Faculty Affiliates

The faculty affiliates at the Diplomacy Research Lab at the Univeristy of Memphis bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise across diverse fields, including human rights, strategic communications, diplomacy, public health, and education. Their research addresses global challenges such as displacement, poverty, misinformation, international relations, and health outcomes. By integrating interdisciplinary approaches, these scholars contribute to advancing social change, fostering community engagement, and promoting equity. Their collective efforts support the university's mission to enhance knowledge, drive innovation, and tackle complex global issues through research, teaching, and community service.

Lab Coordinator 


Leah Winsor                                                


Dr. Leah Windsor is an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics in the Institute for Intelligent Systems and Department of English at The University of Memphis. She also has Faculty Affiliate status with CAESER (Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research) and in the Department of Political Science. She directs the Languages Across Cultures Lab and is PI on an NSF grant studying multimodal signals in world leaders’ speeches. Her research broadly examines how what we say reveals who we are.

Dr. Windsor received her Bachelor of Science in Linguistics degree from Georgetown University in 1998, her Master’s degree in Political Science at The University of Memphis in 2005, and her Ph.D. in Political Science from The University of Mississippi in 2012. From 2014-2019, Dr. Windsor served as PI for a DoD Minerva Initiative grant that examined political communication in authoritarian regimes and opaque political groups. She is currently PI on a National Science Foundation grant examining embodied cognition and multimodal communication for international relations research (#2117009). Her book on bias in family formation in academia, The PhD Parenthood Trap: Gender, Bias, and the Elusive Work-Family Balance in Academia (with Dr. Kerry Crawford) is available from Georgetown University Press. She was a 2020-2023 Non-Resident Fellow for the Krulak Center in the Marine Corps University, and serves on several elected committees in the International Studies Association. She is a fourth generation farmer. 

Human Rights/Humanitarian Issues 


Michael Vicente Pérez                                               


Michael Vicente Pérez is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Memphis and Affiliate Assistant Professor at the University of Washington. His research areas include displacement and human rights among Palestinian refugees in the Middle East and, more recently, Muslim conversion and everyday practice in Chile. He has published his research in several journals includingCultural Anthropology, Anthropology of the Middle East, Journal of Palestine Studies, Middle East Critique, and Visual Anthropology Review.

ANTH 4415 Anthropology of Human Rights: theory and practice

ANTH 4223 Refugees and Humanitarianism



Elena Delavega


Elena Delavega, PhD, MSW is Professor of Social Work at the University of Memphis, where she teaches and researches poverty and social welfare policy. Dr. Delavega’s are as of expertise involve poverty, its causes, measurement, and remediation. Dr. Delavega has created a body of work consisting of over 37 peer-reviewed publications; over 100 reports, newspaper/magazine articles, book chapters, fact sheets, and translations; close to 200 presentations, including international presentations, keynote addresses, and a TEDx Talk focused on the Blame Index, which she developed in 2017 and is the focus of her future interests. She has produced the Memphis Poverty Factsheet, updated yearly, since 2012. She has also given close to 200 media interviews locally, nationally, and worldwide. Additionally, she serves on the board the Memphis Coalition for the Homeless, and on the board of Impact Tennessee. She is a research collaborator of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis and has edited Volumes II to IX of the Hooks Policy Papers. She is a 2024-2025 U.S. Fulbright Scholar.

SWRK 4944/6944 Encountering Poverty

Strategic Communications and Media


Jasper Fessmann 


Dr. Jasper Fessmann joined the faculty of the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media in 2023 after previously serving as a faculty member at West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media for five years. Before entering academia, Dr. Fessmann ran his own PR agency in Germany and gained 15 years of international public relations agency experience with exclusive clients like the German federal ministries, NGOs and Fortune 500 companies. He was also active in (mostly pro bono) work focused on Holocaust remembrance and intergenerational projects.

