Work Life Faculty Advisor Biographies

Michael Hill

Professor - Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Hill, Michael

I arrived at UC Davis in the Fall of 1996 to pursue teaching and research in Mechanical Design. I have an active research program in the areas of fatigue and fracture of materials, with a special emphasis in the influence of manufacturing-induced stresses (residual stresses) on structural performance. My research is carried out in close collaboration with a range of industry and government partners. I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in experimental methods and in mechanical design, where students learn to create new systems, select materials of construction, and design parts to sustain service loading.

I married Jeanine in 1992, and we were blessed with twin boys in 1998. The first year or two with twins was a crazy and exhausting time, and I took the time to be fully involved in the boys early years. UC Davis policies that support work-life balance for Faculty allowed me to delay my academic review schedule by one full year. (Even though I was initially told “male faculty aren’t eligible,” I quickly learned that those policies apply to all faculty who have or adopt a child.).

I am proud that UC Davis has taken steps to support young faculty and that we recognize how challenging it is to balance an academic career with family life, and I am glad to carry this message to my colleagues.

Philip Kass

Vice Provost - Academic Affairs, and Professor of Analytic Epidemiology - Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine


Phil KassMy research interests include determinants of health and disease in companion animal populations, non-experimental inference and epidemiologic theory and analysis. I first came to UC Davis as an undergraduate in 1976. After two years here, I went on the Education Abroad Program to Stirling University in Scotland for a year. When I got back I started as a student in the School of Veterinary Medicine, obtaining my DVM degree in 1983 and MPVM degree in 1984. After a year and a half of private practice, I decided to return to UC Davis to pursue my MS in statistics in 1988 and my PhD in epidemiology (then called comparative pathology) in 1990. I spent my last year of my PhD doing a concurrent post-doc in environmental epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health. I then joined the faculty of the School of Veterinary Medicine in 1990. I’ve also been a multiple-time visiting professor at the Koret School of Veterinary Medicine in Israel.

I’ve been married to my wife, Claire, since 1999, and have three children: Lauren, Alex, and Holden, who is a teenage and still lives with us. We enjoy our two Yorkshire Terriers named Moxie McLovin and Squirt.  We also have a backyard full of pet chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese (I don’t know what I was thinking…).

The Faculty Work Life program began after I became a full professor, so I wasn’t in a position to take advantage of its opportunities. Nevertheless, I strongly support its existence: the idea that young faculty should have to choose between family and career is antediluvian to me. It’s a moral issue: the University should be doing everything possible to empower faculty to achieve their academic potential while not forcing them to sacrifice their personal and family lives as well.  I see the Work Life Program as the first – but not the last – step in moving toward a more enlightened policy towards a family-friendly, diverse, and inclusive academic life. And it gives me great satisfaction to be working at a university that cares enough about these issues to devote its resources to being on the leading edge of addressing them.


Karen McDonald

Professor - Department of Chemical Engineering

Karen McDonald

When I joined the faculty in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science in 1985 I had a one year old son, Colin, who was born while I was a graduate student and my husband was doing a postdoc. My second son, Bryan, was born at the beginning of my second summer at UC Davis. Starting an academic career straight out of graduate school with two small children and commuting an hour each day (we live in Fairfield) was quite challenging but I appreciated all of the support I got from my department and the campus. It was a critical time in my career and I extended the tenure clock one year which allowed me the time I needed to prepare a solid dossier and get tenure. My kids are now grown and my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary last year. Colin graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering from UC Davis, married Jenna McKnight (also a UC Davis alumnus) last year and is working in LA, and Bryan is a Structural Engineering student at UC San Diego. I'm pleased to serve as a faculty advisor for work-life, and hope that I can serve as a resource and help other faculty navigate those critical periods in their careers and family lives.

