New faculty, familiar faces

by Peter Kaspari & Tara MaurerStaff Writers

This fall Simpson College welcomed nine new faculty to the campus working in a variety of different departments.

Compared to previous years, the number of hires decreased slightly for the 2009-2010 academic school year.

“This year, the number of full-time, tenure track faculty were fewer than last year,” Steve Griffith, senior vice president and academic dean, said. “Those positions are generally replacements for faculty who retire, and we didn’t have as many retirements last year as we’ve had in the past.”

Although the number of new faculty has decreased from last year, Griffith said that Simpson was one of the few colleges to actually conduct a faculty search this past year.

“Because of the budget crisis on most campuses, a lot of (schools) didn’t do searches and stopped hiring faculty,” Griffith said. “But we went ahead with our searches, and we were one of the only institutions to continue our faculty searches.”

Of Simpson’s nine new faculty, only three of them are new to Simpson: Maeve Callan, assistant professor of religion; Parul Mathur, assistant professor of economics; and Judy Walden, assistant professor of history.

All three of Simpson’s brand new faculty are tenure-track employees. According to Griffith, this means that they are full-time faculty who will presumably receive tenure in six years.

“Once you’re tenured, it’s guaranteed a due process in terms of termination,” Griffith said. “The reason for that is because it’s so important that faculty have confidence that they can say the truth, whatever they feel is the truth, without getting fired capriciously.”

All three come to Simpson from different backgrounds and for various reasons.

Callan decided to join Simpson’s faculty for multiple reasons, which included a desire to teach at a small liberal arts college. Her previous experience included working at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

“I’m impressed by the high regard the faculty has for students,” Callan said.

Similarly, Walden expressed that she was excited about the atmosphere at Simpson, mentioning the appeal of enthusiastic students and a dynamic faculty. Originally from the Midwest, Walden had a desire to return home after teaching at the University of the Ozarks in Arkansas.

“Students aren’t afraid to ask the big questions,” Walden said. “They are interested in learning.”

Mathur comes to Indianola from Houston, where she completed her doctorate this past summer. Originally from India, Mathur previously taught graduate courses while completing her doctorate.

“I did teach economics at Houston, but I taught bigger classes,” she said. “Simpson is a good size because you get to know students better.”

Mathur said the year is going by rapidly, but she’s enjoying it.

“It’s very fast, and I haven’t had much time to settle down,” Mathur said. “But it’s good because I’m teaching every day and interacting with students.”

Two of the new members were previously hired at Simpson in non-tenure-track positions. Lisa Carponelli-Lovell, assistant professor of communication studies and Gabrielle Rose-Curti, assistant professor of art, were hired for one-year faculty positions last year. Now they have both been placed on the tenure track.

Three faculty members have been hired on term contract: Cara Chowning, visiting instructor of music; Marzia Corni-Benson, visiting instructor of Spanish and acting director of international education; and Mike Prindle, visiting assistant professor of accounting.

The final member of Simpson’s group of new faculty is no stranger to Simpson. Carole Richardson, assistant professor of education, had previously been employed at Simpson in a tenured position until 2007.

“I underwent some personal changes in my life,” Richardson said. “But I decided it (leaving Simpson) wasn’t worth it.”

Richardson, who served as chair of the education department during her last four years at Simpson, said she’s noticed many positive changes since her return.

“There’s been some opportunities to revisit policies,” she said. “The curriculum is being re-evaluated, and the number of faculty since I’ve been here has grown.”

For new faculty, there are many opportunities to develop Simpson’s curriculum.

Callan is looking forward to developing new courses at Simpson.

“I hope to help students look at something seen a million times before in a new way,” Callan said.

Walden shared similar thoughts.

“I’m looking forward to being challenged by the students,” Walden said. “They’re going to push me to become a better teacher.”

Griffith said he is excited about the new group of faculty. He hopes they will not only teach but also carry on Simpson’s tradition of high academic standards.

“We got a good group of faculty members, and we’re really excited to have them on campus,” Griffith said. “They each bring something unique to the institution. We’re always sad to see faculty members retire, but it’s a chance for us to bring in someone new and maybe take us in a new direction and build a legacy on the person who has retired.”