Faculty Spotlights: Professor Melissa Vise and Professor Cassidy Jay

Frances McIntosh

Professor Melissa Vise: A new face in the history department

If you’re thinking about taking a course in medieval studies, there’s a chance you’ll run into Professor Melissa Vise. New to Washington and Lee’s history department, Melissa Vise brings her unique background of Italian medieval history to her courses.

This semester, Vise is teaching European civilization and a first- year seminar on the bubonic plague. She said she hopes to incorporate some her research on medieval violence to courses about crime and punishment.

Vise said she noticed how prepared students are when they come to her class.

“Students are very accountable, and I really appreciate that,” she said.

She’s also currently working on a book project.

“I am researching the development of ethical codes in medieval Italy,” Vise said. “In particular, speech – how people in Italy began regulating and criminalizing speech.”

Vise was born and raised in Massachusetts, where she earned her B.A. in philosophy and religion from Boston University in 2006. She then moved to the Midwest and earned her Masters degree at Notre Dame in 2008 and her PhD from Northwestern in 2015.

Vise taught at both New York University in New York City and the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Now exploring a new region of the country, Vise said she’s excited about getting to know Lexington and the Washington and Lee community.

“There is general spirit of conviviality here,” she said.

Professor Cassidy Jay: Visiting geology professor newest to the Blue Ridge Mountains

What new visiting professor Cassidy Jay loves about her field of geology is that it’s larger than her.

“It’s humbling,” Jay said. “Humans are so tiny in the grand scheme of things.”

She’s currently teaching an introductory course for geology. Next term, she’ll teach planetary geology and general geology. And for spring term, she’ll teach a class on natural hazards that will travel to Mount St. Helens in Washington.

So far, Jay said she’s having a blast and that her students are “high-caliber.”

“I’m enjoying how inquisitive and insightful the students are,” she said.

Jay said her favorite area of study is how geology affects present-day, specifically tectonic plates and natural hazards.

“There’s a misconception that geology is just about rocks and things that happened millions and billions of years ago,” Jay said. “It is, but the earth is dynamic. It’s constantly changing.”

Before moving to the Blue Ridge this year, she grew up in the Adirondack Mountains in northeastern New York, where she found a love for the outdoors.

Jay worked for a geophysics company in Colorado before earning her Masters degree at Purdue University this past July.