Faculty Added, Program Funds To Be Doubled

First step in $260M academic infusion

By Michael Seele
Chronicle Editor

In its first move toward implementing a $260 million commitment to the academic enterprise that was announced by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, in September, Boston College has created several teaching slots and doubled funding for the popular Undergraduate Faculty Research Fellows program.

The moves are aimed at bolstering support for undergraduate teaching at Boston College, according to Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties William B. Neenan, SJ.

While several other faculty slots will be created across the University shortly, Fr. Neenan said, the first round of hiring is aimed at reducing dependence on part-time faculty and teaching fellows in popular core curriculum courses offered through the College of Arts and Sciences. Six new, full-time, non-tenure-track faculty will be hired to teach undergraduates in English and Philosophy courses beginning next fall, he said.

"The University has identified a number of initiatives, including new facilities, support for specific programs and various endeavors which will strengthen the undergraduate experience at Boston College," Fr. Neenan said. "These steps address the latter area and will have an immediate impact on teaching at the undergraduate level.

"They are a concrete indication that while increasing support for graduate and professional programs and their related research Boston College is simultaneously strengthening its traditional support for undergraduates."

"This will shift the balance from reliance on part-time faculty to full-time faculty who will be more present, more available to students," said A&S Dean J. Robert Barth, SJ. "They will be here. They will have office hours.

"They will have more of a commitment to the institutional life of their respective departments through committee work and so forth in ways part-time faculty cannot do.

"This is a very exciting time in the College of Arts and Sciences," Fr. Barth added. "We will have an infusion of new life, new ideas, new intellectual energy. It's going to help us all a lot."

Four of the new adjunct faculty positions will be in the Philosophy Department and they will lighten the load on overburdened teaching fellows, all of whom are doctoral candidates, said Prof. Richard Cobb-Stevens, the department chairman.

Cobb-Stevens praised the work of the teaching fellows, but said each is responsible for teaching two full sections per semester, which cuts into the time available to work on dissertations. Adjunct faculty will bring more teaching experience with them, he said, and will teach over 350 students each semester in the Philosophy of the Person, Perspectives and PULSE courses.

"These people will be more permanent," Cobb-Stevens said. "They will have doctorates and they will allow for more continuity in that the same people will be teaching in the program for a longer time. They will be regular faculty members who will have a long-term commitment to BC.

"This will strengthen the quality of undergraduate instruction while allowing us to strengthen the support for teaching fellows," Cobb-Stevens said.

The addition of two full-time lecturers in the English Department will move the department away from reliance on part-time faculty, said Chairwoman Prof. Rosemarie Bodenheimer. The new hires will take over from part-time faculty members who have taught the writing seminars required for all freshman at Boston College, as well as literature core courses. Over 3,000 students pass through those courses each year, she said.

Like Cobb-Stevens, Bodenheimer said the full-time faculty will give the department more continuity and will be more available to students. "They're more committed to the department and to the University because they're not also teaching at other universities to make ends meet," she said.

English will seek individuals with solid teaching credentials for the slots, she said, as well as backgrounds beyond writing and core literature courses.

"We're looking for people with a range of talents that will offer us flexibility in filling the courses we will need to fill in any given semester," Bodenheimer said.

Another initiative with University-wide implications is the expansion of the University Faculty Research Fellows Program, which pairs professors with talented undergraduates who assist with faculty research work. In addition to the experience, students are paid an hourly wage.

The three-year-old program has proven so popular with faculty and students that demand has outstripped supply for the available slots. According to Dean for Enrollment Management Robert Lay, approximately 75 students are in the program this semester.

Fr. Barth said the program has been "a tremendous boost. It's one of the largest, most innovative projects we've had in the last few years. This is a response to an expressed need."

Fr. Neenan said funding for the initiative will be doubled to $200,000, and Lay added enrollment will double as well.

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