CAFE Faculty Fellows 2021-22

Research and Creativity

rebecca best photograph

Rebecca Best

Dr. Rebecca Best is an Associate Professor of Political Science at UMKC. She studies civil conflict and peace processes as well as reintegration and civic engagement of women who have served in the United States military. Her research has been published in outlets including Political Research Quarterly, Conflict Management and Peace Science, Journal of Global Security Studies, International Interactions, and Armed Forces and Society. She has also contributed analysis to popular public-facing outlets such as the Washington Post Monkey Cage, Political Violence at a Glance, and The Conversation. She has received the Bernardin Haskell Research Award, the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics, the Dirksen Congressional Center Research Award, the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award, and the Chancellor’s Early Career Award for Excellence in Teaching. She also serves on the editorial board of the journal International Interactions and is an alumna of Bridging the Gap’s International Policy Summer Institute.

            As a CAFE fellow, Dr. Best will be responsible for supporting faculty researchers. To this end, she will work to determine barriers that faculty members face in forming new research partnerships, identifying and applying for grants at all levels, and promoting their work. UMKC faculty researchers are doing exciting work with many applications. Ensuring that UMKC researchers have access to the resources and collaborations they need to succeed is therefore vitally important not only to the university, but to the broader community. To increase the payoffs to the community, Dr. Best will also focus on developing and implementing a training program for UMKC faculty interested in making their research findings and implications more accessible to the public, including policy makers and practitioners.  

Yong Zeng

Yong Zeng is a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, where he joined in 1999 after receiving a Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Yong held visiting professorships at Princeton University and the University of Tennessee and has broad research interests. He co-edited one Springer book and has published in well-established journals such as SIAM/ASA Journal of Uncertainty Quantification, Statistical Inference for Stochastic Processes, SIAM Journal on Control and Optimization, Applied Mathematics and Optimization, Applied Mathematical Finance, IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control, IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking, Annals of Finance, Mathematical Finance, Economics Letters, and Genetics, among others. His research was supported by NSF research grants, and he served as a program director in the Division of Mathematical Sciences at NSF.

As a CAFE Fellow under the pillar of Research and Creativity, he will be working with the Office of Research Services (ORS) to implement the UMKC Forward initiatives. Specifically, together with the ORS team, he will facilitate the Large-scale Interdisciplinary Grant Proposal Development Workshop, which will focus on building teams (including external partners) and developing competitive, large-scale, and interdisciplinary proposals. The workshop will be eight weeks, with a two-hour session each week in Fall 2021. Coordinating with the ORS Team in Spring 2022, he will follow up to support the proposal development process. Besides this workshop, CAFE also offers “The Art of Grantsmanship” workshop for interested UMKC researchers. Yong will further provide support for suitable cases in the second workshop.

Faculty Life and Leadership

picture of Arif Ahmed

Arif Ahmed

Chair, Department of Public Affairs Associate Professor of Health Administration
Phone Number: 816-235-2319

I am the Chair of the Department of Public Affairs and Associate Professor of Health Administration at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management. I also have a courtesy faculty appointment at the UMKC School of Dentistry. In 2019, I completed the University of Missouri System Manuel T. Pacheco Leadership Development Program. I have led three acclaimed executive education programs in healthcare leadership at the Bloch School. My research interests are in cost, quality, and outcome implications of healthcare delivery system characteristics, neighborhood characteristics and health, and leadership development in healthcare. I teach courses in health policy, healthcare organizational leadership, healthcare financial management, and quality and safety in healthcare. Since 2011, I have been leading an interdisciplinary study abroad course on Global Health and Social Issues in collaboration with the University of Western Cape in South Africa. I am a member of the University of Missouri System Academic Leadership Development Advisory Board and the University of Missouri South African Education Program Committee. I currently serve on the Board of Directors of the REACH Healthcare Foundation and the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center. I have served on several other philanthropic and community organization boards in the past.

As a CAFE Faculty Fellow, I will focus on Chair Development. I am excited to help develop and deliver programs for Department Chairs, Division Directors, and other similarly situated academic leaders at UMKC. The major goal of this programming is to lay the foundation for success of our academic leaders in impacting the fulfillment of the university’s mission. We expect to offer programs and resources for skills development; develop and curate a resource library; and organize events and opportunities for networking. We hope that these experiences will enable UMKC academic leaders to become more effective and responsive to student, staff, and faculty needs, become part of a community of peers, and grow professionally.
photo of Sarah Tyrell

Sarah Tyrrell

Sarah Tyrrell has been on staff at the UMKC Conservatory since 2005 and a full-time Teaching Professor since 2009. She earned the MM from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and the Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of Kansas. Her research targets the music of South America, and she has conducted seminal work on Brazilian composer M. Camargo Guarnieri. She is also a certified “archive diver” and has initiated archival research, with graduate student cohorts, in LaBudde Special Collections showcasing American composer Paul Creston as well as Frank Smith, Jay McShann, and Barney Kessel. Dr. Tyrrell’s articles appear in journals such as Latin American Music Review and Musical Quarterly, and she has presented her scholarly work via webinars as well as at regional and national conferences hosted by the National Association of Hispanic and Latin Studies, the Midwest Association of Latin American Studies, the College Music Society, and the American Musicological Society. Dr. Tyrrell’s research and teaching initiatives have been supported by numerous grants, including the Tinker Field Research Grant for scholarship abroad and a FaCET Teaching Enhancement award.


