By Lili Martinez
Once again, Kenyon is hiring. A number of programs are looking to bring on new faculty members or fill positions that will be vacant next year. Two departments, biology and modern languages and literature, have both hired new professors this term, while the English, economics, and psychology departments are all filling positions vacated by professors who are retiring or otherwise planning to leave the College.
Modern Languages and Literatures: Arabic
Three years ago, the modern languages and literatures department had one part-time Arabic professor. Now, following the establishment of the Islamic Civilizations and Cultures concentration, the department is hiring for a tenure-track position.
Arabic’s success at Kenyon is part of a national trend towards critical languages.
“Over the last few years, a lot of departments, not just Kenyon, are committing to a tenure-track or to tenure-track positions to someone specializing in Arabic,” said Jennifer Nichols, the College’s first Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow in Arabic, who is applying for the open position. “At this point, people are starting to see the Arabic language as something to study like Spanish, or French, or German, where there is this very long literary history, and cultural and historical traditions.”
The Biology department recently hired Christopher Bickford, who will begin teaching at the College in the fall of 2012. Bickford was drawn to Kenyon because “Kenyon has an outstanding student population … and obviously Kenyon is really tight knit and that is really attractive,” he said. “The high level research collaborations I saw between faculty and students in the Biology department [are] really very impressive.”
The psychology, English and economics departments are all hiring to replace faculty members who have retired. The psychology department underwent an external review, after which faculty from other institutions recommended it hire a biological psychologist to replace retiring professor Linda Smolak, a developmental psychologist. Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair of the department Andrew J. Niemec said his goal is to restore the department to its stature three years ago before Smolak retired. This way, it will be able to offer a comparative class load and better utilize its resources.
The English department is hiring to replace a retiring professor and to fill a visiting professor position, according to Jesse Matz, chair of the English department and professor of English. The search process is going well so far, with three candidates visiting campus for further evaluation. “All of the candidates are accomplished, dynamic young teacher-scholars,” Matz said.
The visiting professor position, occupied in the fall by Professor of Creative Writing Lewis Hyde, is usually a one-semester position, but this spring the department decided to look toward the longer term, Matz said.
The economics department is looking to fill two of their eight positions after Professor Cara McDaniel’s retirement last year and in anticipation of Professor of Economics James Keeler’s departure next year. “Searches are time-consuming and expensive, so we thought we’d do two searches at once,” Associate Professor of Economics Jaret Treber said. Last semester, 309 candidates submitted applications, and Treber and Professor of Economics William Melick interviewed the top 27 candidates in January.
The top four candidates recently visited campus to give presentations and teach sample classes. Associate Professor of Economics and Department Chair Jay Corrigan said of the Department’s ideal candidate: “Most important is evidence of excellence in the classroom. We’re also looking for someone who can add breadth to our course offerings and who can help teach the courses that absolutely must be offered each year. Finally, we’re looking for someone who has done, and can continue to do, interesting research.”