Leadership Team

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Thomas Schneider

Executive Director

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Thomas Schneider is the Founding Executive Director of PALAC. He is a Professor of Egyptology and Near Eastern Studies at the University of British Columbia. He has significant experience with the liberal arts in the Asia-Pacific, most recently from his roles as Associate Vice President (International) at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China (2018-20) and as Advisor to the President at Quest University Canada (2016-7). After studying at the University of Zurich, the University of Basel and the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris (Lizentiat 1990; Dr. phil. 1996; Habilitation 1999, all in Egyptology from the University of Basel), he was a Lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Zurich (2000-3), a Junior Research Professor of the Swiss National Science Foundation at the University of Basel (2001-5) and Professor and inaugural holder of the Chair in Egyptology at the University of Wales, Swansea (2005-8). He held Visiting Professorships at the University of Vienna (1999), the University of Heidelberg (2003-4) and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2018). He was a Visiting Scholar at New York University (2006), the University of California, Berkeley (2012), as well as a Guest Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing (2016) and at Shanghai University (2018).
Headshot of Bryan Penprase, Academic Director of PALAC

Bryan E. Penprase

Academic Director

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Dr. Bryan Penprase is the Vice President for Sponsored Research and External Academic Relations at Soka University of America, where he develops proposals for external funding and fosters collaborations with universities and colleges to advance global liberal arts and research and teaching at Soka University. He formerly served as Dean of Faculty for three years at Soka University, where he worked to create new academic programs, and managed the curriculum design, hiring and implementation of a new Concentration in Life Sciences. Bryan also has been actively developing global liberal arts collaborations, most recently with an international conference at Soka University of America in 2018, as well as liberal arts symposia in Singapore, India, and at Yale University. He previously was a Professor of Science and founding faculty member and founding Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, and served as an American Council on Education (ACE) fellow at Yale University in 2012-13, where he was mentored by Yale’s President, Peter Salovey. During the ACE fellowship, Bryan was part of the team that designed the curriculum for the new Yale-NUS College in Singapore and also advised the Yale leadership on topics including online learning, teaching and learning centers and programs for first-generation and underrepresented minority students.

Bryan served for 20 years as a professor of Physics and Astronomy at Pomona College, where he served as a department chair, and was the inaugural co-director the Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning (LACOL). Bryan received both a BS in Physics and an MS in Applied Physics from Stanford University in 1985, and a PhD from the University of Chicago in Astronomy and Astrophysics in 1992. Bryan’s research includes nearly all aspects of observational astrophysics, using telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck Telescope in Hawaii. He is the author of two books, which includes STEM Education for the 21st Century, and The Power of Stars – How Celestial Observations Have Shaped Civilization, both published by Springer, Inc. Bryan has lectured across the world in conferences and public talks about emerging models of higher education, global liberal arts, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the intersections between culture and astronomy, and astrophysics research. He has taught a wide range of courses in Archaeoastronomy, Astronomy, Physics, and Astrophysics, led expeditions to study the astronomy of Native American groups across the Southwestern US, as well as numerous solar eclipse expeditions. Bryan has authored or co-authored over 55 peer-reviewed research articles, in the Astrophysical Journal, Astronomical Journal, in Nature and Science and other publications. His most recent research program is a collaboration with Caltech to develop the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) and a Global Relay of Observatories known as GROWTH for studying gamma ray bursts, new supernovae, and the electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational wave sources.