Apr. 13, 2021
Biola University welcomes 17 new faculty members this fall — each of whom represent the university’s aspiration to attract and retain the finest Christian scholars. The new professors vary in interest and expertise from theological aesthetics and bilingual brain studies to DNA repair.
To learn about Biola’s new faculty, read their thoughts below on the value of Christian higher education and the significance of a strong foundation in their specific fields.
Rosemead School of Psychology
Laura Dryjanska obtained her doctorate degree in social representations and communication at Sapienza University of Rome. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola University. Her research interests include social representations applied to diverse fields: migration, human trafficking, intergenerational solidarity, ageing, place-identity and organizational psychology. Dryjanska is fluent in English, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and Polish (her mother tongue). She is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), and the European Association of Social Psychology (EASP). Her recent publications include a short textbook in organizational psychology for ESL students, two volumes of edited books in Italian focused on intergenerational solidarity, and various scientific articles in peer-reviewed international journals.
“Believers are called to live as children of light (Ephesians 4:17-31), good and helpful to others. In my opinion, a Christian university should reflect love for Jesus when it comes to interpersonal relationships. It is essential for its educational theory to prescribe behavior based on righteousness and integrity, clearly stating the limits. Society changes and becomes ever more permissive. Educating young people consists not only of nurturing their minds, widening their horizons and enabling them to gain a deeper understanding of surrounding reality that reflects the Christian worldview. Even more so, a teacher has the privilege and responsibility to develop healthy relationships with the students, based on mutual respect and trust. The faculty of a Christian university can be likened to one body with many parts that perform different functions, complementing one another thanks to their specific gifts and abilities. We learn the most by doing, not by listening. A Christian higher education should promote practices that stem from its principles based on the Word of God. No matter what we do, as A.W. Tozer stated, being God's handiwork ultimately allows us to trace our problems and their solutions to theology. Therefore, in all disciplines that a Christian university teaches, there is a place for spiritual reflection.”
Joseph De Luna
Joseph De Luna is a clinical psychologist and registered play therapist, specializing in children and families. He graduated from the Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola University in 2010. Since then, he has worked at The Guidance Center in Long Beach, which is a non-profit community mental health center that specializes in children and families that are underprivileged. At this agency, he provided direct clinical services as well as clinical supervision. His specialities include: children, families, play therapy, trauma, abuse, parenting, psychological assessment, and clinical training.
“Christians in today's day and age have a distinct challenge in front of them. As the world around us is ‘progressing’ forward, it seems as though it also progressing further and further away from a biblical view of God. It is becoming tougher for Christians to defend their faith without being criticized or deemed judgmental. In a world of political correctness, how can we counter culture the way that Jesus did without offending others? We can't … and we need to be okay with not pleasing everybody! However, we can challenge our students to challenge their own faith so that when faced with adversity or questions, they have a firm ground on with which to stand. We can also teach and mentor them on how to engage in relationships and truly love others the way Jesus did. What a privilege it is to be the hands and feet of the Almighty! I can picture Him rolling up his sleeves, smiling, and ready to get down and dirty. Let's join Him in this work!”
Cook School of Intercultural Studies
David Shane Lowry obtained his bachelor of science degree in anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his doctorate degree from the University of North Carolina. His scholarship focuses on human empathy. His graduate research took place between 2009 and 2012 when he spent hundreds of hours with missionaries, healthcare providers, and social justice advocates from the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. Lowry is writing two books. One book is an anthropology of Michael Jordan, and the other book is a story of how the Lumbee Tribe became a hub for healing in America. Lowry is currently part of an interdisciplinary research team that is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the environmental aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in North Carolina. He will be teaching courses in cultural anthropology, medical anthropology, and other topics related to his research and writing.
