34 Instilling a Sense of Confidence | Tom LoFaro

In terms of service, the most significant of my responsibilities is the Directorship of the Rydell Professor program.  I believe that I have made a very significant contribution to this program by first providing the continuity and leadership that was lost in a previous presidential transition, and then increasing the visibility of this program both on-campus and to the wider Gustavus community.  Since taking the directorship of this program I have scheduled Rydell Professorships for Robert Gallo, Sylvester James Gates, Frans de Waal, and Curtis Marean.  Last year we began what I hope is a new tradition to this program, a Twin Cities lecture that is co-sponsored by a local institution.  Last year we partnered with the Minnesota Zoo and this year we will be partnering with the Science Museum of Minnesota.  These lectures are intended to highlight one of the annual events that is unique to the Gustavus community.  I believe that I have also increased the visibility of this program on our campus.  Classroom visits are much more frequent than when I was a faculty host for Steve Smale and I have been arranging less formal activities with student groups who might benefit from interacting with the Rydell Professor in a less formal setting.

One of the most challenging aspects of this program is the recruitment of individuals to serve as Rydell Professor.  The program is described as a “scholar-in-residence program designed to bring Nobel laureates and similarly distinguished scholars to the campus.”  Although the honorarium is significant, I have found it difficult to recruit active research scholars to participate in the program due primarily to the extended nature of the visit.  I have tried to be creative in dealing with this requirement, (for example, Sylvester James Gates made almost weekly visits during his spring semester) but I am still frustrated by the challenges in convincing a renowned research scientist to visit for an extended period.  I have had more success with individuals who have already participated in a Nobel Conference, as they are already familiar with Gustavus and the intangible things that make this place special.  Thus I regularly attend the Nobel Conference luncheons to try and spread the word to potential Rydell Professors.  In addition, I try to be tangentially involved in the planning of upcoming Nobel Conferences to better inform my invitation process.

Because I direct the Rydell Professor program, Provost Mary Morton asked me to serve on the Provost’s Council, which includes the directors of similar programs on campus. This group meets approximately once per month to share ideas and confer on issues that impact upon our programs that do not necessarily fit into the academic structure of the college.

I have served on a number of faculty committees including chairing the Instructional Infrastructure Advisory Committee (IIAC) for two years.   I believe that participating in faculty governance is an important aspect of academic life at this college and I take these responsibilities seriously.

My service to the department is equally important.  I have annually managed the math placement examination and, with the help of Max Hailperin, oversaw the conversion of this exam from a test taken on-campus during summer registration to an online examination that is taken before students arrive for registration.  Last year I was one of three department members who oversaw the hiring of our most recent tenure-track hire.

The list above also illustrates that I have been active in less formal service roles on campus.  Of these activities, I most enjoy facilitating the Freshman Wilderness Experience trips to the Boundary Waters.  This is a trip of approximately one week that has taken place the week prior to students arriving on campus.   Two of the objectives of the trip is to help develop leadership skills and to instill a sense of confidence in the students who participate.  I have done this trip three times and each time I have seen the students blossom and continue to succeed once they arrive on campus.