Dean of Faculty Discusses New Hires
Issue   |   Wed, 09/21/2011 - 03:07

This past spring, the College hired 28 new faculty members, a third of whom are on the track to tenure. This number may seem high, and indeed it is. Due to the arrival of phased retirement for numerous beloved professors, the constantly-shifting needs and interests of every Amherst department, and the growing number of students, the College is currently in a hiring boom — a trend that, according to Dean Call, will not be ending any time soon.

The Committee on Education Policy (CEP) is the group responsible for new hires. Amongst select others, five faculty members, three students and Dean of Faculty Gregory Call sit on the committee. If a department desires a new faculty member for the next academic year, the department submits a request to the CEP in March, the search is approved by December and, if all goes according to plan, faculty members are hired in the following spring for the next academic year. If a professor was hired to begin teaching in the fall of 2011, the hiring process would have begun in March of 2010.

According to Dean Call, the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and English have undergone the most dramatic overturns in the composition of the faculty.

In the request to admit a new faculty member, the department must specify how a new faculty member would impact the department by answering the following questions: how will another member enhance the studies of the students? Will a new hire change the curriculum or cater to student interests by offering thesis mentorship or more student research opportunities?

The CEP also relies on another document in this process: every decade, all departments undergo a mandatory external review by other scholars in that particular field. The external feedback is also weighed in defining what type of faculty to hire. Approximately five to 12 searches are conducted each year. The College relies on alumni and professional committees to bring attention to particular candidates, but is continually looking for new ways to bring the best and brightest in the world to Amherst.

Dean Call and other administrators just recently returned from a conference at Columbia Univ., where academics from across the nation brainstormed how to diversify search pools for professors.

Of all of the new faculty hires, one new addition to the Amherst staff has received the most attention: College President Biddy Martin. The presidential search committee consisted of five trustees (including Chairman of the Board Jide Zeitlin ’85), three faculty members, two students, at least two alumni and two staff and administrators. Particularly noteworthy was the fact that higher members of the administration, including Acting Head Dean Call and the College’s previous president, Tony Marx, were not included in the hiring process.

Why? According to Dean Call, “higher administration members were not included in the process because, in part, [they] would be working with him or her.”

“In my opinion, the process should be independent from us,” he continued.

The College demands professors who are willing to challenge not only their students but also themselves. Prakarsh Singh, a new Economics professor, believes that the College “teaches the very best in the world and has the freedom to work on frontiers in economics such as child health and conflict.”

For new hire Jacob Cooper ’02, teaching music at the College allows him to be a full time professor, compose music and work toward completing his doctoral program in music at Yale Univ. Additionally, Cooper is curious to see how Amherst has changed since his days of attending the hit Madonna TAPs.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Bridgette Libby remarked that after her first day of teaching, she was happily surprised to discover that she was “pitching the class too low due to the high preparation of the students.”

When asked if the new faculty hires share some common quality, Dean Call said that all new the new members of faculty “not only have a great passion for what they do, but must be extremely excited about teaching and working closely with the students.”