As a CAFE Fellow, Dr. Tyrrell is advancing a set of reflective and collaborative resources, along with communication initiatives, related to Faculty Life and Leadership; in particular, this project targets the mid-career faculty population, to include both tenure-track and non-tenure track personnel. Ultimately, her CAFE project will result in a model for building more comprehensive support systems for mid-career faculty—often seeking advancement, promotion, and leadership opportunities while lacking clear goals, guidance, and momentum—via a complex of resources to include a mentoring matrix, a collaborative network of peers, and clearer communication with the department chair.

Teaching and Learning

photo of LaVerne Berkel

LaVerne Berkel

Dr. LaVerne Berkel is a professor in the School of Education’s Counseling and Counseling Psychology Division.  She is a graduate of Oakwood College, New York University, and The Pennsylvania State University. A Brooklyn native, she has been a member of the faculty at the University of Missouri – Kansas City for over 20 years. During this time, she has taught courses in the master’s and doctoral programs in counseling theories, methods of counseling, introduction to counseling, career development, consultation, practicum, internship, and group counseling. Her research has examined various aspects of health from an integrated lens. Her current research examines roles, expectations, and experiences of pastoral spouses, including their mental and spiritual health.  In addition to her faculty responsibilities, she has served in different administrative positions during her time at UMKC, including associate dean in the School of Education, assistant chair of her division, and provost’s fellow for faculty affairs.

During her time as a provost fellow in 2018-2020, she helped to develop a campus-wide online orientation for adjunct faculty, created the first UMKC online Faculty Handbook, and helped to expand and revise the New Faculty Orientation for full time faculty.  As a 2021 CAFÉ Fellow, she is expanding her work with adjunct faculty.  In order to better understand their needs and experiences at UMKC’s, during Dr. Berkel’s fellowship year, she will conduct a needs assessment.  Data from adjunct faculty and chairs across campus will be used to identify areas of greatest need.  Based on the data, plans will be developed to better meet the needs of our adjunct faculty, and ultimately our UMKC student body.

Photo of Matthew Edwards

Matthew Edwards

Matthew Edwards is an Associate Professor of Spanish and Associate Faculty member of REGS, in the Women, Gender and Sexualities Studies and Latinx and Latin American Studies areas.  He is the President and Founder of the Disability Alliance affinity group and is the Secretary of UMKC’s AAUP Advocacy Chapter. As a blind researcher of Latin America, his teaching and scholarship works towards a better understanding of the intersectional dynamics that shape notions of able-bodiedness and success on a global scale.  His current book project, Criptic Inquiry: Disabled Encounters with Brown-Queer-Latin America, and edited volume, Towards Dissent: Accessing Political Struggle Across the Americas, together understand accessibility in terms of opportunity, or engagement, and disability as an important methodological approach for the study of marginal social networks, decolonial activism and the circulation of political deviance.

 As a CAFÉ Fellow, he will work on making accessibility part of our daily goals as faculty members, colleagues and community members.  Please look for a new column he will be organizing and contributing to in our Faculty Affairs Newsletter, that aims to provide quick reads that promote accessibility in the classroom and beyond. Throughout the year he will develop a microcredential that will introduce participants to a broad understanding of disability, to the benefits of universal, inclusive and equitable course design and to a series of best practices that will inform a collaborative review of our current classroom procedures.  He will also participate in the development of a unique data collection initiative that will document the experiences of underrepresented faculty, staff and students that supports accessibility for all.

Photo of Henri Wood

Henri Wood

Henrietta Rix Wood is a Teaching Professor in the UMKC Honors Program and draws upon forty years of academic and professional writing experience for her general education courses in writing, research, and critical thinking. Her scholarship focuses on the rhetoric and history of women in the United States. Dr. Wood is the author of Praising Girls: The Rhetoric of Young Women, 1895-1930 (Southern Illinois University Press, 2016). She co-edited In the Archives of Composition: Writing and Rhetoric in High Schools and Normal Schools (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015). Her articles about Kansas City civil rights activist Lucile Bluford appear in Wide-Open Town: Kansas City in the Pendergast Era (University Press of Kansas, 2018) and on the Pendergast Years: Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression website of the Kansas City Public Library. Her work also has appeared in American PeriodicalsRhetoric Review, and Feminist Challenges or Feminist Rhetoric? Locations, Scholarship, Discourse (Cambridge Scholars, 2014). Dr. Wood won the 2012 Rhetoric Society of America Dissertation Award. In her previous career, she was a reporter for The Kansas City Star, The Dallas Times Herald, and D Magazine.

As a CAFE Faculty Fellow, Dr. Wood will promote the teaching of writing across the campus by collaborating with instructors and administrators in all units who are committed to helping UMKC students develop one of the most important transferable skills they can attain in college. She plans to survey faculty members about their writing pedagogy and compile data about the needs of students. Based upon these findings, she will organize and publicize professional learning opportunities, such as University Writing and Reading Board workshops and Faculty Learning Communities. Dr. Wood also aims to work with faculty members to pursue grants to support research on the teaching of writing and the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s Writing Program Certificate of Excellence Award.

