The Colgate Scene
Perpetuating the life of the mind
Endowed chairs foster faculty excellence
|By Jennifer J. Salopek|
Susan Cerasano, Edgar W.B. Fairchild Professor of Literature [Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]
Human curiosity -- about our origins, our history, our future, our world -- is limitless. Academic research is the formal pursuit of answers to questions that engage, perplex, torment. Supported by funds from endowed university chairs, faculty members are empowered to undertake these quests. They sweep their students along in their enthusiasm for uncovering the truth and, in so doing, perpetuate the very mission of a liberal arts institution like Colgate: to celebrate and elevate the life of the mind.
Five centuries of distinction
All three of these distinguished chairs are still endowed today. That we even know about them demonstrates the high esteem in which endowed chairs are held and their unique function in sustaining scholarship in a particular area over a period of decades, if not centuries. While performing their historical function, chairs also help colleges and universities address the future.
"Endowed chairs in higher education continue the traditions begun long ago," wrote researcher Terry Burton, author of the National Survey on Endowed Chairs, published in June. "Through them, financial support touches the lives of people in courses of study not even dreamed of twenty years ago."
An inestimable honor
The details of each endowed chair appointment are unique; all, however, bring prestige, additional resources, and recognition in one's field, both at Colgate and within the larger academic community. Most chairs include a research stipend that appointees use to underwrite ongoing research or fuel a new direction. From yeast cultures to Caribbean culture, faculty research at Colgate is extensive and varied.
Being appointed to a chair is a unique honor, said Susan Cerasano, Edgar W.B. Fairchild Professor of literature since 2003. "There is a great sense of the university's history bound up in the awarding of distinguished chairs, and it's an honor to have been awarded the Fairchild chair, which has been a fixture on campus for nearly thirty years," she explained. "Chairs carry a tradition. They come to possess a kind of genealogy, and one feels as if one is almost related to those who have held the same chair in the past."
Cerasano has been a member of the English department at Colgate since 1981. Currently also the director of the medieval and Renaissance studies program, she teaches courses in Shakespeare (and his contemporaries), drama, and Renaissance literature. She earned her bachelor's degree at West Chester State College and her master's and doctorate from the University of Michigan. She has published extensively on theater history and drama during the years 1500 to 1650, and serves as editor of the scholarly journal, Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England. In 2001 she was tapped to lead a seminar on the Elizabethan stage at the prestigious Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., and she has served as a consultant both to the Museum of London and the New Globe Theater in London.
This summer, Cerasano traveled to London, where she addressed the Shakespeare Institute conference about her research on the Rose Theatre -- chief rival to Shakespeare's production company from 1587 to 1600. She will return to London in October to deliver faculty seminars at the new Globe Theater and the University of London.
"The support that is offered by the Fairchild chair helps me to sustain an energetic research agenda," she said. "Because of it I can spend a bit more time in the London archives, where I conduct most of my research. It also allows me to spend more time in these other academic settings -- conferences, seminars, and so forth -- where the cutting-edge research, and discussions about that research, is taking place.
Cerasano said that the benefits afforded by the chair have an impact on her teaching as well: "I see myself in the classroom as a student, bringing knowledge and experience to younger students. My teaching is fed directly by my research."
Other chairholders may turn their focus inward. As Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Professor of liberal arts studies, history professor Jill Harsin will be involved in the revision of Core 152: The Challenge of Modernity, one of the key elements of the four-course core curriculum that is required of all students. Appointed to the chair in July, Harsin has been teaching at Colgate since 1982 and has been centrally involved in interdisciplinary teaching, particularly in women's studies and film studies, as well as Core 152, which she currently directs. During her three-year term as the Endeavor chair, Harsin will focus on the importance of a liberal arts education.
"Although we know students worry about what they will do after college, we encourage them to think beyond career preparation and to develop a broad sense of the world around them," Harsin said.
Roelofs notes that some chairs are designated for assistant or associate professors, "which helps us to recognize rising stars," he said.
Barbara Hoopes, associate professor of biology, held the G. Kirk Raab '59 Chair in Biology from 2002 to 2006. "It was very nice to be recognized [with the appointment]," she said. "It feels like a validation, and certainly gives visibility to my position within the university."
Hoopes joined the faculty in 1993. Having earned her bachelor of science at the University of Maryland and her PhD at Harvard, she held a postdoctoral fellowship through the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. Her specialties are molecular biology, genetics, and recombinant DNA technology, and she teaches courses such as Molecules, Cells, and Genes; Molecular Analysis; Advanced Genetics; Molecular Biology; and Eukaryotic Gene Expression. She has done extensive research on the control of gene expression in yeast, and has been awarded research grants by the National Science Foundation.
As G. Kirk Raab '59 Professor of Biology, Barbara Hoopes entered a new research area: behavioral genetics in dogs.
Such was the case for Hoopes. Although she had always been interested in how DNA sequences determine how genes are expressed, she was also interested in behavioral genetics. Intrigued by the behaviors of her own Labrador retrievers, Hoopes became curious about the genes that may affect behavioral differences in dogs, and about the behaviors that can be bred in dogs.