His research interests include public interest communications (PIC), international public relations, dis- & misinformation and crisis communications. Much of his body of work has focused on developing PIC, a relatively new field of strategic communications to advance positive social change, which he helped to found. He is especially interested in how PIC can be used effectively to counter strategic misinformation campaigns by special interest harming society, in particular about climate change denial.

STRM 4801 ST: Global Public Relations

JRSM 7416 Global Strategic Communication

PBRL 6430 / PBRL 4430 Media Relations


Will Duffy


Will Duffy is a professor of English and teaches in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication program. His research interests concern the intersections of communication ethics, philosophies of languages, artificial intelligence, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. He is also interested in composition and rhetorical theory, with particular interests in collaborative writing, first-year composition, and the institutional history of writing studies, discourse ethics, pragmatist philosophy, and religious rhetoric. From 2014-16, he served as the founding director of the UofM's Center for Writing and Communication.

ENGL 8350: Rhetorical Theory

ENGL 8801: Collaborative Writing

ENGL 8823: (Topics in Composition) Language, Cognition, and Writing

ENGL 4602: (Advanced Composition) Writing and Public Advocacy

Honors College ENGL 3604: Persuasive Writing

Honors College 1100: (Honors Forum) How to Conspiracy Theory

Diplomacy Policy


Jonathan Bennett


Jonathan Bennett is the Associate Director of the Center for Community Research and Evaluation (CCRE). Dr. Bennett coordinates CCRE operations and serves as the Center's statistical consultant. He is an expert in quantitative analysis and has served as the senior evaluator for numerous implementation and demonstration projects in the areas of population health and educational innovation. He has helped design and implement research studies across a battery of statistical methodologies, including randomized control trials, quasi-experimental studies, econometric modeling, power analysis, and return-on-investment analyses. His dissertation, Three Papers on Diplomacy, used innovative methods including machine learning and automated content analysis to test hypotheses relating to U.S. diplomacy. He has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Rochester (2017), with concentrations in international relations and political methodology.



Dursun Peksen


Dursun Peksen is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University Memphis. His teaching and research interests revolve around the subjects of foreign policy, international political economy, and human rights. A large portion of Peksen’s research focuses on major socio-economic and political consequences of economic sanctions for targeted countries. His more recent work also examines the possible role of globalization and international financial institutions on labor rights and illicit economic activity. He has published over 70 journal articles and book chapters.





Marissa Gray


Dr. Marissa Gray joined the Loewenberg College of Nursing in 2023 as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Mental Health Nursing. She is a board-certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner with a Doctorate in Nursing Practice from The University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She has extensive experience in pediatric, adult, and recovery mental health specializing in resilience, holistic wellness, and trauma-responsive psychiatric care with a focus on empowering self-efficacy, emotional regulation, and mindfulness-based stress reduction. Her interests lie at the intersection of advocacy, education, community networking, and program development. Her intention is to empower healthcare providers and leaders in interdisciplinary teamwork that promotes mental health, wellness, and resilience.

NURS 3127 Mental Health Nursing

Culture, Perception, and Education 


Beverly Tsacoyianis


Beverly Tsacoyianis, an Associate Professor in the History Department, is a historian of the modern Middle East with interest in interdisciplinary studies of disability, migration, trauma, and gender. She wrote the 2022 CHOICE Academic Title Award-winning Disturbing Spirits: Mental Health, Trauma, and Treatment in Modern Syria and Lebanon published in June 2021 with the University of Notre Dame Press. She is currently co-editing a volume tentatively titled Disability History in the Modern Middle East, under contract with Bloomsbury. She teaches the World since 1945 class regularly, as well as courses on the global history of science, medicine, and technology, courses on Islamic history (with one for the ancient world until 1405, and one from 1405 CE to the current century), the Ottoman Empire, Modern Middle East, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. She is also the faculty advisor for the University of Memphis's Epsilon Nu chapter of the national History honors society, Phi Alpha Theta.




