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October 18, 2013
Vol. 55 No. 6

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Professors provide insight on changes at SU

Susquehanna's faculty features a variety of professors, including those new to campus as well as those who have taught for a number of years and have acquired tenure, or a permanent position. Faculty members from both of these perspectives have seen the changes Susquehanna has endured.
Susan Bowers, associate professor of English, is one professor with tenure. This is her 30th year of teaching. She teaches courses in areas such as women's literature, thought and, as of recently, Irish literature.
When she first came to Susquehanna, Bowers said she was a minority, as a woman in the department and as a woman in the faculty.
"We were not a very diverse institution, both in terms of students and faculty," she said.
Bowers added that she was on the Multi-Cultural Affairs Advisory Board, among many other organizations, with one of the goals being to achieve five percent minority students. This fall, she said, Susquehanna has 15 percent minority students.
As well as the Multi-Cultural Advisory Board, Bowers also helped create the women's studies program, which she said was a big accomplishment for her. She became the first director in 1991.
"We have changed, but I think we've done it fairly gracefully," Bowers said.
When she first came, Bowers said she was the feminist on the faculty.
"When I was hired, I was clear that that was who I was. Even though it was new for many people, I really was treated very well," she said.
According to Bowers, in the world of academia, this shift of women professors was true of universities and colleges across the country. In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a transition from women staying home and taking care of family to women in the work place.
"In many ways, universities and colleges were men's clubs -- not that they didn't want women, but it just never occurred to them," Bowers said. "The awareness to be more diverse was emerging from the 1980s."
Because of this entrance of more women in the university, Bowers added that she believes Susquehanna has become more family-friendly, in regards to things such as maternity leave. Today, she said she sees women, as well as men, more engaged with their families
"It's a great gift to be able to teach and work with young people," she said. "I'm able to do more work in my scholarship because I'm not so involved in leadership positions."
Bowers added that Susquehanna is a good community in many ways, with one of them being the high value placed on scholarship.
In the realm of teaching, Bowers said she has learned over the years the importance of silence and the rhythm of classes. When it comes to silence as a professor, she said she has learned to keep quiet so that more learning can take place.
"I've learned that silence is appropriate in the classroom. Teachers and students tend to be afraid that nothing is happening, but I think the opposite is true," she said. "When you ask a question and nobody answers right away, it's because a lot of the time there is thinking that is happening. If we can just be quiet, people can dig into bigger questions."
Bowers also said that she has learned the rhythm of classes. There are days when the discussions are wonderful, but typically they're not followed by a similar kind of day, she said. Over the years she has come to accept that occurrence.
Bowers received tenure in 1990, and she said that it supports the ability to speak out on ideas that could be controversial.
"It's really crucial that tenure exists because it allows that support to continue," she said. "The irony is that young faculty who aren't tenure feel that they can't speak out against controversial things because they're afraid they won't get tenure."
As a feminist scholar, Bowers added that her work was valued, and she personally never felt threatened in that way when she didn't have tenure.
As a final word, Bowers referenced a course she taught a few years ago called Reading Lolita in Selinsgrove, a play off the memoir "Reading Lolita in Tehran."
"It was focused on the idea of how literature can be revolutionary, but it can also be a source of ideas that really support human life and freedom," she said. "That's one of the reasons that I'm so dedicated to my teaching. I really believe that as people learn to think well, we have more possibility of preserving freedom and justice for all of us."
There are also professors on campus who have just recently arrived, including Jasun Carr.
Carr has worked at Susquehanna for about 14 months. He is an assistant professor of communications with a focus on broadcasting.
Carr said that he normally teaches three or four classes per semester.
This semester, he is teaching a section of perspectives, introduction to media, fundamentals of video production and a section of writing for new media.
Carr said that he worked at the University of Wisconsin-Madison while at the same time getting his doctorate in journalism and mass communications, before he came to Susquehanna.
His first impression of Susquehanna, he said, was that it was very welcoming.
"I came here from Wisconsin in the middle of winter two years ago," he said, "So it was very nice. It's very easy to get accustomed to campus, and the amount of say the faculty have in the affairs of the university is, from what I've seen elsewhere, very good, and I really appreciate that."
Since coming to Susquehanna, Carr has learned some things during his time here, specifically when it comes to the student body.
He said it took him a while to get used to the Susquehanna student population as opposed to the students at University of Wisconsin-Madison, because they are two very different places.
"There's a different expectation in terms of face time with the students," Carr said. "Here it's almost a family because you get to know everyone and see everyone every day, as opposed to University of Wisconsin-Madison, where they are a faceless person in a class of 400 students."
Carr also added that he does like the small university more. In that atmosphere, he said, you can get to know students and see them grow better than in a large university.
In the years to come, Carr said he's looking forward to some of things that are happening on the broadcasting side of the communications program, in particular the television studio.
"This year we've got a 10-seat computer lab, and we put in place a plan to really expand that part of the program," he said. "I'm looking forward to see the students grow along with that."
Carr said the one thing that stands out to him about the university is the squirrel.
"What's up with the squirrel? At the homecoming parade last year I saw 47 people in squirrel costumes and then one poor guy in a tiger outfit," Carr said. "That, to me, is Susquehanna."
Within the same department, but with more Susquehanna experience under his belt, is tenured professor Craig Stark, associate professor of communications.
He has worked at Susquehanna since 2006 and received tenure last fall.
Stark said that throughout his years of teaching at Susquehanna, he's seen changes in the department and in teaching styles.
"There's been a big change in the curriculum, trying to get more video production going here as well as keeping the production side going," he said. "We've got the green screen studio now and the computer lab, and that's just been in the last year and a half."
For example, in the communications department when he first arrived, he said, the old television studio in lower Apfelbaum Hall looked like a bomb had gone off, with equipment all over the place.
Now, after a group effort, it's practically brand new downstairs. Stark also added that the teaching styles have changed since when he first arrived.
"When I went to college it was all lecture," he said. "We can still do that, but there has to be other components in there."
Stark added that what he's found is that there is more success in a collaborative learning experience approach between the professor and student.
Another component that is important, Stark said, is having more of a technical, digital element in communication between professor and student. According to Stark, "email just isn't good enough nowadays."
After seven years at Susquehanna, Stark said that the two things he loves about the school are the students and the communications department faculty.
"I've taught at a few other places before and the students here are the best compared to the other places I've been," he said.
Stark also said that he likes the camaraderie of the faculty.
"I can't speak for other departments, but I know in the communications department at least the political game really isn't here," he said. "You get to be friends with people on the faculty side of things. There's no political stuff going on that I'm aware of."
Stark described tenure as an investment in a professor.
"Tenure is a sign that the university is making a permanent investment in you," he said. "They think you're doing teaching and research and service well and that you're going to continue to do them well enough or better. It's an investment that you can make the university better, so to speak. That, to me, is what it always has been."


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