Board of Directors


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Board Members

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Board Biographies

Mona Berman (President)

Mona Berman is an artist, art dealer, curator, educator, and consultant specializing in both contemporary art and material culture. Her primary interest in ethnographic jewelry and textiles takes her to many parts of the world, most notably to Asia.

Mona received her B.F.A. from the University of Illinois and her M.F.A. from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Tufts University.

Mona received an artist grant from the CT Commission on the Arts. Her work has been exhibited and published internationally.

As art dealer, Mona's clients include major Fortune 500 corporations, national museums, architects, designers, and private collectors. While Director of Mona Berman Gallery from 1979- 86, Mona curated exhibitions, many of which were widely acclaimed by reviewers of major publications, including Art in America and The New York Times. Connecticut Magazine named the gallery 'Best of Connecticut.' Mona has written articles and book reviews for professional journals and art publications and catalogs for exhibitions and corporate collections. She has provided curatorial services for Wesleyan University's Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Arts, the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and for corporations such as General Electric and The Travelers where she was Director of the headquarters gallery.

She has provided curatorial services for the Yale Art Gallery and recently conducted a Master Class in conjunction with the inaugural exhibition of the Gallery's new Indo-Pacific Department.

Mona helped draft Connecticut’s first Arts Advocacy Legislation, has been a reviewer for the US Dept of Higher Education Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Competition, and a juror for Connecticut’s Per Cent for Arts Program. She was recently appointed to the Board of New Haven's Cultural Affairs Commission. She served on panels that help third world artists create economically viable, well designed, indigenous products and spent five years on the Board of Directors of a Khmer NGO women’s development center in Cambodia.

In addition to her membership in NCIS, Mona is a member American Council for Southern Asian Art, College Art Association, and the Textile Society of America. She has taught at Hampshire College, Fairfield University, and other CT. institutions.

Susan Breitzer (Board member)

Susan Roth Breitzer completed her Ph.D. from the University of Iowa, and is currently revising her dissertation, “Jewish Labor's Second City: The Formation of a Jewish Working Class in Chicago, 1886-1928,” and working on a book proposal. She has published essays in History Compass, the Indiana Magazine of History, and Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts. She has presented papers at the Organization of American Historians,  the American Historical Association, and the Labor and Working-Class History Association. She has recently served on the Board of Directors of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars, for which she organized the organizations first affiliated society panel. She has taught United States and world history at Fayetteville State University, and is currently teaching Western Civilization and United States History for the Fort Bragg Extension Campus of Campbell University.

Ruth Feiertag (Vice President)

In grammar school, Ruth Feiertag's father started handing her Great Works of English Literature with the admonition, "Here—read this before they ruin it for you in school." After that there was nothing for it but to major in English Literature, and Ms. Feiertag got a B.A. from the University of California Santa Cruz and eventually an M.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She meandered towards a Ph.D. but arrived in the realm of independent scholarship and NCIS instead. She finds Medieval and Renaissance literature (mostly poetry and drama) endlessly fascinating, and anyone who wants to be treated to a long monologue should ask her about bastards from the Middle Ages through the Early Modern period. At the moment, Ms. Feiertag is attempting to make a living as a freelance editor (; she is one of the NCIS members participating in the
Manuscript Review Service) to support her addiction to writing literary criticism.

Piri Halasz (Board member)

At Barnard, Piri Halasz majored in English. She next worked for Time magazine, as a researcher, then as a writer. At the end of this period, she wrote about art for Time, and became more interested in art than in Time. She left, went to graduate school, and took her PhD in art history from Columbia. Since leaving Time, she has published more than 200 articles in 13 publications ranging from The New York Times to the College Art Journal, and most recently, In addition, she publishes From the Mayor’s Doorstep, an online column/newsletter that also appears in hard copy. She has taught at Columbia, Hunter College, C. W. Post Center/Long Island University, Molloy College and Bethany College (WV). Her books: A Swinger’s Guide to London (Coward McCann, 1967; pb iUniverse, Authors Guild “back in print” program, 2010) and A Memoir of Creativity: abstract painting, politics & the media, 1956-2008 (iUniverse, 2009). The latter won a gold medal in the category of Writing/Publishing from the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and was reviewed by Ann Lee Morgan in The Independent Scholar (January 2011).

Gary Herstein (Board member)

Dr. Herstein began his career in the computer and networked PC industries, where he worked for almost 25 years. During this time he completed an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies at DePaul University, writing his thesis on the group-theoretic structures underlying the concept of identity. Dr. Herstein completed his Ph.D at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, writing his dissertation on Whitehead's criticisms of the logical presuppositions of Einstein's general theory of relativity. He has taught full-time at Merrimack and Muskingum colleges and part time at Harper college, where the courses presented included Ethics, Logic, Critical Thinking, American Philosophy and Philosophy of Science. He is currently an independent scholar working on various projects relating to the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, the logical forms and presuppostions of measurement, and the connections between spatial reasoning and metaphysics. His publications include Whitehead and the Measurement Problem of Cosmology, through ontos-verlag (May 2006), "Alfred North Whitehead" (The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and “Davidson and the Impossibility of Psychophysical Laws” (Synthese 145 1, 2005). He presently keeps house with his three cats, who despair of him ever learning anything interesting.

