By Graham Reid
Kenyon will say farewell to two faculty members this year: Professor of Asian Studies and Religious Studies Joseph Adler, who joined the faculty in 1987, and Professor of Sociology John Macionis, who arrived in 1978.
Around the same time they announced their retirement, the Board of Trustees also granted tenture to seven Kenyon professors. The newly tenured professors are Assistant Professor of Italian Simone Dubrovic, Assistant Professor of Physics Tom Giblin, Assistant Professor of History Nurten Kilic-Schubel, Assistant Professor of Spanish Travis Landry, Assistant Professor of Psychology Irene Lopez, Assistant Professor of German Leo Riegert and Assistant Professor of English Jene Schoenfeld. All seven will be trading the moniker of “Assistant Professor” for “Associate Professor” come next academic year.
Though much of Kenyon’s core educational philosophy has remained constant, the College has gone through major changes since Macionis and Adler joined the faculty. Both professors came to Kenyon during the time of the “10-mile rule,” which limited how far away from campus faculty could live. Elimination of the 10-mile rule coincided with changes within the faculty. One of the most striking examples of change was in research and academic production, which Adler described as a “distinct raising of the bar in terms of faculty research.” “We’re all now expected to be active in research,” he said.
The shift has played into the tenure process as well. Research plays a larger role than it did in the past, though teaching is still valued above all. Tenure candidates are evaluated on three criteria: teaching, scholarly work and research, and citizenship, which requires leadership in College governance, committee service, creation of programs within the College and general engagement with other departments, among other community-oriented.
Schoenfeld, along with other professors, praised Kenyon’s classroom focus. “Teaching is what I like best about the job,” she said. She also lauded the diversity of the professor’s position and tenure process at Kenyon. “One of the things I like a lot about Kenyon is that there’s a real balance [between teaching, research and citizenship],” she said.
Similarly, Landry thinks research goes well with Kenyon’s teaching focus. “When everything goes well, there’s a beautiful synergy between my research and my teaching,” he said. Landry tries not only to bring new ideas for courses from his research but also gets ideas for research projects from his classes, including his current research on the influence of Islam on the Enlightenment in Spain.
Likewise, Macionis, who has written several editions of sociology textbooks, felt that teaching during his time at Kenyon has “really inform[ed]” his writing. Similarly, writing textbooks has helped Macionis as a teacher. “That kept me connected to the classroom,” he said.
Giblin, who has done research with students every semester and summer since he began at Kenyon, thinks the experience is a valuable part of a physics education. “I think having research experiences in science is really important to understanding how science is done,” he said.
While the professors felt the Kenyon tenure process was fair on the whole, Riegert worried that the amount of work Professors should dedicate to citizenship – an aspect of being a professor that mandates their involvement in the College — is “a little bit unclear.” Though Riegert thought the emphasis on quality teaching was lucid, he thought it was not obvious how much the College expects in terms of committee service or other participation. Riegert enjoys his primary service commitment, advising Fulbright applicants, but also called it “time-consuming.”
Despite this discrepancy, Schoenfeld, who focused on issues of racial and gender diversity to fulfill her requirement of citizenship options. “One can absolutely follow one’s interests,” she said.
Similarly, Dubrovic felt that the citizenship component allowed him to connect with faculty in other departments. “To get to know your colleagues can be difficult,” he said.
Lopez felt that, while the work she has done in all three categories has been demanding, it’s all been relevant to her interests. “My teaching, my research and my service — they all dovetail,” she said. “They’re all about social justice and minority issues with first-gen[eration] students.”
Professors — those leaving the College and those newly gaining tenure — felt a sense of gratitude towardshelpful colleagues and the community at large. “It is also, I think, a privilege to be able to continue to serve Kenyon, where you have really bright, engaging students,” Kilic-Schubel said.