“We must appreciate that anthropology almost fully encapsulates the ways people in the Bible (e.g. Christ and Paul the apostle) engaged society. You can't really say that about any other academic discipline. Christ, for example, dealt with biomedical realities, public health, politics, kinship, racial tensions, and many other subjects that are at the center of contemporary anthropology. So, within those contexts, Christian higher education should embrace anthropology … not only as a viable major for students, but also as a key arena within which the Christian university deals with various challenges that it faces today. On that note, I acknowledge that many of my anthropology colleagues dismiss the viability of Christian points-of-view. However, if Christ and the convictions of Christians are placed into the processes of engaging major human problems through anthropological research and anthropological engagement, a ‘new thing’ (to quote Isaiah 43:19) will occur. These are exciting times!”
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Eundria Hill-Joseph is an Assistant Professor of Sociology. A native of Compton and La Habra, Calif., she completed her bachelor of arts degree in Spanish literature at Smith College before earning a master of arts degree in social work from Columbia University and a doctorate in sociology at Georgia State University. Her research interests include chronic illness, demographic disparities in psychological coping, and young adult mental health. Her dissertation, “Ill-Timed: The Effects of Early Onset Chronic Illness on Young Adult Psychosocial Development” examines the long term effects of chronic illness onset before age 35 on individuals’ sense of mastery and experience of depressive symptoms. Her primary teaching interests include sociology of health and illness, quantitative research methods, and social welfare policy.
“I believe that Christian higher education is a unique opportunity to challenge and be challenged by an intellectual community of believers. As a sociologist in Christian higher ed, I have a unique opportunity to challenge students to live out their faith as advocates for those harmed by unjust social systems, practices, and policies. Sociology provides insight about how to identify, explain, and ultimately improve the social conditions that marginalize and devalue so many. I’m excited about developing this insight within Biola’s students as faculty this fall.”
Torrey Honors Institute
Robert Covolo served as a pastor at Grace Brethren Church of Long Beach, as a scholar at the Visual Faith Institute of Art and Architecture and as the Chairman of the School Board for the Intellectual Virtues Academy. In addition to degrees and certificates in the humanities, history, English literature, divinity, and philosophy of religion, he holds a doctorate degree in theology and culture from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is anticipating the defense of his second doctorate degree from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam this fall. His areas of expertise include theological aesthetics, theology and culture, secularization theory, fashion theory, and the Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper.
“Study after study reveals that people are more likely to depart from their Christian faith during young adulthood than at any other period of their life. Christian higher education offers a critical counter to this trend in two significant ways: First, by transitioning young adults into a mature faith during the exact period when so many of their peers are abandoning the faith. Second, by providing a platform for intensive discipleship, whereby young adults become dynamic witnesses to their peers. This is one of the many reasons I'm thrilled to be a part of Biola — an institution that takes serious the call to shape the entire person for Christ and His Kingdom.”
Torrey Honors Institute
Jonathan Diaz is an alumnus of Biola’s English department and a perpetual member of the Torrey Honors Institute. He holds a master of fine arts in poetry from the University of Notre Dame. His poems have been featured in or are forthcoming from Curator, Zócalo Public Square, American Literary Review and St. Katherine Review.
“At this moment, our society is questioning the inherent value and purpose of higher education. As a result, we have come to recognize more deeply that the tremendous task of college education cannot be pursued without a clear understanding of a university’s purpose, and a firm commitment to that purpose shared between faculty, staff, and students. At Biola, our purpose is exceedingly clear: to equip young men and women to do faithfully and well the work God has given them to do. We are dedicated to helping young people deepen their faith, express their belief courageously, and to give them every tool they need to fulfill their vocations with kindness and with excellence. As I see the world grow daily more divisive and uncivil, I can't imagine a more vital time to be pursuing this excellent work; and I can't imagine a better place for it than Biola University.”
