Mellon Grant funds tenure positions

Rose Woodbury

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Illustration: Jung Song

Last June, Whitman was awarded a $644,000 grant from the Andrew J. Mellon Foundation which will allow eight faculty positions to be converted to tenure-track positions over a four-year period.  This grant can be used for the social sciences and the humanities, so none of the faculty positions being converted to tenure-track will come from the physical sciences.

Provost and Dean of Faculty Timothy Kaufman-Osborn explained how these tenure-track positions have been and will continue to be chosen.

“The Committee of Division Chairs. . . selected the first four of eight positions to be converted [in politics, studio art, psychology, and art history and visual culture studies], and another four will be selected and presented for approval by the Board of Trustees next February,” he said via email.

President Bridges said in an email that Whitman previously used money from the Mellon Foundation to create the Global Studies Initiative, which  provides faculty seminars and workshops about reading cross-disciplinary and global texts.

In the grant proposal, Whitman explained why it values tenure-track faculty.

“Full-time tenure-track faculty members exemplify the liberal arts model of the teacher-scholar…. [T]hey have a permanent stake in the welfare of the college; serve as mentors and provide continuity to students as they progress toward graduation; and often develop ongoing research collaborations that are critical to students in the graduate school admissions process. While contingent faculty are often wonderful teachers who contribute in important ways to Whitman’s academic program, most are not required to do so in many of the ways expected of tenure-track faculty,” said the proposal.

Senior Katie DeCramer said that she would prefer to have more tenure-track positions in the politics department because  politics courses are in high demand and tenure-track positions encourage teaching excellence.

“Teaching excellence means more opportunities for student learning,” she said.

Junior psychology major Vy Cao-Nguyen said she is excited to have more tenure-track positions in the psychology department. She would like to see faculty members remain on staff longer as tenured faculty members.

“I was really sad when my old adviser, Professor Wiese, left because she had a better offer elsewhere,” she said.

Though Cao-Nguyen specified that Weise may have left for a variety of reasons other than her desire to obtain tenure, professors who aren’t tenure-track are more likely to leave than those who are.

Bridges added that having more faculty in tenure-track positions helps provide better advising to students.

“More tenure-track positions helps the college provide greater continuity in the advising of our students and in ensuring long term commitment by faculty to the mission of the institution. I must stress that this initiative should in no way be interpreted as criticism of our current visiting faculty: most are exceptional teachers and scholars. However, most also are searching for permanent positions at other institutions while they are here and are, therefore, distracted from their commitment to our students and their learning,” he said.

Associate Professor of History Brian Dott said that despite the excellent contributions made by many contingent and adjunct faculty members to the quality of education at the college, tenure-track faculty are more invested in the long-term decisions of the college.

“Tenure-track and tenured faculty serve on important committees which make decisions about the future directions for the college,” he said in an email.

Dott explained how the Mellon Grant has influenced positions in the social sciences.

“In the social sciences this year we are searching for two new positions which will be partially funded through the Mellon Grant over the next few years. The politics department is searching for a new faculty member with expertise in Asian politics.   The faculty member in this position will add regional specialization which is not currently represented in the existing tenure-track positions in politics,” he said. “The psychology department is searching for a new faculty member with expertise in social and developmental psychology of adolescence, again an area which not currently represented in areas of expertise of existing tenure-track faculty.”

Kaufman-Osborn feels that the grant will be hugely beneficial for the college.

“In sum, this grant should enable us to enhance the quality of the education we provide to Whitman students; and that, in the last analysis, is what this institution is all about,” he said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email