Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire


New Faculty Beat the Odds

Whitman College welcomed nine new tenure-track professors to campus this September after a long application process that chose each professor out of a pool of hundreds of applicants. The new faculty will teach subjects in every academic division, ranging from dance and rhetoric studies to geology and politics.

Alissa Corner
Photo by Allie Felt

These new tenure-track professors will teach classes, carry out research and work with their departments to further strengthen the courses and programs offered by the college. While all of these activities are important and will be considered during their eventual evaluation for tenure, Whitman emphasizes the importance of teaching and working with students.

“Compared to other colleges and universities, it was clear from the beginning of the application process that Whitman College placed a very high value on teaching,” said Assistant Professor Jack Jackson, who was hired this summer to join the politics department.

New positions are first advertised through postings with professional academic organizations. The applications include information similar to that submitted by students applying to the college, and include evaluations of writing and research alongside academic records and letters of recommendation.

From hundreds of paper applications, the college chooses roughly 10 people to interview at the academic organization’s annual conference. Positions at colleges, especially those which may eventually lead to tenure, are coveted, and those offered interviews travel across the country to pursue them.

“With the [small] number of positions available, on a certain level, no matter what you do there’s an element of chance and it’s a numbers game. There are a lot of people who are highly qualified,” said Assistant Professor Sarah Davies, who was hired this summer to join the history department.

Interviews at the annual conference are meant to evaluate both the content of candidates’ research and their teaching abilities, and are typically carried out by a tenured professor from the department for which they are to be hired. Out of roughly 10 candidates interviewed at a conference, three are invited to campus.

“The job market is not a happy place, but the process of applying for a job at Whitman was pleasant … Even the campus visit, which is essentially a 48-hour-long job interview, was really enjoyable, and that was a unique experience,” said Assistant Professor Emily Jones, who was hired to join both the German department and work with the environmental humanities program.

Emily Jones
Photo by Allie Felt

The campus visit gives professors, administrators and students a chance to meet the candidates, and includes a presentation and teaching demonstration. For the candidate, the visit offers the opportunity to see the town which could be their home for years to come, and to get a sense of the campus’s atmosphere.

“I felt like I had a good sense of what the Whitman environment was like; coming from my undergraduate liberal arts experience, Whitman felt very familiar to me,” said Assistant Professor Alissa Cordner, who joins the sociology department this year.

Whitman’s new tenure-track professors have gone through a long, competitive process to be hired, but their journey is far from over. In three years, their contracts will be up for renewal, and should they stay for six years, they will be evaluated for tenure.

“In the four years since I became provost and dean of the faculty on a non-interim basis, we have hired 29 new tenure-track faculty. It is an extraordinarily talented group, and it has been my privilege to play a part in bringing them to Whitman College,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Tim Kaufman-Osborn in an email.

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