Torrey Honors Institute
Isaac Blois obtained his bachelor of arts degree from Biola University, his master of divinity from the Talbot School of Theology and is pursuing his doctorate degree at the University of St. Andrews. He has conducted in depth research on the Book of Philippians and topics such as the hermeneutical strategy of the New Testament. His thesis argues that in Philippians Paul presents boasting or honor as something that is experienced mutually by God, the Philippians and Paul himself, such that Paul's faithfulness to his ministry produces boasting for the Philippian believers (1:26) and that the Philippians' faithful obedience will produce Paul's own boasting (2:16), all of which contributes to the honor and glory of God (1:11; 2:11; 4:20).
“I think that higher educational institutions that are explicitly Christian are essential in today's world. In a nation where inter-religious, interracial, and inter-relational dialogue is becoming more and more elusive, and so it is important for Christians to be able to speak the truth while genuinely listening to others from diverse perspectives.”
English Language Program
Bonnie Vidrine Isbell conducts interdisciplinary research which specializes in blending bilingual brain studies and second language pedagogy. She has taught English as a second and foreign language for 10 years in Washington, Louisiana, Thailand, Spain, and Belize. She has specialized in second language composition for the last six years.
“The Bible teaches us that transformation happens through relationship — with God, with our neighbors, and with strangers. Recent studies in neuroscience and language confirm this same relational connection in the brain. The brain transforms and is malleable throughout a lifetime, but it is the human relationship that has the power to initiate this transformation. My understanding of Christ — His way of transforming disciples in the Bible and the way He has transformed me has guided me in my research and has brought me to truths that I now find heavily impact language pedagogy.”
School of Fine Arts and Communication
Michael Kitada earned his bachelor of arts degree in communication with an emphasis in photojournalism from California State University, Fullerton. After graduation, he was employed as a staff photographer at the Orange County Register where he was able to travel and document top events of the time over the last 25 years. For the last 10 years, he managed his own photography business and taught photojournalism as an adjunct at UCLA, California Baptist University and Biola University.
“I believe without the voice of Christian higher education in today’s world there would be an endless void on the landscape of our society. This void would not only impact the academic world, but without the truth, which Christianity defends and heralds, this void would trickle down to every other aspect of our lost world. Without the Word of God, taught and defended at a higher educational level, relativism would be the standard. Critical thinking is not a skill that one is born with, but must be taught and nurtured, so that the next generation can stand before a world that falls and worships at the feet of everything opposite of our Lord, and speak truth and hold back the tide and shine a light in the darkness.”
School of Science, Technology and Health
Sarah Flores has 22 years of experience in nursing since in a variety of settings, most which had a pediatric focus. She has experience in school nursing, research, ambulatory practice management and leadership management. Flores obtained her bachelor of science degree in nursing from Biola University and her master of science degree in community health nursing from San Diego State University. Her interests include informatics, research, performance improvement and quality metrics, professional development and nursing excellence. She also holds a specialty nursing certification in Executive Leadership. She is affiliated with the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN), Sigma Theta Tau Society and the Association of California Nurse Leaders (ACNL).
“Nursing as a profession is uniquely positioned to act out the grace and love of Christ and impact individuals and community — whether at the bedside, in leadership, or in areas of health policy development and advocacy. It is vital that we equip clinically skilled nurses who integrate their clinical knowledge and expertise with biblical faith precepts so that as respected members of the healthcare team, they can influence others and point to Christ. It is important that we foster in our graduate nurses a hunger for inquiry and who will contribute to the discovery through research more about God our creator. We must also equip them to enter conversations around ethics in health care, use of healthcare resources, caring for special populations — and do so with confidence in their faith-based contribution to the conversation, humility in their approach, and with profound respect for the people and the relationships that allow these conversations to take place. BIOLA has an incredible opportunity to prepare our nurses to follow the counsel in Micah 6:8 … to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.”
Jinsil Kim, assistant professor of biological sciences, comes to Biola from the National Institutes of Health, where she conducted research on DNA repair and Progeria. She has obtained her bachelor of science degree with honors in biology from Idaho State University and a doctorate degree in anatomy and cell biology from the University of Iowa. Kim has a research background encompassing a wide variety of fields, including cell and molecular biology, genetics, developmental biology, and human diseases. She completed her dissertation on the topic of identifying genes that play a role in preterm birth using different biological approaches, including genetic, transcriptomic, and epigenetic approaches. Through teaching, she seeks to share her passion for understanding the intricate purpose and design in living organisms with students and help them grow in their knowledge of God the Creator. Kim is excited to serve at Biola to equip students with the scientific knowledge and skills that can be used to impact the world for Christ.