"I used my Raab chair funding to get into a new research area in the genetics of behavior using dogs and the dog genome project," she explained, noting that the financial support also enabled her to engage five student researchers since last fall. "I'm doing a sabbatical project next year at the National Institutes of Health, which was facilitated by the preliminary work funded by the Raab chair." A rotating appointment, the Raab chair next passes to Damhnait McHugh, associate professor of biology, who studies the evolution of marine invertebrates.
Harsin is changing sides in her study of revolutionary France. In her most recent book, Barricades: The War of the Streets in Revolutionary Paris, 1830-1848, she examined the men and women on the extreme left (who called themselves republicans) who engaged in violent revolution against their monarchical government. Now she is examining the role of the royalists during the revolution, particularly the noble émigrés who attempted to overthrow the revolutionary government.
In addition to French history, Harsin also teaches courses in modern European social history, the experiences of women in history, and European film history.
"I was thrilled to receive the appointment to the chair; it truly came out of the blue," she said.
Endowed chairs support such institutional initiatives as Colgate's emphasis on international programs, and particularly on comparative economics across international boundaries. This past spring, Takao Kato (who was profiled in the January Scene; see "The Humanistic Economist") was named the W.S. Schupf Professor of Far Eastern studies. In contrast to the previous chairholder, an anthropologist, Kato is an economist who studies the impact of innovative new work practices on productivity and worker outcomes. The Schupf chair will permit him to continue and extend his previous work in Japan, Korea, and China, where he conducts field-based econometric research in a variety of workplaces -- and helps solidify the university's growing connections and interest in Asia.
"Takao's comparative studies of industries in Asia, Scandinavia, and the United States are valuable not only for Colgate graduates who will participate in a thoroughly globalized economy, but also for the light they shed on the connections between culture and the world of business," said Roelofs.
"I was absolutely excited and grateful to receive the appointment," said Kato. "It is a great honor."
Brian Moore, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of History and Africana and Latin American Studies
"A great inducement"
"Competition for tenured faculty, especially in the highly concentrated area of the northeast United States, takes more money than it used to. Endowed chairs help to provide those funds, as well as a way for institutions to distinguish themselves from one another," said Burton.
"They create a high-profile way to attract star faculty," agrees Martin Snyder, director of external relations at the American Association of University Professors.
International searches are used to fill some chair appointments, and help to promote and enhance Colgate's reputation among scholars elsewhere, acknowledges Roelofs. "They can be a great inducement," he said.
Daniel Monk is one such scholar. He left SUNY-Stony Brook to assume the George R. and Myra T. Cooley Professorship in Peace and Conflict Studies in 2003. Endowed in 1970, the Cooley chair is the oldest in its field in the United States, which dates from World War I. Monk's research focuses on the history of the rationale for the Israel/Palestine conflict; that is, on the ways in which participants in and observers of this violent struggle explain its intractability to themselves. His publications include An Aesthetic Occupation: The Immediacy of Architecture and the Palestine Conflict (Duke, 2002), "Welcome to Crisis: Notes for a History of the Popular Histories of the Arab-Israeli War of June 1967" (Grey Room, 2002), and, with Mike Davis, Evil Paradises: The Dreamworlds of Neoliberalism (New Press, 2006). Monk noted that his acceptance of the Cooley Professorship engendered a kind of scholarly homecoming.
"My scholarship has become more historical in orientation. The chair appointment gave me an opportunity to have an academic basis for the direction in which my research had gone, and a framework that was a better fit," he said.
Monk, who teaches courses such as Multi-Ethnic Israel and Media War: Peace and Conflict in the Digital Age, provides leadership in a key interdisciplinary program, said Roelofs.
Brian Moore also came to Colgate in 2003, upon being offered the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Chair in History and Africana and Latin American Studies. A specialist in the areas of Caribbean history, culture, and race relations, Moore had previously served as a professor of social and cultural history at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica.
Teaching a variety of courses on the culture, politics, and history of the Caribbean, Moore brings a rich breadth of experience to Colgate, including diplomatic service as Guyana's representative to the United Nations and Great Britain, as well as a distinguished academic career. His most recent publication is Neither Led Nor Driven: Contesting British Cultural Imperialism in Jamaica 1865-1920, with Michele A. Johnson (University of the West Indies Press, 2004), and he has served on the editorial board of The Journal of Caribbean History since 1989.
Moore said a friend encouraged him to apply for the position at Colgate. It was a difficult decision: "I had to think seriously about it, because I was at an institution that I had been associated with for three decades." However, the offer of the chair, and the research that it would facilitate, made the move possible. "Colgate is largely a teaching institution, and I made it very clear that research was important [to me]. But the chair was part of that package, and it supports my research," he said.
James Renick, senior vice president for programs and research at the American Council on Education, notes that Colgate's attraction of such scholars as Monk and Moore demonstrates the purpose of endowed chairs: "American higher education is a very competitive landscape," he said. "Endowed chairs provide a level of financial support to attract superior and very senior faculty members."