Service and Engagement

photo of Billie Anderson

Billie Anderson

Billie Anderson is an Assistant Professor of Applied Statistics in the Bloch School of Management. Billie teaches graduate classes in the newly created graduate certificate in data analytics in the Professional Master of Business Administration program. She teaches classes such as Data Management and Data Mining, Data Visualization, and Data Wrangling. In her earlier career, Billie worked as a Research Statistician in Research and Development at SAS, the statistical software company. She primarily wrote data mining algorithms for the insurance and banking industries.  When she left SAS, she became an analytical trainer and consultant for them from 2012-2020. Billie has a lot of experience in going into organizations and helping them solve problems using analytics and statistics. Some companies she has consulted with has been Starbucks, Ann Taylor, and Dunn & Bradstreet, just to name a few.

Billie is excited to be a CAFE Fellow for the academic year 2021-2022. Her role in this position will be to assist Chairs, Deans, and Directors engage with data related to student outcomes. This work will include accessing data through specialized reports and assisting Deans and Chairs with learning how to understand and interpret student outcome data so that they can make data-based decisions.

Photo of Hadara Bar-Nadav

Hadara Bar-Nadav

Dr. Hadara Bar-Nadav is an award-winning author and Professor of English at UMKC.  She has received numerous awards for her writing, including an NEA fellowship, the Lucille Medwick Award from the Poetry Society of America, and other honors. She has also received the Bernardin Haskell Research Award, the Dean’s Arts and Science Teaching Award, and is a 2021-2022 Presidential Engagement fellow and Center for Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFÉ) fellow.  She is the author of four full-length collections of poetry, most recently The New Nudity and Lullaby (with Exit Sign), both from Saturnalia Books; two chapbooks; and is
co-author with Michelle Boisseau of the best-selling textbook Writing Poems, 8th ed. (Pearson). 
Dr. Bar-Nadav’s current research focuses on interdisciplinarity and the intersection of poetry with art, history, and medicine, as well as writing in hybrid forms, particularly the prose poem.  She teaches classes in the writing of poetry for both graduate and undergraduate students.  In addition, she teaches literature classes, with a focus on Modern, Contemporary, and Recent Poetry, Women and Poetry, and the Harlem Renaissance.

As a CAFÉ fellow, Dr. Bar-Nadav will focus on increasing faculty visibility and recognition by promoting faculty awards and writing/designing content for the Faculty Affairs newsletter (FAN).  She believes UMKC’s faculty are top-notch researchers.  Her fellowship work will help faculty share their accomplishments within the University community and beyond through the Faculty Affairs Newsletter and CAFÉ website, with additional opportunities to collaborate with Strategic Marketing & Communication (MCOM) and UMKC’s Recruiting office.  She will also pursue ways to encourage faculty to apply for various University awards, including the creation of an awards calendar that will be featured in the Faculty Affairs Newsletter and on the CAFÉ website. 

Photo of Peter Morello

Peter Morello

Peter Morello teaches courses in journalism, digital media and mass communication at UMKC.  Dr. Morello served as Fulbright Scholar and Senior Specialist teaching at universities in Ethiopia (Addis Ababa Graduate School of Journalism,) Russia (Tolyatti State University,) and Eswatini (University of Swaziland.)  He also conducted U.S. State Department sponsored workshops for practicing journalists in each of those countries.  As a contributing correspondent for KCPT and regional PBS, Dr. Morello produced several award-winning documentaries including: “The Missouri Senate Race: The Post 911 Contest,” “Cambio de Colores: The Changing Face of America’s Heartland,” “Profiles of Black Success: Kansas City’s Untold Stories,” and “Haiti & the Resurrection.”  Before joining UMKC, Dr. Morello served as a PBS correspondent in Europe for 15 years and covered many world events including uprisings against communist rule in eastern and central Europe, fall of the Berlin Wall, German reunification, breakup of the Soviet Union, the war in Bosnia, the siege of Sarajevo, and UN famine relief efforts in Somalia. 

 Dr. Morello plans on launching a digital global initiatives center (GIC) that could become a primary hub for UMKC faculty interested in international partnerships, conducting research or teaching abroad.  Dr. Morello will focus on collaborating with faculty at UMKC and elsewhere to identify, collect and then house useful data that would assist faculty in pinpointing global research and scholarly opportunities, including Fulbright and other prestigious international awards.  Faculty from all units, including UMKC’s professional schools, would be encouraged to use the digital GIC to share ideas and possibly combine their efforts in establishing global scholar partnerships, or to develop and lead student abroad programs.  Workshops on various global topics, moderated by faculty with international experience, will be scheduled during the academic year.  There is a wealth of innovative opportunities that could support our faculty lead the way in enhancing UMKC’s global presence. In short, Dr. Morello’s motto for new CAFE initiatives is the same catchphrase used by trailblazing Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin as he launched into space…"Poyekhali!” or “Let’s go!”