THREE YEARS AGO, WHEN MANCHESTER’S $17 MILLION SCIENCE CENTER welcomed its first students, Registrar Lila Hammer ’79 began an annual scramble to schedule every discipline possible into that grand learning center. Instantly, the College’s scientists were sharing space with the sociology faculty, English faculty, education faculty, language faculty, history faculty, sport sciences faculty.
Of that space sharing came teaching collaboration like Manchester hasn’t seen in decades. Today, “learning communities” and conversations that span two and more academic disciplines are a campus culture, and this fall, the College embarked on its first new general education curriculum in 12 years.
Consider Professor Greg Clark, the physicist on the cover of this magazine. He sometimes co-teaches Introduction to Writing with Heather Schilling ’90, associate professor of education. Other classroom partnerships give students a variety of experiences and viewpoints. That’s important.
Today’s millennial student brings a whole new learning style to the Manchester College classroom, motivated strongly by technology, engagement and problem-based learning. Lecture-heavy learning has students impatiently squirming in their seats, anxious to experience for themselves.
Manchester faculty members accept the challenge, talking to each other about mentoring, and internships, and how other departments structure programs, sharing each other’s best practices, and – more and more frequently – classrooms.
“Odd couples,” as well as close friendships are forming constantly. Political science Professor Leonard Williams and accounting Professor Brad Pyrah have teamed up to guide mock trial teams for the past 15 years. (Williams also co-teaches feminist theory with English Professor Katharine Ings.)
Faculty members create courses with common themes for a cohort of students. Stacy Erickson, assistant professor English, shared her College Writing class with Introduction to Psychology taught by Marcie Coulter-Kern, associate professor of psychology.
Four sections of Communications 110 come together in a learning community, each professor lecturing on her or his specialty: Dave Switzer on persuasion, Judd Case on media, Marcia Benjamin ’78 on small group dynamics and Mary Plunkett ’83 Lahman on supportive/defensive climates.
A new “Core” curriculum replaces a 12-year-old general education plan, emphasizing skills that will accompany students into (and throughout) their careers. The Core was two years in the making, a process of considerable faculty discussion, some uncomfortable, but always respectful.
“We are emphasizing that skills in written and oral communication, and quantitative reasoning be taught across the disciplines,” says Dean Glenn Sharfman, vice president for academic affairs. “By ensuring that all students in all disciplines have an abundance of classes that teach these Core skills, we expect graduates will have greatly improved abilities in these essential areas of critical thinking.”
Faculty also created categories in responsible citizenship and global connections important in the 21st century and reflective of the Manchester College heritage. It’s about engaging minds, preparing students to be problem solvers, analytical thinkers, global thinkers … life-long learners.
The new curriculum is purposefully less robotic, more flexible in how students can embrace their interests, and encourages them to take classes outside their majors. The redesign resulted in a half-dozen new courses, and opens the portal for more.
Even the how-to is changing with the times and the student. Faculty engages in an exciting variety of teaching methods, fortified by technology and imagination. They lecture, of course, and hold discussions, and use audio and video clips, even YouTube, and simulations, classroom exercises, small-group collaborations, online conversations … and homework. In the Manchester tradition, their classrooms can be Iowa during presidential caucus time or a northern Indiana river, or DisneyWorld or a Chicago art museum.
“I went sea kayaking for a field ecology class in Alaska,” says Kelsey Airgood ’12. How cool is that?
“The most important ingredient to providing a successful education is to hire the best faculty,” says Sharfman, who succeeded now President Jo Young ’69 Switzer as academic dean in 2005. Several long-time faculty members have retired in the past few years and with growing enrollment, the College could not rest on the laurels of their teachings.
“We have a cadre of new faculty who are energetic, knowledgeable and well-rounded,” says Sharfman. Just this fall, new teachers in mathematics, religion, economics, biology and exercise and sport sciences joined the faculty. In fall 2008, newcomers arrived to teach computer science, history, music, accounting and business, education, Spanish, communication studies and exercise and sport sciences.
Ryan Hedstrom ’00 came on board a year ago as an assistant professor of exercise and sport sciences. In just one year, Hedstrom has led Manchester to a vastly revised and reinvigorated curriculum in sport management that will play into the College’s strengths and mission, Sharfman notes.
Judd Case, assistant professor of communication studies, joined the faculty in 2007, hands-on, fully wired. He’s formed small book clubs in his Mass Media and Society class, has students comparing the impact of radio on other media, brought a world chess grandmaster to campus, and, especially, brought “guerrilla journalism” – creating video documentaries that range from filming events to editing, narration and professional video interviews. Sometimes, students text their answers to his questions – in his classroom.
