Faculty Members Receive Development Grants

Andover faculty recently received grants to carry out spersonal and course development. Sixty-three members of the faculty recently received grants, which totaled over $122,000, to pursue an activity of special interest over the summer. The faculty members were awarded either a course-planning grant, for creating a new course or significantly revising an existing one, or a faculty development grant, which supports endeavors of personal interest such as attending conferences, workshops, or multicultural research. “As a teacher, it’s important to stay intellectually alive and engaged in your work,” said Susan McCaslin, Associate Dean of Faculty. “The grants encourage teachers to improve and keep up with what’s going on in the world.” Carl Bewig, Associate Director of College Counseling, received a faculty development grant. He will be traveling to several cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai, over the course of two weeks to lecture on higher education opportunities in the United States. He was invited by the head of the Xin Don Sen New Oriental Foreign Language School, a network of private high schools in China. The faculty grant will cover the cost of transportation. “The lecture is really a basic course in comparative higher education between both countries,” said Mr. Bewig. He has been communicating with other colleges to gather helpful information for students and their families who might consider attending college in America, such as the way the college process works and the admission experiences of international students. Mr. Bewig continued, “Currently, the Chinese college system is a cut-and-dry process; you take an exam to get into a school and you either make it or you don’t. There’s some ignorance of what [the college system] really takes in the United States, so that’s the gist of what I’ll be saying…The purpose is to educate, encourage, and dispel myths of higher education in America.” Flavia Vidal, Instructor in English, was awarded a course-planning grant to develop an interdisciplinary course in Brazilian cultural studies with History and Social Science Instructor Carroll Perry. Students who enroll in the four-hour elective will be able to choose if the course’s one credit will count towards the English or the History department. “I’m very excited,” said Ms. Vidal. Both she and Mr. Perry have deep personal connections to Brazil; Ms. Vidal is originally from Brazil, and Mr. Perry spent a number of years working there. “I think the course will be a really important addition to the curriculum. PA has a very strong international bent, but South America is underrepresented. Hopefully it’ll raise awareness and spark a higher interest in this part of the world,” she said. A course-planning grant will help Deborah Olander, Instructor in Math and Academic Support Specialist, develop a new term-contained math elective on fractals and chaos. The idea for the course formed after Ms. Olander and several other faculty members attended a teacher workshop. There, the Tom Stoppard play “Arcadia,” which weaves fractals and chaos into the storyline, was used as a framework for a discussion on the mathematics. “The goal of this course is to expose people to this branch of mathematics, dynamical systems…Fractals and chaos is a relatively new field of mathematics,” said Ms. Olander. She added that the class could eventually become an interdisciplinary course with other departments, such as Theater. David Fox, Instructor in English, received a course-planning grant for work on two Senior English electives. He will revise an existing philosophy and literature class focused on personal and social ethics named “Being, Thinking, Doing.” He will also develop a new spring elective on the art of film, “Cinema Symbiosis.” “We will study approximately twenty of the most influential films in history, as well as read critical essays and works of fiction,” said Mr. Fox of the film elective. “The grant will support the development of the whole course, especially organization; given the complexity of the daily schedule, I need to find time for students to screen a lot of films.” Mr. Fox will also be developing a new winter elective focused on art and literature, which will not be funded by the grant. For a number of faculty members, the grants provided the time and resources needed to accomplish something they might have difficulty doing otherwise. “Without the grant, I don’t know when I would have the time to develop the [Brazilian cultural studies] course,” said Ms. Vidal. “It’s very hard to do without designating a specific time, and developing the course itself is difficult from an interdisciplinary course perspective.” Mr. Bewig also appreciated the grants. “[The grants are] a wonderful benefit for faculty to be able to expand their personal and professional horizons,” he said. According to Ms. McCaslin, who approves the grant proposals along with the Dean of Studies, John Rogers, the vast majority of faculty members who apply receive funding. When deciding who will be awarded grants, they try to strike a balance between an individual’s personal passions and interests and the school’s needs as well as attempt to spread support as broadly as possible to the faculty. “The fact that so many people want to do extra work in the summer is a real measure of vitality of the faculty,” said Ms. McCaslin. On the opportunities that the faculty grants provide, she continued, “The school makes a real commitment to support faculty and their growth.”