Alyson Mitchell

Professor - Department of Food Science and Technology

Alyson Mitchell

I am UC Davis through and through! I received my B.S. in Environmental Toxicology and my PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of California Davis. I was appointed as an assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology (FST) in 2000. My research interests focus on the application of analytical chemistry for optimizing the nutritional quality of fresh and processed foods.  My research program is concentrated on: elucidating chemical reactions and changes in composition that occur in fruits and vegetables as a result of plant breeding, pre- and post-harvest processes, identifying and profiling plant metabolites for food authentication, safety and biological relevance, and developing methods for the characterization and mitigation of chemical carcinogens developed during food processing. I teach three courses at UC Davis including: The Chemical and Physical Analysis of Foods, Food Toxicology and Food Folklore and Health. 

I have three wonderful daughters: April (30), Kalia  (13) and Devin (11).   April is now married and off on her own successful career in the restaurant industry. Kalia is in the 8th grade at Holmes Jr. High and Devin is in the 6th grade AIM program at North Davis Elementary.  Looking back on my tenure at UC Davis always makes me giggle. My hiring start date, and maternity leave date nearly over-lapped. I was 5 months pregnant when I interviewed for my position- and hiding it rather well!  For women with faculty career goals, there is no optimal time to start a family. You finish your PhD, start your post-doctoral studies and then begin the process of looking for that coveted faculty position. And, you are usually in you thirties and also thinking about starting a family! I applaud the efforts at UC Davis to recognize and support these unique challenges.

Life is wonderful at presenting us with new challenges as we progress through our faculty careers. I was divorced in 2010, and now find myself a middle-aged part-time single parent! Being divorce has opened my eyes to many of the challenges new parents and divorced faculty face in terms of childcare, parent scheduling and maximizing parent contact time with children. I am thankful for my new perspective, and hope that it helps me serve as a better resource to help other faculty navigate critical periods in their careers and balance them with their family lives.


Courtney Joslin

Professor - Law


Courtney Joslin received her undergraduate degree from Brown University and her law degree from Harvard Law School, where she was an executive editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Davis, Professor Joslin served as an attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), where she litigated cases on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families.

Professor Joslin's areas of interest include family and relationship recognition, particularly focusing on same-sex and nonmarital couples. Professor Joslin's publications have appeared or are forthcoming in the Boston University Law Review, the Harvard Civil Rights - Civil Liberties Law Review, the Harvard Law & Policy Review, the Iowa Law Review, the Ohio State Law Journal, and the Southern California Law Review. Her article, Protecting Children(?): Marriage, Gender, and Assisted Reproductive Technology was selected as a winner of the 2010 Dukeminier Award.

Suzana Sawyer

Associate Professor - Anthropology

Suzana Sawyer

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and joined UC Davis in 1997.  My research has examined conflicts that emerge among extractive industries, state governments, and local peoples (both indigenous and non-indigenous) in Latin America and beyond. My first book explored these dynamics in the context of indigenous mobilization in Ecuador (Crude Chronicles 2004). My second book project is tracing these concerns as they work themselves out in a 15-year-old transnational lawsuit in the US and Ecuador. An edited book project looks at these dynamics in Australia, Bolivia, Chad, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Peru with respect to questions of indigeneity and global governance.

I am part of that female cohort who chose to have children later in life. Our daughter (Zoe) was born within a year after I received tenure. My partner is also a UC Davis faculty and we are grateful for the university’s faculty work/life balance program. He was able to use UCD’s Parental Leave soon after Zoe was born. And I have made use of the university’s Maternity Leave, Active Duty Modified Service, and now Associate Step IV policies. The bonding and flexibility that UCD’s work/life program has enabled have been indispensable to shaping the relationship we have with our daughter and who she is.

I feel the work/life program makes a critical difference in the choices and opportunities available to academics as they juggle the demands of children and career. As university policies around work/life issues change, it’s important that advocates share their understandings and experiences of these policies not only with female and male faculty who might benefit directly from them but also with faculty who evaluate those who do.