“The world is drifting away from God, without whom we would not exist, neither would education be possible and make sense. Christian higher education plays a critical role in the development of individuals, who acknowledge God as Creator and Sustainer of the world and source of all knowledge, and are equipped with spiritual armor that allows them to stand firm in the faith amongst a secular world. Today’s world is witnessing a rise in hatred, violence, and discrimination, which can be truly alleviated by a Christ-like heart. The value of Christian higher education stands out in that it develops a Christ-like character in students, which can shine forth to and transform the world in the way that conforms to the heart of God.”
Communication Sciences & Disorders
Diana Petroi is joining the Communication Sciences and Disorders faculty as part of the recently launched master’s program. She is a clinician-researcher and professor, with areas of expertise in neurologically-based motor speech and language disorders, cognitive-communicative impairments, and dysphagia. Her clinical and research interests include differential diagnosis and understanding brain-behavior relationships of motor speech/language disorders, comparing clinical findings across various domains, and collaborating across disciplines for teaching, research, and quality care purposes. She earned her bachelor of science degree in communication disorders from Biola University, her master of science degree in speech-language pathology from Loma Linda University, and her doctorate degree in communication sciences and disorders from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Neurology, Division of Speech Pathology, at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Petroi’s clinical practice has focused on medical speech-language pathology, with her providing direct patient care to persons with medical issues resulting in various communication and swallowing disorders. She also has experience working with speech-language pathology and medical students and residents, being part of multidisciplinary care teams, serving on national professional committees, and presenting at local, state, and national meetings and conferences. Correction: Updated on Sept. 14 with additional information.
“The primary reasons I chose to become a speech-language pathologist is because I am passionate about ongoing learning and teaching, working hands-on with patients, and collaborating with others to provide quality care. Along with higher education and training comes greater responsibility. Patients and others look to experts in the field for answers, for a second or third opinion, and for hope. I take this responsibility seriously and seek to convey my expertise to aspiring clinicians. One way to do this is to bridge the gap between clinic and academia by working together across departments/specialties/practice settings to expose students to real-world experiences. Within these contexts, we can create deeper connections and meaning through the lens of faith. We often take for granted seemingly basic abilities such as communicating and enjoying a meal or coffee together, only attending to such abilities when they become problematic. What better way to equip men and women in mind and character than by connecting knowledge and skills to faith in a way that provides opportunities to demonstrate genuine care and compassion to people affected by communication and swallowing disorders. After all, it’s more than just seeking higher education; it’s living out a higher calling.”
K.C. Wong has been teaching computer science courses in higher education for more than 25 years. He earned a bachelor’s of science degree in physics and two master’s of science degrees in physics and computer science as well as a doctorate in computer science. He has taught in a variety of environments from traditional, research-oriented universities, institutions with diversity in races, ages, and economic backgrounds, to Christian-centered colleges. His research interests are mainly in operating systems and undergraduate education.
“Teaching in higher education is fun, challenging, and rewarding. As a Christian, teaching at Biola University is even more valuable and meaningful because Biola has clear educational missions and goals set from God's perspectives. Students at Biola are expected to learn how to equip themselves with knowledge in a specific discipline and apply what they learn at Biola to serving God throughout their whole life journey.”
School of Education
Mickie Wong-Lo is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Education at Biola, previously at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, IL. Wong-Lo, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, completed her doctoral studies in special education at the University of North Texas. Prior to entering the field of higher education, she worked as a behavioral training coordinator and consultant for private and public education/mental health facilities in Texas. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Council for Exceptional Children and currently serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Preventing School Failure, Journal of Gang Research, and Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners. As an advocate for safe schools and mental health, her research focus surrounds issues on cyber bullying, gang crime analysis, violence in schools as well as behavioral and function-based interventions.
