Sciences reconfigure faculty and programs



Les Kanat

Bob Genter. Amy Welch. Bill Doyle. Susan Green. Sharon Twigg. Karen Uhlendorf. All were NVU professors who have left within the last few years. Some retired, while others sought alternative career opportunities. Professor Elizabeth Dolci will retire by the end of the spring semester and Professor Tania Bacchus will retire by the end of the fall semester.

The department most impacted is – by far – the sciences. By the end of the current academic year, six full-time science faculty will have left their offices vacant.

So, with the number of professors exiting, how does the university plan to cope?
According to Provost Nolan Atkins, the university is already beginning to find replacements.
New hires in the health sciences include tenure track assistant professor Emily Carlton as well as visiting assistant professors Clemencia Caporale and Lisa Zinn, who were hired as one-year visiting professors and have had their contracts extended for another year. They were informed of this over Thanksgiving break.

“We have another tenure-track search that we’ve allocated to the area,” says Atkins, referring to the health sciences program. “We definitely plan to replace four of those positions, so that would be two fewer positions.”

Atkins wants to emphasize that despite the loss of talent and institutional knowledge, it is not an issue that cannot be overcome. “There were just a lot of faculty who are eligible to retire that are choosing to do so,” says Atkins. “So I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. For the fact that we lose all of that institutional knowledge and history, is tough, but it’s an opportunity.”

Part of that opportunity is the chance for structural change. For example, the Wellness and Alternative Medicine major, which currently resides in the department of behavioral sciences, will move to the Department of Health and Environmental sciences. Furthermore, the physical education program is being phased out.

During the transition, Les Kanat, professor of the environmental and health sciences program, recognizes the challenges of the current situation but is optimistic about the prospects of the department. “It’s a big deal because full-time faculty advise our students, have long-term plans and meet a lot to have a theme, a direction and a focus,” says Kanat, who noted that without a strong core of full-time faculty, that theme and focus can become difficult to maintain.

However, according to Kanat, the reorganization of the department will make up for the loss of full-time faculty and will include a more interdisciplinary approach to the sciences.

For example, a new major, called the general sciences major, will work with the NVU education department. “We’re in the process now of redesigning what the science program looks like to meet the needs of the students,” says Kanat.

Along with the hire of Emily Tarleton and the extension of Caporale’s and Zinn’s visiting professorships, the department is seeking an additional two full-time faculty for biology and health sciences.

“We’re not going to have as many people [faculty] as we did three years ago,” says Kanat, “but we’re going to have more than we have today. So it’s not as devastating as some people might say.”
For students who are within the sciences programs now, Kanat assures they will graduate on-track and will not be affected while faculty are retiring.