Five faculty members granted tenure

by Grant Rodgers

The Simpson College Board of Trustees granted tenure to five professors at its Feb. 5 meeting.

The board granted requests from Janet Everhart, assistant professor of religion; Dave Camwell, assistant professor of music; Tim McMillin, assistant professor of music; Deb Czarneski, assistant professor of mathematics and Tracy Dinesen, assistant professor of Spanish.

According to Vice President and Academic Dean Steve Griffith, Simpson’s six-year tenure track includes annual reviews and a final review based on four criteria: teaching, professional development, advising and service to the college.

For professors, this probationary period provides the opportunity to evaluate their teaching and improve.

“I think it’s always helpful to think about your own work,” Everhart said. “Ideally, we ought to be doing the same thing we ask our students to do, which is continually self-assess.”

Czarneski says that through her evaluation process, she became a noticeably better teacher.

“It’s a very helpful process because it makes me sit down and think, ‘What have I done over the last year, how have I contributed to Simpson College and what are my goals for the future,'” Czarneski said. “I can definitely see a transformation (in myself) in terms of my teaching and how active I am on campus.”

While the tenure track process and evaluation criteria remain relatively universal across all colleges, Simpson incorporates advising, a criteria, according to Griffiths, that sets Simpson apart.

“We have advising as a criteria because people here feel that the student-teacher relationship is so important that it’s worthy of having its own criteria,” Griffith said.

Both Everhart and Czarneski agree that having a relationship and passion for students ranks high on the list of essential characteristics of a quality professor.

“Advising to me is not only about working with official advisees but about mentoring students as they think about future plans, writing letters of recommendation, helping students to find internships or post-graduation jobs and going with students to professional conferences,” Everhart said.

Czarneski found she connects to students and benefited the Simpson community through encouraging student research. When she first arrived on campus, she found no students engaged in research, but through presentations and summer programs, the interest is taking hold.

“I’ve worked very hard to bring undergraduate research to a point where students not only want, but expect to do it,” Czarneski said.

Also setting the college apart from a more traditional approach, Simpson breaks away from specifically requiring scholarly research.

“I was part of a program called Project NExT which is a group of people who are early-career math professors,” Czarneski said. “I was very active in this organizations, just trying to educate myself on how to become a better math teacher.”

At the last stages of the tenure process, the academic dean, college president and the board of trustees have the final say over which professors will obtain tenure, Griffith stresses the important role students play in the process through the class evaluations filled out at the end of each semester.

“Those reviews are read, during the probationary period, by at least three faculty members,” Griffith said. “They are a key part of the tenure and promotion process.”

“I’m very excited to hear that this vote passed,” Indianola Mayor Kenan Bresnan said. “Furthermore, I was informed that it passed with a 76 percent majority, which just shows that there’s a whole lot of people at Simpson and in Indianola that are ready to move ahead with this project and work on the town. The numbers speak for themselves, there was a high percentage and I’m very excited that it passed.”