“As a Christian professor, I believe that it is imperative to rely on the Holy Spirit to instruct my teaching and to guide me to the truth. It is my dutiful responsibility to stay abreast in the latest research and to seek God’s discernment to interpret the acquired knowledge into practice that aligns with His Biblical teaching. While the cornerstones of my teaching practice are a balance of reflectivity, academic rigor and professional growth, it is the heart of Christ that guides my role as a professor. Teaching is a profession that requires one to not only be an influential leader, but also an innovative thinker to create environments that facilitate learning in motion. It is my responsibility to view each course being taught as an opportunity to guide my students to infuse their knowledge into practice that is pleasing to God in their future classrooms. Specific to my discipline, it calls for a generation of educators that view individuals with disabilities not only as learners with endless potential, but as children created in the image of God. It is through this revelation that one can truly comprehend the significance of teaching in the field of special education.”
Crowell School of Business
With over 25 years of experience in the banking and market research industries, Jake has held leadership positions with two Fortune 100 companies and one of the country's top-polling firms. Jake was actively involved in the JPMorgan Chase and Washington Mutual Bank merger, the largest conversion in U.S. financial services history at the time. He has been recognized by the California State Assembly and the City of Los Angeles for his contributions in business and organizational leadership. Jake is pursuing his doctorate degree in organizational leadership from Regent University, and his current area of interest includes the mega-trends impacting the global business environment, specifically in regards to a multi-generational and changing workforce.
“There is a significant need for Christian business leadership in the world today, especially in the public and corporate sectors. Teaching in higher education gives me the opportunity to educate, prepare and encourage the next generation of business leaders with both the practical and academic essentials necessary to be ‘defenders of the truth’ in the marketplace.”
Juan R. Castro is a professor in finance in the Crowell School of Business. He obtained his doctorate in finance and economics, master of arts degree in economics, and bachelor of science degree in computer science from the University of New Orleans, Louisiana. With over 25 years as a professor and scholar, Juan has had an extended international experience as a Fulbright Scholar in Central America, Consultant for the United Nation Development Program (UNDP), and teaching in several countries such as Austria, South Korea, Spain, Honduras, el Salvador, and Ecuador. Most recently, Castro has been interested in researching in how to alleviate poverty through financial education and microfinance. He was awarded SIFE’s HSBC Financial Literacy Award for creating financial and economic opportunity by helping the community develop personal financial management skills necessary to achieve financial independence.
Talbot School of Theology
Preaching and Pastoral Ministry
Brandon Cash obtained his bachelor of arts degree from Long Beach State University and his master of divinity from the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. He is finishing up his doctoral studies in Old Testament at Fuller Seminary. Brandon has been serving as a pastor at Oceanside Christian Fellowship for nineteen years. He has also served as the chaplain for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2010. He has been involved in denominational leadership at both the regional and national levels, the Evangelical Homiletics Society since 2001, and has served as a mentor to pastors and church planters throughout Southern California. Brandon has been an adjunct professor at Talbot for the last few years and is looking forward to joining the faculty full-time.
“First and foremost, a Christian university must be God-centered. God's revelation, the Bible, is foundational; it must be integrated into all that is taught and studied. At Biola University, faculty and students are committed Christians. As faculty we have the exciting opportunity, and obligation, to equip students to bring glory to God as disciples of Christ in the midst of a broken world. What a blessing it is to be able to influence the next generation of pastors and church leaders. Specifically, to train them ‘to preach the word…[and] fulfill their ministry’ (2 Timothy 4:1-5).”
Written by Jenna Loumagne, manager of media relations. Contact Jenna for more information at (562) 777-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assistant Director of Media Relations and Strategic Communication
Senior Director of University Communications
media [dot] relations [at] biola [dot] edu