English department seeks to fill new professor positions

by Erin Lee | 1/26/15 7:30pm

1.27.15.news_.english.deptartment_eliza.mcdonough
The English department, hosted in Sanborn House, is looking to hire three new professors.
by Eliza McDonough / Eliza McDonough

The English department is nearing the conclusion of three searches for assistant professor positions with a tenure track, an unusually high number of simultaneous recruiting efforts from the department, associate dean of the faculty and art history professor Adrian Randolph said in an email.

The searches are part of the regular cycle of departments replenishing their faculty, he said, but added that the need for hiring is partially due to the fact that several of the department’s faculty members have retired in the past several years.

The department is currently in the midst of the campus visit cycle, which is the final round of the hiring process, English professor and search committee member Alysia Garrison said. This past fall, the department issued a broad call for applications for three junior positions in three different subfields: fiction, hemispheric literatures and global Anglophone literature and/or postcolonial studies.

The English department is increasing exposure to hemispheric studies topics in its curriculum and searching for individuals specializing in the field, Garrison said. She added that the two other positions opened to fill departures.

“We’re expanding our junior faculty ranks and trying to grow as broad and vibrant in the department as we can,” Garrison said.

In the arts and humanities departments, searches are generally initiated in the fall and continue through the winter, Randolph said. The new faculty take up their positions in the summer and prepare to teach the following fall term.

Each search is run by a different committee of three people, comprised of junior and senior faculty members from the department, Garrison said. English professor Cynthia Huntington is chairing the fiction recruiting committee; English professor Donald Pease chairs hemispheric literature and English professor and department chair Patricia McKee led global Anglophone.

English department chair Patricia McKee confirmed that the searches are progressing, but declined to comment further to avoid compromising the ongoing process.

Once a committee reads through the hundreds of applications received, they narrow the pool to 30 to 40 applicants and request writing samples and letters of recommendation, Garrison said. Each committee selects 12 candidates to interview at the Modern Language Association’s annual convention, which this year was located in Vancouver, British Columbia from Jan. 7 to 11, she said.

For each search, three candidates are brought back to campus for a day and a half to give presentations to the full department on their research and teaching pedagogy and meet with faculty and students, she said. The department deliberates and makes its offer soon after the campus visits conclude.

“We want to work off our initial impressions because they’re very striking and memory will fade as time passes,” Garrison said. “We try to meet immediately after all three candidates have visited and make a decision.”

English major Noah Smith ’15 said one of the features that distinguishes Dartmouth professors is their willingness to spend time outside of class with students.

“Professors have been interested and are always willing to speak with me about my interests,” he said. “I learn better from people when I can move beyond the pedagogical paradigm. I still have meetings with four or five other faculty besides my thesis advisor who are just interested in advising me on my project.”

English major Emily Kochman ’15 said that the community in the English department feels small and supportive.

“Professors have a genuine desire to connect with students on an academic and personal level,” she said. “Genuine interest in a student’s well-being and a student’s success really makes a difference, just because of how small the school is. They really want you to succeed.”

Kochman said that her sense of the hiring situation is that the department is trying to fill spaces where they currently do not have faculty in certain concentrations. She does not believe there has been a lot of turnover and said the department is trying to accommodate the number of students interested in English classes.

In 2014, 61 students graduated with a major in English, a number generally consistent with previous years, according to the College Fact Book.

English major Mac Simonson ’16 said that finding a mentor within the department can take some effort, but the range of specializations within the department is broad.

“If you have a subject you’re interested in, you can find a professor or two that shares your interest,” he said. “Or you can find that you end up being really interested in something else because you like the professor a lot and they’re good at what they do.”