzing texts, and his study of visual encodings of data provides insights relevant for perceptual psychology. Alexander has been deeply involved in initiatives to advance the digital humanities at Carleton. Through work on a task force that was part of the Mellon Public Works Grant, he helped incorporate digital scholarship into the curriculum and was a key contributor to the creation of a new digital arts and humanities minor.

Rou-Jia Sung, assistant professor of biology

Headshot of Rou-Jia Sung.
Professor Rou-Jia Sung

Professor Sung joined Carleton’s biology department in 2017. She graduated from the University of California–Berkeley in 2005 with a BA in biochemistry and went on to earn an MA in molecular biology and a PhD in biochemistry from Harvard University. Sung’s teaching serves the biology major and the biochemistry minor. She co-teaches a large introductory class, Biology 126, that serves as a prerequisite for nearly all upper-level biology courses. She also teaches 300-level courses and serves as a comps advisor. There are two strands to Sung’s scholarship: the study of ly6 proteins in the laboratory and the development of new teaching tools for the classroom. She engages a large number of students in her research, including non-STEM students, and has found success with grant funding, publications, and presentations at national conferences. As a testament to the quality of her work, Sung was awarded an NSF grant in 2019 worth $3 million to create a new augmented reality tool for teaching molecular visualization in biochemistry. At Carleton, Sung was elected to the Junior Faculty Affairs Committee, where she also served as chair, and later to the Faculty Affairs Committee. As a core member of the biochemistry minor, Sung has played an important role in restructuring the curriculum following the program’s recent review.

Ryan Terrien ’09, assistant professor of physics and astronomy

Headshot of Ryan Terrien.
Professor Ryan Terrien

Professor Terrien joined the Carleton faculty in 2017. He earned his BA in physics and astronomy from Carleton in 2009 and earned his MS and PhD in astronomy and astrophysics from Penn State University. Terrien teaches both introductory and upper-level courses and labs in astronomy, as well as upper-level courses and labs in wave phenomena and contemporary physics. His scholarship centers around exoplanet and stellar activity detection via Doppler spectrometry. He has published extensively and actively involves students in his research program. He also has a strong record of obtaining external funding. Within Carleton’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, Terrien hosts monthly public open houses at the Goodsell Observatory and serves as steward of the observatory in addition to coordinating the department’s many student workers. At Carleton, he has served on the Committee on Effective Learning with Technology and is the liaison to the Minnesota Space Grant Consortium.

Caroline Turnage-Butterbaugh, assistant professor of mathematics

Headshot of Caroline Turnage-Butterbaugh
Professor Caroline Turnage-Butterbaugh

Professor Turnage-Butterbaugh joined Carleton’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics in 2018. She graduated from Wofford College in 2006 with BAs in mathematics and French. She earned her MS in mathematics from Wake Forest University in 2008 and her PhD in mathematics from the University of Mississippi in 2014. In addition to introductory and intermediate courses in mathematics, Turnage-Butterbaugh teaches courses in number theory, real analysis, and complex analysis. She is a prolific and highly collaborative scholar. Her scholarship in analytic number theory focuses on studying and proving fundamental properties of L-functions and, more broadly, the fundamental properties of prime numbers. She has recently been awarded a prestigious NSF-CAREER grant to support her research. Turnage-Butterbaugh co-organizes the annual Northfield Undergraduate Mathematics Symposium and the department colloquium series. She also currently serves on Carleton’s College Council.

Yang Lei, assistant professor of Chinese

Headshot of Yang Lei.
Professor Yang Lei

Professor Yang Lei arrived at Carleton in 2017. She earned her BA in Chinese literature from Capital Normal University in Beijing before receiving her MA in Chinese from the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. She received her PhD in East Asian languages and civilizations from the University of Pennsylvania. Yang Lei has taught courses in the Chinese language sequence, advanced classes in both modern and classical Chinese, and classes in English that explore classical Chinese history, philosophy, and literature, with her classes in the introductory language sequence emphasizing real-world conversational skills. Yang Lei pursues two different research subjects: the literature of early China (from the seventh century BCE to the third century CE) and modern language pedagogy. Her published scholarship on the learning and teaching of Chinese has examined how classical Chinese might best be taught to non-native learners, and she has worked extensively to prepare her own materials for this task. Yang Lei’s service at Carleton has included serving on the Learning and Teaching Center committee and the Language Exemption Committee, as well as working with her colleagues to manage the Chinese language program.


Andrew Carlson ’99, associate professor of theater

Headshot of Andrew Carlson.
Professor Andrew Carlson

Carlson joined the Carleton faculty in 2020, wanting to refocus his teaching career in a liberal arts context. He earned his BA in history from Carleton in 1999 before completing his MFA in acting at Purdue University and earning his PhD in theater history from the University of Illinois. Carlson teaches courses dedicated to theater studies and practice in addition to directing Carleton productions. His classes are grounded in common questions around social change and identity. His practice courses, such as his popular Beginning Acting course, are centered on discovery through improvisation and storytelling. Through his research and creative activity as a scholar, actor, director, and dramaturg, Carlson’s portfolio is striking for his artistic mission orientation. His scholarly work on race and Shakespeare has reached diverse audiences, with manuscripts geared for specialists in peer-reviewed journals and articles for theater practitioners in national magazines. In addition, he co-authored a theater textbook which has reached countless student readers. Upon arriving at Carleton, he requested to be placed on the committee for Community, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (CEDI), where he served for two years.