College welcomes 23 new professors
By Sasha Dudding, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, September 12, 2012
This year, 23 new professors will join the Dartmouth faculty in 17 different departments, according to Janet Terp, chief of staff for the Administration and Advancement for Arts and Sciences. These newest additions hail from locations as far away as Singapore and Kazakhstan and will teach a range of courses, including “The History of Paper (and the Stories Written on It)” and “Political Mythbusters.”
While some new professors have already started to teach their first Dartmouth courses, others said they plan to spend the term developing curricula and setting up research labs.
Petra McGillen, an addition to the German department, said her first introductory German language class on Monday was very “high octane.”
“The room was buzzing because within the first five minutes of class we spoke a lot of German,” she said. “Most were first-year students, so they were just as new as I was.”
McGillen said she plans to teach new courses about media history and the 19th century in future terms. Raised in Hanover, Germany, she also noted that it is “really nice to be in Hanover again.”
David Plunkett, the third professor added to the philosophy department in the past three years, began his course on ethical philosophy this week and said he has begun asking other professors to visit his courses and plans to become involved with the College’s Ethics Institute.
New professors provide new energy and enthusiasm to the department, according to philosophy department chair Susan Brison, who said Plunket has been particularly “enterprising” in developing ways to attract visitors to campus.
Incoming faculty across all departments recently attended an orientation session hosted by the Dartmouth Center for Advancement and Learning, a group designed to support professional development across the College. The orientation provided professors an opportunity to meet one another and learn about the College’s resources and unique features like the Dartmouth Plan.
“I think it’s helpful that they actually have all those programs to make me aware of things I hadn’t heard about,” biology professor Olga Zhaxybayeva said. “There’s a lot of support here.”
While not all professors were able to attend the session, those who missed it have received support within their departments. In addition, another orientation session is scheduled for Sept. 19, to be followed by a reception hosted by Interim College President Carol Folt.
“We don’t do a training session, but what we do is engage new people as peers and colleagues, so there is that introduction to the philosophy department,” Brison said.
New faculty like Yusaku Horiuchi, the government department’s Mitsui Chair in the Study of Japan, have developed nuanced courses to introduce Dartmouth students to their own ideas and preferred areas of research. Horiuchu, who previously taught at universities in Singapore and Australia but has never taught undergraduate or American students, will teach “Political Mythbusters” later this academic year.
“I understand that American students tend to be more active in class,” Horiuchi said. “In a sense, I am a bit nervous but I am also very excited.”
A number of professors interviewed praised the quality of the student body and the College’s focus on undergraduates, expressing a desire to mentor undergraduates through both research opportunities and regular courses. New sociology professor Janice McCabe said she feels that the College values and provides resources for both research and teaching.
McCabe will teach courses on youth and gender this year and plans to add a course about research methods in the future. Although she said she appreciates the lower levels of bureaucracy at the College when compared to large state universities, McCabe said she is concerned about the fast pace of the 10-week term.
While many of McCabe’s new colleagues share the same concerns, new professor and chair of the religion department Randall Balmer said he feels more confident because he has already taught Dartmouth courses as a visiting professor five times. Balmer is a prize-winning historian and Emmy Award nominee and is currently teaching a course called “Religion, Politics and the Presidency.”
“I guess the department liked me and wanted to keep me around a bit,” Balmer said. “I’m coming here after 27 years at Columbia [University].”
Psychology and brain sciences professor Jon Freeman, who is currently setting up a research laboratory to study how people perceive each other, said he intends to wait before beginning to teach courses.
Lab manager Zachary Ingbretsen ’11 said that students have not expressed resistance to working for a new professor.
“It’s been a pretty different experience working for a new professor because we’re trying to shape everything now,” Ingbretsen said. “People have been very enthusiastic about it.”
New professors said they have noticed the enthusiasm of the environment and eagerness to promote community among those at Dartmouth. Environmental studies and Native American studies professor Nicholas Reo said he has interacted with a diverse group of new faculty members and has already received invitations to join a professors’ social group, featuring happy hours and canoeing outings.
“I’m starting to see that I’m not the only new person this year — obviously it’s a big place,” Reo said. “I’m in the honeymoon phase, so I like everything.”
Ingbretsen is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.