“Manchester College is strong because of the community of scholars who teach and learn here,” says President Switzer, who is among at least 28 faculty members who received their baccalaureate degree at Manchester.
Indeed, Manchester graduates teach practically every discipline offered in the College Catalog, from modern language to accounting to education to music and science … from peace studies to mathematics, accounting, philosophy, religion and sport sciences … from business to biology, art, education and communication studies.
Longtime faculty members are ever-ready to mentor and demonstrate the mission and values of Manchester College, speeding transition for the newcomers. Their dedication to making a difference and graduating compassionate, principled, productive persons who will make a difference also is contagious.
“Dr. (John) Planer refused to accept anything less than our best work; if it wasn’t our best, there was no sugarcoating – our papers dripped with red ink,” says Ben Martin ’08 of his memories of Our Search for Meaning, a course taught by the music professor. “He asked questions that I hadn’t thought of before and questions that I still grapple with on a daily basis.”
Faculty stay connected with their former students, proudly announcing their accomplishments. They are Facebook buddies, seek out their former students at Homecoming and other campus reunions, attend weddings and celebrations, and are ever-ready with recommendations and nominations for jobs, graduate school and honors.
Emeriti faculty return, too, providing continuity through lectures, seminars, mentoring and even taking on extra class sections needed with the recent enrollment surge. Or, they just return to talk teaching. This year, Professors Jim Adams (art), Dwight Beery (physics) and Ken Brown (peace studies) remain on the class schedule.
Long-time faculty members refresh with sabbaticals, and in sharing service learning and January session discoveries with their students. Last year, Dave Hicks, associate professor of biology, researched the life span of the Buckeye leaf and updated a bibliography in plant ecology for his classes. Lynne Margolies, associate professor of Spanish, researched Latin American Jewish women writers, attended a workshop on language and the brain and presented a paper.
“Faculty morale at Manchester is high,” business and accounting Professor Tim Ogden ’87 told the Board of Trustees amid the intense discussions about the Core curriculum. “The progress that we have made here in the last several years has had a tremendous positive impact on the work we do with students.”
When asked why they teach, MC faculty members have the same response religion and philosophy Professor Robert Bowman ’56 gives: “It’s fun!”
Service learning also is mortar for the Manchester College mission, “because committing self in service to others connects faith with action and abilities with conviction.” Habitually, coursework is collaboration with the community, area schools and the College. (Read more about service learning in the spring 2010 issue of Manchester magazine.)
Larger universities expect their faculty to engage in research, with discoveries that will draw attention, and endowments for the budget. Manchester faculty members do significant research too, with career and valuable resume payback for the students who share in the experience, learning side-by-side.
They study environmental pollutants, conflict resolution in prisons, lunar dust and the Milky Way … and present their findings at state and national professional conferences, rubbing elbows with experts in their fields.
“Some of the work that you all heard today was graduate level,” announced a proud Dean Sharfman at the 2008 MC Student Research Symposium, when Georgi Chunev ’08 discussed his scrutiny of infrared data delivered by NASA’s $733 million orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope. How did that happen? Chunev assisted Manchester physicist Christer Watson, who shared the research grant with other fortunate physicists across the nation.
Almost every month, at least one faculty member is sharing his or her teaching and learning techniques with educators and professionals across the nation. Thelma Rohrer ’84, who wears a number of academic caps (art, international study, honors program), last fall shared how Manchester manages its international study with the National Association of International Educators. Professor Kim Duchane is a popular expert on teaching physical education to persons with disabilities. His students are frequent presenters at state professional conferences.
When Debra Lynn, associate professor of music, sought to compose music inspired by Stonehenge, tenor computer whiz Joel Waggy ’08, joined the journey. Their discovery: “Surprise! Stones can feel organic and awe-inspiring.” And they are yet one more learning tool.
On the drawing board: learning spaces designed for this century
The opening of the Science Center amplified loud and clear the need for more learning spaces on campus.
In that magnificent structure, students of all majors are nestled into study nooks, learning in technologically smart classrooms, easily negotiating the highly accessible building, appreciating the climate control and the energizing design.
That building is tailor-made for study, for inspiration … for learning. “We need another building like that,” says an adamant Dean Glenn Sharfman. Majors and teachers of accounting, history, English, the social sciences, language … yearn for their own wonderful spaces … spaces designed for this century.