Will Thompson


Will Thompson is the Director of International and Global Studies program, Director of the Governor's School for International Studies, as well as Associate Professor of French and Undergraduate Coordinator in the Department of World Languages and Literatures.  He is president-elect of the American Association of Teachers of French, and Vice-President of the Center for French Colonial Studies.  His interests lie in various aspects of the French-speaking world, with his current research focusing on the French colonial period in the United States and French heritage communities in the American Midwest.

INTL 4601, Seminar in International Studies (Students complete an extensive research project, and many of them include diplomacy either directly or indirectly)




Gretchen Peterson


Gretchen Peterson is a Professor of Sociology and is currently serving as the Department Chair for the Sociology Department. She received her Ph.D.

 from the University of Arizona in 2000. Prof. Peterson's primary research interests are in the areas of sociology of sports and social psychology. She is particularly interested in the intersection of those two areas and also has specific interests in the sociology of emotions and the sociology of gender. She utilizes a variety of research methods in her studies including experiments, surveys, and ethnographic fieldwork.


Public Health 


Xinhua Yu 


Xinhua Yu, MD, PhD, MS, is an epidemiologist with additional training in medicine and statistics, and the coordinator of the epidemiology doctoral program. Dr. Yu has extensive experience in cancer epidemiology, cardiovascular epidemiology, nutrition, obesity, and physical activity. He is an expert in managing and analyzing very large epidemiological and health care administrative datasets such as longitudinal epidemiological data, Medicare claims, SEER‐Medicare data, medical chart abstraction data, and health survey data. Dr. Yu's current research focuses on health disparities, epidemiology of aging, determinants of health care utilization among cancer survivors, quality of care, clinical epidemiology and epidemiological methods.




Díana Ruggiero


Dr. Diana Ruggiero is a Full Professor in the Department of World Languages and Literatures at the University of Memphis, where she has served since 2012, and co-chair of the en gaged scholarship faculty network. Her teaching portfolio includes a variety of undergraduate and graduate specialized courses across the Department of World Languages and Literatures, as well as the Kemmons Wilson School of Hospitality and Resort Management and the Honors Forum. She teaches Spanish for the Hospitality Industry, Spanish for Healthcare, Interpreting and Translating in Healthcare, Spanish for Commerce, and Teaching, Researching, and Applied Languages for Specific Purposes, emphasizing the practical application of language skills in real-life situations and fostering Latinx Wellness.

Dr. Ruggiero takes an interdisciplinary approach to language education, integrating aspects of language learning with professional, scientific, and humanities knowledge to offer a holistic educational experience. She is notably committed to community engagement, guiding her students through hands-on experiences that bridge academic learning with community service. Her significant contributions include the development of "Corazón y Mente: A Journey to Mental Wellness for Latinx Women," a free, accessible, Open Education Resource enhancing mental wellness understanding for the Latinx community. As the online coordinator and UM3D department aide for upper-division Spanish, Dr. Ruggiero is a cornerstone of the department's online educational offerings. Her pioneering work and ongoing innovation, becoming an instructional designer and completing the 2021 Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL) Global Program, have been crucial in expanding our reach to UM Global students.

Spanish 4704

Spanish 4701

Spanish 4702

Democracy and institutions


Dustin Hornbeck


Dustin Hornbeck is an assistant professor of leadership and policy studies at the University of Memphis. He studies evolving curricular trends in secondary education that influence the democratic objectives of education. This encompasses areas such as dual enrollment, credentialism, restrictions on critical thinking and perspectives, and educational policy shifts that indoctrinate/alienate students. Beyond this, his broader research interests span policy changes in secondary education, experiences of LGBTQ students, the role of democracy in education, federalism, transitions to college, and equity issues in dual enrollment.

LDPS 8181, Policy Implementation Theory

LEAD 8002, American Society and Educational Policy

LDPS 8115, Leadership Theory

LDPS 8120, Educational Law