Roads Taken: The Professorial Life, Scholarship in Place, and the Public Good

Roads Taken: The Professorial Life, Scholarship in Place, and the Public Good

Roger Epp & Bill Spellman, eds.

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Public liberal arts colleges are higher education’s gems, yet their intimate campus settings and locations outside of the intellectual-cultural capitals challenge the traditional rhythm of academic careers. These stories demonstrate that the noblest traditions of higher education might be lived out most meaningfully on small, liberal arts campuses.

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Public liberal arts colleges are higher education’s gems, yet their intimate campus settings and locations outside of the intellectual-cultural capitals challenge the traditional rhythm of academic careers. Professors trained at elite research institutions, usually located in large urban centers, must adapt to the holistic undergraduate education emphasized at colleges often located in smaller communities. The authors in this collection serve as pathfinders and exemplars for academic careers that integrate teaching, scholarship, and citizenship, rooted in place. Their stories demonstrate that the noblest traditions of higher education might be lived out most meaningfully on small, liberal arts campuses.

The essays in this volume paint a realistic portrait of the life of the faculty in public arts colleges in the twenty-first century, with all of its inherent joys and trials. They also illustrate the dilemma of the young PhD: Follow in the footsteps of the graduate mentor or seek—or at least accept—a divergent path. An excellent case is made for the latter, and an equally strong case for the significance of the public liberal arts professoriate—and the institutions it serves.

—Julius Erlenbach, Chancellor Emeritus,
University of Wisconsin–Superior

Roads Taken offers important insights into professorial lives and careers. Faculty from various disciplines seek to define the challenges, rewards, and idiosyncrasies of professing the liberal arts within the public sphere in essays that are candid and revealing about the career paths they have followed. This is a valuable book for readers at any point in a life of college teaching.

—Samuel Schuman, author of Old Main

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Roads Taken
Roger Epp and Bill Spellman

1. A Place Where Ideas Matter
Joel M. Sipress, History, University of Wisconsin–Superior

2. Detours, Intersections, and a Few Bumps in the Road
M. Therese Seibert, Sociology, Keene State College

3. The Outsiders: Undergraduate Research in a Liberal Arts Institution
Dylan Fischer, Forest Ecology, The Evergreen State College

4. How Everything Influences Everything Else: The Strange and Wonderful Journey to an Integrated Academic Life
Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Education, Eastern Connecticut State University

5. Notes from an Academic Odd Couple
Lee Rozelle and Jill A. Wicknick, English and Biology, University of Montevallo

6. “’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be”
Gary Towsley, Mathematics, State University of New York at Geneseo

7. A Kid for Life
Quan Tran, Mathematics, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

8. Dr. Monograph: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Liberal Arts
Janet Schrunk Ericksen, English, University of Minnesota, Morris

9. Music, the Liberal Arts, and Rural Identity: The Not-So-Straight Road
Milton Schlosser, Music, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus

10. What Have I Done?!: A Renaissance Art Historian Finds Her Way in the Rural Midwest
Julia A. DeLancey, Art History, Truman State University

11. How One Becomes What One Is    163
Jonathan R. Cohen, Philosophy, University of Maine at Farmington

12. Neither Here nor There: Testing the Boundaries of Place and Pedagogy
Ellen Holmes Pearson, History, University of North Carolina Asheville

13. Finding the Road Back to the “Last Good Job in America”
Kathleen S. Fine-Dare, Anthropology and Gender/Women’s Studies, Fort Lewis College

14. The Liberal Arts Leave the Ivory Tower and Enter the Trenches
Robin Bates, English, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Afterword: The Road Taken and the Difference It Makes
Joseph Urgo, Senior Fellow, Association of American Colleges and Universities, University of North Carolina Asheville

Notes on Contributors

Authors

Roger Epp is professor of political science at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. During more than two decades at what is now the University’s Augustana Campus, he received its teaching award and served as its head from 2004 to 2011. Under his leadership, Augustana became COPLAC’s first Canadian member. As a public scholar, his work includes We Are All Treaty People: Prairie Essays, a radio documentary on rural Canada, and articles in such diverse venues as Inside Higher Ed, the literary magazine Small Farmer’s Journal, and academic journals including the Review of International Studies.

Bill Spellman is director of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges and professor of history at the University of North Carolina Asheville, where he has also served as Dean of Humanities. His most recent publications include A Short History of Western Political Thought (2011) and Uncertain Identity: International Migration since 1945 (2008). He is also co-author of a college textbook recently released in a third edition titled The West: A Narrative History, 2 vols. (2012).

Contributors include Robin Bates, Jonathan R. Cohen, Julia DeLancey, Roger Epp, Janet Schrunk Ericksen, Kathleen S. Fine-Dare, Dylan Fischer, Ellen Holmes Pearson, Lee Rozelle, Milton Schlosser, M. Therese Seibert, Joel Sipress, Bill Spellman, Gary Towsley, Quan Tran, Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Joseph Urgo, and Jill Wicknick

Reviews

This volume is of interest to many. But in many respects, this volume will be of particular interest to academics who find that their career paths include working in the small, public, liberal arts sector.

-Scott Grills, Symbolic Interaction, January 2015