Retention of faculty members can be positively affected as well. More than 4,000 U.S. colleges and universities compete for the same small pool of faculty superstars -- women and men with distinguished research and publication credentials and superior teaching skills. When an institution such as Colgate builds its scholarly profile, other schools can take note and seek to hire key people away. As one of the highest honors bestowed by an academic institution, endowed chairs provide an increased incentive for top faculty members to remain engaged at Colgate.
Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Professor of Liberal Arts Studies Jill Harsin
"Our students are able to take intellectual, ethical, and practical risks because of the close relationships forged with our faculty," said Colgate President Rebecca S. Chopp. "They are able to push the borders of knowledge in ways they might not have thought possible."
Colgate's newest endowed chair, the Sio Chair for Diversity and Community, has diversity as both characteristic and intent. John K. Runnette '54 established the chair to support the university's diversity initiative, naming it in honor of his former sociology-
anthropology professor, Arnold Sio, in recognition of the immense impact Sio had on his life.
In his Pittsburgh community during the 1950s, Runnette said, bigotry was pervasive and commonplace. It was acceptable even for children to utter racist slurs. Runnette's first Colgate class with Sio brought a revelation:
"[Sio] didn't see the color of someone's skin at all, which was so odd to me back then. It just blew me away," said Runnette. "I can't tell you how much he changed my life." Thanks to Sio's influence, Runnette reversed the way he perceived and treated people of different ethnicities.
Unlike any other chair at Colgate, the Sio chair rotates annually, providing opportunity to the maximum possible number of appointees. The position recognizes scholars who "demonstrate a sustained commitment to the principles of diversity embraced by the institution" through research, teaching, and service activities.
Faculty members Anne Ashbaugh, professor of philosophy, and Rhonda Levine, professor of sociology, were the first recipients of the honor. Levine has been following the lives of about 40 African American teenagers in a diverse, small city high school in the Northeast. Through interviews and observations at public events for a period of a little more than five years, the study traces their hopes, fears, and educational experiences.
Ashbaugh's work centers on Latin American identity and the crisis brought about by colonization. "I believe that colonization is to the Latin American experience what slavery is to the African American experience," she explained. She has taught a senior seminar on the topic for students majoring in Latin American studies.
During the 2005-2006 academic year, as the Sio chairholders, Levine and Ashbaugh provided creative and strategic leadership on the issue of diversity through community work, on-campus programming, teaching, and seminars. A faculty seminar, "Race, Ethnicity, and Identity: The Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion," allowed the chairholders and other professors to engage in collaborative research with one another. A spring campuswide symposium on racial inclusion and community included a keynote address by Manning Marable, former director of the university's African American studies program.
"The chair allowed us to explore new ideas outside of our particular disciplines that have direct relationships to our individual research," said Levine. "In the future, I think it will also add new dimensions to our classroom teaching and hopefully radiate out to influence the broader curriculum. I know my own research has been greatly enhanced by our group discussions." During the 2006-2007 academic year, the Sio chair will be held by Pete Banner-Haley, associate professor of history and Africana and Latin American studies. Banner-Haley has been a mainstay of Colgate's efforts in support of increasing diversity on campus, and his research focuses on the historical experience of African Americans in upstate New York.
Two other recent additions to Colgate's slate of endowed chairs impact essential teaching that happens outside of the classroom: the Mark S. Randall Jr. Endowed Coach for Swimming and Diving position, created by Robert A. Fox '59, and the John W. Beyer Endowed Chair for Men's Soccer, established by Barry J. Small '76. Through the coaching they receive while participating in sports, individual student-athletes learn important life skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
As well, a coach's influence on a team has the ability to impact the whole student body, said Roelofs.
"When other students see a team do well, achieve at a high level academically, and comport themselves positively off the field, that is an important exemplar of the kinds of accomplishments we expect of all students in the activities they undertake. Coaches play a large role in making that happen."
Daniel Monk, George R. and Myra T. Cooley Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies (center)
Aside from recognition, endowed chairs bring multiple, crucial benefits to Colgate: while helping to attract and retain superlative faculty and support enriched and expanded scholarship, they enhance the bottom line.
Indeed, endowed chairs are critical to Colgate's ability to fulfill its mission -- and increasing their number is critical to embracing the future. "Schools must keep adding new chairs in order to stay competitive," said researcher Burton. In the coming years, Colgate will seek funding to add a number of new endowed chairs to do just that.
There's no question that the endowments have an important effect on the institution's bottom line. "The financial angle is important," said Roelofs, who notes that 16 percent of the faculty compensation budget was covered by endowed chair income during the 2005-2006 academic year. The stable funding from endowed chairs provides budget relief for other programs and services that are essential to Colgate's educational mission.
Adding more endowed chairs will help Colgate continue to recruit and retain the best and brightest professors, who are dedicated to working side by side with bright, determined undergraduates.
Salopek is a freelance writer based in McLean, Va.
Top of page
Table of contents
|Next: Endowed professorships at Colgate >>|