Introduction | Barbara Fister

One of the most important and demanding faculty committee assignments at Gustavus Adolphus College is serving on the Personnel Committee. Nine faculty elected by their peers evaluate the work of their colleagues and makes recommendations to the administration and Board of Trustees both at the time of tenure (usually after a six-year probationary period) and again when faculty apply for promotion to full professor. These decisions are important, both for the candidate who, if tenure is denied, has to seek work elsewhere, and for the committee members, who must evaluate each candidate’s fitness for long-term employment at the College.

To a large extent, a college is its students and the faculty who teach them; all the rest is there to support those two groups working together. Because teaching and learning is at the heart of what we do, the committee evaluates their colleagues in multiple ways, including classroom visits, reviewing student evaluations of teaching, examining the candidate’s syllabi, scholarly works, and record of service, and reading letters submitted by colleagues both at the College and from other institutions. Candidates submit a record of their work along with a statement in which they describe how they approach teaching, what their scholarship is about and why it matters, how they have served the college, and how all of these things align with the college’s mission.

When I served on the committee some years ago, I was impressed by the scholarship submitted by candidates. I was fascinated by the classes I visited (and reminded of how much I don’t know). And I was inspired by the statements, eloquent reflections on what these scholar-teachers do, what they believe, and how their work and their identity as scholars and teachers is tied to the mission of the College. It seemed a shame that they were read by so few.

That’s why I asked colleagues who have gone through the process in recent years if they would mind sharing their statements, from which this anthology is drawn. Some of the contributors were candidates for tenure, and others were further in their career and being considered for the rank of full professor. Each of these faculty members has gone on to new teaching responsibilities, additional scholarship, and new kinds of service. These statements reflect their thoughts when they were up for tenure or promotion to full professor rather than their current record of accomplishments. Still, these writings do present a snapshot of how thoughtfully faculty approach their work as teachers, scholars, and members of an educational community.

Browsing through these statements will give readers some insight into who these teacher/scholars are, what they do, and how their life’s work contributes toward making the college a very special community. I think you will be inspired, just as I was.

Acknowledgements. This project is one of several efforts that librarians at the Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library are making to support open access to scholarship. I am indebted to Hugh McGuire, founder of PressBooks, to the John S. Kendall Center for Engaged Learning for providing me a grant to attend THATCamp Publishing in Baltimore in October, 2011, to the THATCamp community for inspiring this project, and to the Gustavus faculty who were generously willing to share their statements with the wider community. Chapter titles are drawn from their statements.

October 2012