Kendra Leonard (ex officio, editor of TIS)

Kendra Leonard a musicologist and the managing editor of the Journal of Music History Pedagogy. She also serves as a publishing consultant and reviewer for several academic journals and presses.

Klara Seddon (Board member)


Klara Seddon is an art historian and food studies scholar specializing in East Asian material culture and foodways.  In 2009 Klara co-founded the Institute of Cultural Research, NY, a scholarly research organization providing research services in the humanities. Klara is the ICR’s Research Director, specializing in projects relating to visual and performing arts. She received her Master’s degree from the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture in New York City, where she focused on Ming dynasty tea culture in private scholars’ retreats and public teahouses.  Her research interests are in the areas of material/visual culture, women’s studies, digital culture, and food studies in East Asia.  Klara is the author of the blog, the five o’clock teaspoon, featuring analysis of contemporary and historical foodways. Her current research on women’s media arts in Japan and Korea examines the intersections between art and craft production and women’s traditional labor roles in digital communities on the Internet. She is currently the NCIS Communications Officer and has served on the NCIS Board of Directors since 2010.

Gary Shapiro (Board member)

Kathleen Sheldon (Board member)

After I received my Ph.D. in African history from UCLA in 1988, with a dissertation on working women in Mozambique, I began a decade of adjunct, part-time, and temporary teaching positions in southern California. For personal and family reasons, I was not interested in relocating in search of a permanent position elsewhere, so I remained at UCLA, where I benefitted immensely from my research affiliation at the Center for the Study of Women. The Research Scholars program supports about thirty researchers every year, not with stipends or office space, but with library access and the opportunity to participate as part of an academic community.

I was elected to the Board of the African Studies Association (ASA) (2004-2007), and have contributed in a variety of positions for the ASA Women’s Caucus, the Western Association of Women Historians, and on the Program Committee for the 2008 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, among other service positions. I was also a founder of the Lusophone African Studies Organization, and continue as chair as well as editing our listserv, h-luso-africa. I was an appointed member of the Santa Monica Commission on the Status of Women for ten years, and currently I serve on the board of the Santa Monica Public Library.

My books include Pounders of Grain: A History of Women, Work, and Politics in Mozambique (2002) and the Historical Dictionary of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa (2005) which was re-released in paperback with the title The A to Z of Women in Sub-Saharan Africa (2010). My recent publications include “Creating an Archive of Working Women’s Oral Histories in Beira, Mozambique” in Contesting Archives: Finding Women in the Sources (2010), and “Cape Verdean and Mozambican Women’s Literature: Liberating the National and Seizing the Intimate,” with Isabel Fêo P. B. Rodrigues, in African Studies Review 53, 3 (2010): 77-99. I was also an associate editor for the New Encyclopedia of Africa (2007), and editor for women’s entries for the six-volume Dictionary of African Biography (Oxford University Press, 2011). I am currently on the editorial board for the African Studies section of Oxford Bibliographies, which will be available online in 2012.

David Sonenschein (Treasurer)

Early Member of NCIS in 1989, former NCIS Board Secretary, longtime Book Review Editor of TIS and adjunct member of the board. Academically trained and with field experience in anthropology, sociology, and psychology, Sonenschein fled the academia and has been writing and publishing as an Independent Scholar since 1973. He has been a Member of NCIS for over 25 years and has served in various capacities. His areas of research are human sexualities and American popular culture.

Janet Wasserman (Secretary)

JANET I. WASSERMAN is the founder and executive director of the Schubert Society of the USA (2003) and has been a member since 1999 of the Schubert Institute-United Kingdom (SIUK). She is a published independent scholar in the fields of music history (with an emphasis on Franz Schubert), music iconography, art history, and biography. She is a graduate of City College of City University of New York (CUNY) with BA and MA degrees in Modern History; she reached candidacy for a Ph.D. in Modern German History (ABD) at the CUNY Graduate Center; and has a J.D. degree from CUNY Law School. She has over forty years of administrative and executive experience in the nonprofit sector, government and academia. She has been a member since 2001 of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars and was elected Vice President for 2005-2006, then served as interim President until she was elected President in 2008, serving one term. She was appointed Secretary in 2013 to fill the unexpired term of the former Secretary. Her publications are available at the NCIS website member pages where they are cited in full in her CV and at her personal site “An Independent Scholar’s Voice” (

Mary Zimmer (Board member)

Mary Zimmer is a unique blend of academic scholar, high-level university administrator, and accomplished entrepreneurial leader.  She has published and taught in her fields of 17th century British poetry and prose, medieval thought and literature, and early modern science.  She has held executive administrative positions at Rice University, where she received her PhD.  In 2007, after almost twenty years in academia, she took the helm of a family business with a nearly four decade history.  In her time there, she has doubled the size of the business and diversified its operations into different markets.  She has brought her experience and skills to NCIS, and is working with Klara Sedon on a variety of projects.