Celebrating full professorship: Conferring the highest academic honor on 14 faculty members

Celebrating full professorship: Conferring the highest academic honor on 14 faculty members

Julie Spierer, Special Features Co-Editor

As of spring 2017, 14 University faculty members have been promoted to the title of full professor. That compares with 13 in 2016 and 10 in 2015. Moreover, the last decade has welcomed the creation of a number of new faculty positions, which has enabled more associate professors to be promoted to full professorships.

Professors at the University can have one of three titles. These titles are: assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor. Tenure-track faculty are first hired as assistant professors, after which they have six years before they are reviewed for tenure and promotion to associate professor. From associate professor, individuals can be promoted to full professor, which again customarily follows teaching in the former position for a period of six years.

Full professorship is a position of prestige; thus the promotion requires sustained success in teaching, scholarship, and services.

“At Bucknell, teaching excellence is essential, but our faculty are teachers [and] scholars and need to demonstrate achievement in scholarship as well. Our full professors have developed national and international profiles as experts in their fields. We also require that all faculty provide service to the University and to the profession, and full professors provide essential leadership in faculty governance, shared governance, and their professional organizations,” Provost Barbara Altmann said.

Doug Allen – Management

“For an academic, achieving the rank of full professor is a major milestone, and for me it is particularly meaningful to do so at my alma mater. It also causes me to reflect on all those people in my life who have been so generous and instrumental in helping me get to this point.”

Emily Dryden – Mathematics

“I’m happy to have been recognized with promotion to the rank of full professor. This promotion doesn’t change how I go about my job, since I’m always striving to improve my teaching and to ask and answer interesting new research questions. It’s the result of many years of hard work, with invaluable mentoring and support from colleagues, collaborators, friends, and family.”

G.C. Waldrep – English

“It’s a great honor to be promoted to full professor, anywhere that has such exacting standards for both scholarship and teaching. More than anything else, it’s a significant token of the respect of one’s colleagues. I’m very grateful for the care my colleagues put into all my reviews: pre-tenure, tenure, and now full professorship; my work has never been examined quite as closely (and sympathetically) by anyone else. I was also very humbled by the positive letters from my former students. Bucknell is unusual, if not unique, in polling recent alumni about their experiences with professors, and we get to read those letters (with names and all other identifying information removed). For me this has been a real gift: getting some insight into what my classes meant to students a year or two or five later, after all the academic dust had settled and they were moving on into their own exciting lives.”

Bill Flack – Psychology

“When I got tenure, a senior colleague told me that I should make sure to ‘use it.’ I think he was referring to my research area (campus sexual assault), and having the job protection to pursue such a controversial topic (it was more controversial to do this work in 2006 than it is now). At this point, I can teach critical and radical approaches to my discipline (psychology), and develop a critical perspective on psychological trauma. My hope is that doing these things will help my discipline to become more useful in understanding, confronting, and dismantling the various sources of violence. I have benefited greatly from colleagues and students (some of whom have gone on to become colleagues) who have taught me what is and is not useful about my teaching and research. Another senior colleague once told me that the best thing about teaching (and the best way to become a better teacher) is to learn as much as you can from students (students usually don’t know how good they are at teaching teachers how to teach).”

Mala Sharma – Mechanical Engineering

“I believe that full professors are the ‘guardians’ of the university’s reputation. They do so by setting the tone for the rest of the faculty as to the core values and guiding principles of the institution. Full professors should seek to do meaningful projects that push thinking forward. To me, an exciting and important aspect of being full professor is engaging in more ‘risky’ research, that is, research that has the potential for moving the discipline significantly forward but may fail and not result in an immediate publication. Teaching and mentoring students who really care to learn while also collaborating on research projects helped to prepare me for full professorship.  There were times I was exhausted before going in to teach a three hour lab or back to back sections of a class, but then I came out feeling energized and excited to do more; the students always push me to be better. My favorite aspect of this journey was having frequent discussions with certain colleagues who strengthened me when I felt unmotivated by continually encouraging me to achieve my goals and stay on a productive path. It’s clear to me that one does not achieve full professorship alone.”

Peter McNamara – Mathematics

“Succeeding as a faculty member at a university like Bucknell takes a whole lot of hard work. On top of the teaching, which is a full-time job by itself, you can’t be promoted without excelling as a scholar, which in my discipline typically means producing peer-reviewed published research. It takes a lot of dedication to keep your research alive. This is particularly difficult when you first arrive at Bucknell because you will often be teaching courses for the first time, but is also difficult later in your career when your committee work can be demanding. I love the variety of my work and the time I spend with students, but the main drawback is that is difficult to fit it all in. This is one reason why sabbaticals are so important, giving faculty time to devote to their scholarship.”

“The presence of a strong contingent of full professors at a university means that the institution is a vibrant academic environment for students, faculty, and the community alike. Full professors are our brain trust, and the rank represents long investment on their part and on the part of the institution,” Provost Altmann said.

Other professors whom achieved full professorship include: Tulu Bayar (art & art history), Isabel Cuñado (Spanish), James Mark Shields (comparative humanities & Asian thought), Kevin Myers (psychology), Stephanie Larson (classics & ancient Mediterranean studies), Wendelin Wright (mechanical engineering and chemical engineering), Sheila Lintott (philosophy), and Zhiqun Zhu (political science and international relations).

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