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Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Outgoing professors explore personal projects and changing college dynamics

Whitman students will notice eight missing faces in the faculty when they come back in the fall. Two professors will leave Whitman to pursue projects and teach elsewhere. Six more faculty members will be going on salary continuation plan (SCP), which means they will retain their status as Whitman faculty but will no longer instruct unless they return to teach Encounters.

Assistant Professor of English Nadine Knight is one of the tenure track faculty who will leave Whitman for new teaching and research opportunities at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. Knight has taught American and African American literature at Whitman for four years. When her contract came up for renewal this year she, like many professors, used the opportunity to satisfy her curiosity by entering the job market.

“I applied really just as an experiment, and then ended up with this fantastic offer that I couldn’t turn down,” said Knight. “It’s the kind of year where you can make a move and see what’s out there and see what happens.”

What makes Holy Cross so enticing for Professor Knight is its location. Her research primarily relates to the Civil War, including a book about Sherman’s March to the Sea. Massachusetts will provide her access to that state’s Civil War archives as well as proximity to the sites themselves; Knight will no longer spend breaks traveling between Walla Walla and South Carolina. Additionally, since this year marks the sesquicentennial, or 150-year anniversary of the Civil War, Knight will be closer to all the corresponding conferences and academia.

“I’m looking forward to 2014, which will be the 150th anniversary of Sherman’s March to the Sea,” said Knight. “That’s when I hope my book will come out, and I’m focusing everything on that.”

Assistant Professor of Theatre Cynthia Croot is also moving east to continue her projects. After four years of teaching and directing theatre, as well as introducing several original projects to the Harper Joy stage, Croot will be joining the theater department of the University of Pittsburgh. Besides offering the chance to teach graduate as well as undergraduate classes, Croot will be closer to collaborations that she has already developed.

“I’m continuing my work with the theatre company Connie’s Avant Garde Restaurant – we’ll have a run in New York City in the early fall, and at the Cleveland Public Theatre in December,” said Croot.

Easy access to international airports will help her developing projects as well.

“I’m developing an opera based on the short story ‘The Suit’ by Can Themba. It’s a sort of requiem for Sophiatown — before apartheid in South Africa,” said Croot. “Right now, it looks like I’ll be working on it in Durban and Cape Town next year.”

Although Croot’s decision to leave is based in primarily in the difficult location of the college, she noted a few uncomfortable trends beginning at Whitman and other colleges.

“I think the college is under some stress — faculty and staff have had salaries frozen for a while now, [and] there is talk of decreasing health care and education benefits among employees,” said Croot. “There are a number of really savvy articles out right now that talk about the increasingly corporate trend at colleges.”

Associate Professor of Education Kay Fenimore-Smith, who will retire this year, also pointed to some tough decisions of the college. Fenimore-Smith is the only education professor, and with her retirement the college will be discontinuing the education department.

“I must say I’m disheartened by the fact that the college deemed it is not important, when you consider the number of students that have come away from Whitman, either with a teaching certificate … or who have graduated from here, gone into graduate programs and become teachers,” said Fenimore-Smith.

Despite this, Professor Fenimore-Smith is leaving Whitman with good memories and good friends.

“It’s been a fabulous place to work; I’ve had wonderful colleagues who’ve become dear friends,” said Fenimore. “I’ve really enjoyed teaching the students … I have no regrets, at all, and I’m looking forward to kind of moving on, but it’s been a good ride.”

Professors Croot and Knight expressed similar positive experiences with the members of the Whitman community.

“It’s been a great experience for all the different classes I’ve taught … I’ve gotten to know a lot of students,” said Knight. “In this semester especially it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to a lot of students that I’ve had, and the students that I’ve had for more than one class.”

The other faculty members that are going on SCP include Associate Dean of Faculty Tom Callister, Professor of Music David Glenn, Professor of Theatre Tom Hines, Professor of Music Lee Thompson, and Professor of Rhetoric and Film Studies Robert Withycombe.

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