College begins numerous faculty member searches

by Emily SchettlerStaff Writer

The search is on across campus for new faculty members for the next school year, with six different departments looking to hire eight professors.

Two of the positions are part of Academic Dean Steven Griffith’s plan to add 10 new teaching positions over the next five years to help with the student to faculty ratio. The student body at Simpson has grown 14 percent over the past five years, while the faculty has grown only 6 percent.

Griffith hopes the new teaching positions will help keep class sizes small and to help prepare for enrollment increases in the future.

“Catching up and planning for the students is a tricky thing, but we are committed to the long term growth of our faculty,” Griffith said.

Departments currently searching for new professors are Psychology, Chemistry and Physics, Biology, English, Communication Studies and History.

“We have wanted to add another faculty member for awhile,” said Professor of Psychology Carl Halgren. “We had a proposal written up already last year.”

The department hopes to hire someone with a cognitive psychology background to help teach introductory courses as well as more advanced classes. On-campus interviews for the position begin next month.

The other addition that’s part of Griffith’s new plan will come to the Physics Department. Currently there is only one full-time physics professor. The rest of the department’s classes fall on the shoulders of chemistry and environmental science staff.

“Adding another physics professor will free up Dr. (Werner) Kolln, professor of chemistry and physics, and Dr. (Steve) Emerman, associate professor of geology, (who are currently teaching physics courses) to teach classes in their areas of expertise,” Physics Professor David Olsgaard said. “It will also allow us to increase our research possibilities.”

Senior physics major Joe Edgington agrees that adding another physics professor is important for all students looking to do research and go to graduate school.

“The Physics Department is in definite need,” Edgington said. “Right now Dr. Olsgaard is not able to do research and outreach.”

The History Department is looking to begin on-campus interviews over the next two weeks for two openings in the program. Professor of History Owen Duncan will be retiring at the end of the year, leaving an opening in the early and modern European area of the program.

In addition, the department is working toward hiring a professor to teach western civilization, in hopes of relieving part-time professors from those courses.

Two other departments looking to replace professors are the Communication Studies and English Departments. Todd Lieber, English professor and department chair, is planning to retire in 2009. The department is hiring a replacement for now, and Lieber will remain with the department part-time.

Currently, many of the department’s entry-level courses are taught by adjunct professors. Lieber plans to teach some of those courses next year and act as a mentor to whoever takes over his position.

The Communications Studies Department conducted on-campus interviews during January for a corporate communications position. The position is left vacant by Susanne Gubanc, assistant professor of communication studies, who is leaving at the end of the semester.

Candidates have been busy meeting with faculty and administration, presenting a class and talking with students.

“It is as much a chance for them to learn about us as us to learn about them,” said Mimi Bartley, director of human services.

In addition to six full-time positions, the science departments are looking for biology and chemistry professors to serve one-year and one-semester terms respectively, while faculty members take sabbaticals.

This year the number of sabbatical positions was increased from four to eight faculty members, and the administration is hoping to create a regularized sabbatical program so teachers can do research on a regular basis.

Griffith says the positions are generally harder to fill because they are only for a short period of time.

If all goes as planned, the positions will be filled in the next two to three months. According to Griffith, this is the peak hiring season.

“We have had a range from 20-150 applicants for each position,” he said.

The talk of expansion raises some questions for the administration. In recent years, the enrollment has been at near-record numbers. Last fall saw 412 incoming freshman, one short of the record, and people are starting to ask how big is too big?

Griffith thinks a small college doesn’t depend on small numbers, but on experience.

“We need to keep asking ourselves, ‘What do we want the Simpson experience to be about?'” Griffith said. “As long as we have the facilities, the faculty and the support staff then it works. Is there a magic number? No.”

Sophomore political science major Josie Rundlett agrees.

“Right now we are at a really good size,” Rundlett said. “It is good that they are seriously looking at the changes we need to make. More faculty will help with that. As long as we can keep the Simpson experience what it is, I don’t think it matters how many people we give it to.”