Tamara Y. Swaab

Associate Professor - Department of Psychology & the Center for Mind and Brain at UC Davis

Tamara Swaab

Tamara Y Swaab, PhD, is Professor in the Dept. of Psychology and the Center for Mind and Brain at UC Davis. She earned her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

Dr. Swaab’s research focuses on the cognitive and neural underpinnings of language processing in monolingual and bilingual readers and listeners. With her students and colleagues she has examined the relation between language processing, language experience and other cognitive functions. She has tested this relation by modelling individual differences in language processing as a function of measures of inhibitory control, working memory and vocabulary knowledge. She also has studied deficits in sentence and discourse processing in patients with schizophrenia, who have known problems in the controlled maintenance of contextually relevant information, in order to examine the role of executive functions during language processing and to test the nature of language comprehension problems in these patients. She further examines language comprehension in older adults to assess a potential trade-off between changing cognitive abilities and increased language experience.  Dr. Swaab’s research capitalizes on multiple research methods to gain the deepest possible understanding of the psychological processes and brain mechanisms that we use to extract meaning from text and conversation.  These research methods include eyetracking (collaboratively), and the recording of brain electrical activity (ERPs) and hemodynamic responses (functional magnetic resonance imaging -- fMRI), as well as a variety of other behavioral measures. Combining these methods provides a powerful approach to investigating the time course and neuroanatomical loci of language comprehension processes.

Dr. Swaab has published in a wide range of journals in psychology and cognitive neuroscience (Psychological Science, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Brain Research, Cerebral Cortex). She has received funding for her work from NIMH, NSF, and McDonnell Pew.

Dr. Swaab is married and has two children, Alex (6 years) and Nick (4 years). She received tenure in July of 2007, and has made grateful use of several of the features of the faculty work/life balance program, including maternity leave, Active Service Modified Duties, and extension of the Tenure Clock.

Diane L. Wolf

Professor - Sociology & Director of Jewish Studies ProgramDiane Wolf


I have focused on gender and family dynamics throughout my career, starting in peasant households in Indonesia and resulting in a book called Factory Daughters (1992, UC Press),continuing with children of Filipino immigrants in California about which I have published articles, and then focused on Jewish children who were hidden in Gentile families during World War II in Holland (Beyond Anne Frank, 2007, UC Press). I am very interested in how memory gets produced and reproduced especially in and after contexts of trauma. This is reflected in a book I co-edited, Sociology Confronts the Holocaust: Memories and Identities in Jewish Diasporas (2007, Duke Univ. Press). Finally, my work reflects a deep concern with methods and how we do what we do. I edited Feminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork (1996), and have since written about gender, globalization and methodology. 

I came to UC Davis in 1989 as an advanced assistant professor and have been part of a department where there are many women most of whom are feminists and outspoken colleagues. That was especially reassuring as a junior faculty member having come from my first job in a department where it was disadvantageous to be a woman and the "f" word was not to be spoken.

My husband is also a UCD faculty member and we have one teenage son who was almost born on Highway 113 on the way to the hospital in Woodland. I am part of a generation of academic women who tended to wait for tenure before having a baby. Many of us only have one child.

The work-life balance program was not operative when I had my child; in fact, quite the opposite. I ended up getting some leave because I was willing to argue my case with administrators but I could only do that because I had the security of tenure. As I watched my junior female colleagues struggle with the same issues--being told that maternity leave was a privilege not a right--I began to speak with more senior female colleagues about the need to become pro-active about these policies on our campus. We organized a petition that faculty signed and it was presented to the Chancellor who had the foresight to appoint a committee to begin looking at these issues. I co-chaired the first committee and was a member of subsequent committees that hammered out the changes that are now the Work Life Program and represented in the current family friendly policies in the APM.

The work-life policies have improved tremendously and UC Davis now fares better than many if not most other universities.  I hope that we can maintain this very humane approach to work and life, something that has been attractive to job candidates.