Fundraising began two years ago to renovate Holl-Kintner Hall into a student learning center for other academic disciplines – especially to bring the College’s renowned accounting and business programs out of the inaccessible third floor of the aging Administration Building.
Education, religion and philosophy, modern languages, communication studies and economics disciplines also hope to find new homes.
To support Manchester College’s total transformation of Holl-Kintner into a dynamic center designed for 21st century learning, e-mail the Office of College Advancement or call 888-257-2586.
‘Our faculty should be a microcosm of the world’
Teacher, advisor, historian, pathfinder … meet Dean Sharfman
DR. GLENN SHARFMAN ASSUMED THE LEADERSHIP ROLE FOR MANCHESTER COLLEGE faculty in 2005, succeeding newly promoted President Jo Young Switzer. This Holocaust scholar and his family have fully engaged in all that is Manchester. You’ll find him and his quick smile in Brown Fitness Center at 6 a.m., in the classroom, swinging for the fences at Camp Mack, cheering Spartan teams, and sharing with friends of all ages his children’s (triplets) bar/bat mitzvah.
You’ll also find him advising and applauding symposium presenters, interviewing faculty applicants, speaking out on new College initiatives, nudging innovation in curricula, best practices, scholarship … and possibilities.
Dean Sharfman’s doctorate in history is from the University of North Carolina, and he has published more than 22 works and papers. He previously served in faculty and leadership roles for Hiram College in Ohio.
Q. Dean Sharfman, why do you teach?
A. Working at a small school affords me the opportunity to get to know my students well and to teach students at different points in their academic careers and see their growth. Senior education major Adam Welcher ’10 took my History of the Holocaust course as a first-year student and now meets up with me to borrow, read and chat about books I have on the subject. He’ll also do independent study with me this January to prepare for his Research Symposium presentation.
This career fits what I’m good at: exciting students who are unfamiliar with the past and explaining complex subjects and distilling them down so that students can understand them. And I love the scholarship of teaching – researching and writing about history.
Q. How do you teach?
A. I try to have discussions and interactive lectures and inspire students to question what they read and realize what they read or saw is just one of many views of what happened.
I don’t have tests and I don’t use textbooks – I use novels instead because they’re more provocative and memorable for students. I think students learn more about the past from novels than they do from textbooks. I’ve learned to use new technology systems to enhance and not replace my teaching. I can upload interactive maps and YouTube videos. I like how new technology gives me the ability to contact students 24/7.
I most enjoy giving the students that “Ah-ha!” moment when they realize that they have figured something out or that something they took for granted might need rethinking.
Q. What are the elements of a good faculty?
A. Hiring faculty is the most important thing I do and the achievement I’m most proud of. I get really excited about the ideas and energy that new faculty bring. When applicants come here for an interview, we ask if they are willing to teach outside their area of study – because we want them to realize we are hiring them to the faculty in general, not just to their specific department.
We require people who are willing to help students outside of class and we tell them it is important for them to go to convos, sporting events, seminars, recitals, plays, etc. We want them to support their students in all aspects of their education. If teachers take what students do outside the classroom seriously, then students will be more likely to take what they do inside the classroom seriously.
Our faculty should be as diverse as the students. They should represent a microcosm of the world. What I really like about Manchester is that our students are able to take classes because they want to learn from a particular faculty member rather than just fulfill their major or curriculum requirements. Students can choose electives because they want to be a part of a particular professor’s class.
Q. What is the future of Manchester academic affairs?
A. More interdisciplinary programs. The real world isn’t disciplinary. For example, I couldn’t be a good historian without understanding art, politics, economics and communication. Manchester is taking steps toward becoming more interdisciplinary.
The switch this fall from general education courses to the new Core program was an important step in the right direction. Once we fully implement the Core, we can move on to other programs.
Another option Manchester College offers is the individualized major, enabling students, working with an advisor, to select among our course offerings to create their own major, if they can show we don’t offer that path. Students have created an occupational therapy major by taking courses from the natural sciences, the behavioral sciences and exercise science, for example.
A new learning facility must come soon, to build on the momentum of our Science Center. We will transform Holl-Kintner, our former science hall, into another academic center on the mall.
It would allow us to conceive of classrooms for the 21st century rather than the 1950s. It would add accessibility and technology for students and faculty. It would provide spaces for students and faculty to interact with one another. It would give us room to grow.
BY NATE HODGES ‘10