Five Who Are Making a Difference
From the Goucher Quarterly, Winter 2012
Throughout Goucher’s history, among the memories that graduates have consistently treasured most are those of their close intellectual relationships with members of the faculty. But the roles of college professors are many and complex. And often, students—and even alumnae/i—are not necessarily aware of the scholarly work their teachers are doing, contributing to knowledge and understanding in their fi elds; nor do they typically know of the tasks professors perform that are generally grouped under the bland-sounding category of “service.”
I want to use my Quarterly platform this time around to highlight five tenured members of the Goucher faculty who have, for more than a year now, been doing unusual and rigorous service as members of the college’s Crossroads Task Force—the group that Becki Kurdle ’61, former chair of the Board of Trustees, and I named in the fall of 2011 to investigate ways for Goucher to fi nd new sources of revenue and do its business differently, without changing the fundamental and traditional character of the college.
The task force, chaired by trustee Pierce Dunn, also included several other board members and representatives of the administrative staff of the college, and it consulted with a number of thought leaders in higher education. I think everyone would agree, however, that its faculty contingent provided crucial intellectual and political heft to the enterprise.
What is especially remarkable is that these five paid no less attention during this time to their roles as superb teachers, trusted advisers, and signifi cant scholars, or to other tasks they had already taken on. So I want to be sure you know who they are:
Take Rick Pringle, for example. Professor of psychology and a member of the Peace Studies Program, he has been at the college for 33 years and was involved in several previous curricular reform efforts. In recent years, Rick spearheaded a community service program in the Baltimore City Public Schools called Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story, under whose auspices Goucher undergraduates help young inner-city students develop their literary skills. Many of our students have also told me how important Rick’s teaching about race and gender has been to their growing personal consciousness of inequality and its implications for the community, the country, and the world.
Mary Marchand wears so many hats at Goucher that it is sometimes hard to imagine how she takes them on and off but never loses them. Associate professor of English and an expert on Edith Wharton and Herman Melville, among other American writers, Mary is heralded for successfully shepherding classes through the close reading and intensive line-by-line analysis of texts. She also chairs the American Studies Program and the Interdisciplinary Studies Program, under which students create their own majors by combining material from at least three different disciplines. Mary has also taught in the International Scholars Program and recently became co-leader of Frontiers, the freshman seminar program.
Kelly Brown Douglas, professor of religion, is one of the country’s leading experts on the black church and issues of sexuality. She is widely published, and her groundbreaking work is in turn frequently studied and written about by others. In just the past year, Kelly was invited to give prestigious named lectures at the Virginia Theological Seminary and at her alma mater, Denison University in Ohio. She is a particularly innovative and inspiring teacher and has turned one of her upper-level classes, on church and God in black literature, into a “breakfast book club.” Kelly is also a longtime assisting priest at an Episcopal church in Washington, DC, and is frequently invited to preach at other congregations.
As a member of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department, Professor Mark McKibben has been at the cutting edge of the effort to fi nd new ways to inspire both math majors who excel at calculus and math-averse students who fi nd themselves struggling just to meet their liberal education requirement in the fi eld. He is a highly successful author of many professional articles and two volumes on the subject of evolution equations. Mark was one of the fi rst members of the Goucher faculty to experiment with online and “discovery-based” learning techniques.
La Jerne Terry Cornish, who graduated from Goucher in 1983 and later obtained her master’s degree in education from the college in 1994, is now an associate professor in, and chair of, that department. A former assistant principal in the Baltimore City Public Schools, she actively oversees the secondary education concentration. She is also in the second year of a three-year term as the elected chair of the Goucher faculty. For eight years, La Jerne has led an intensive course abroad to the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, where the Goucher student participants teach in a village school and work in its community; they and she describe their lives as having been transformed by the experience.
These are just five of the extraordinary faculty members who help defi ne the character of Goucher as a liberal arts college. The recommendations of the Crossroads Task Force, recently approved by the Board of Trustees and now being rolled out to the college community and coordinated with Goucher’s newest strategic plan, will bring about important changes in the way we deliver a Goucher education and help us develop innovative new programs. Clearly these fi ve professors will play a pivotal role in designing the way forward, and I know that Norma Lynn Fox ’76, now chair of the board, plans to rely heavily on them, as we build on a spirit of collaboration to face the future.
We are all very lucky to have them on the task.