Let’s talk about the new Romanticism professor: Students are given the chance to meet potential professors

By Amelia Gentile

How would you like the opportunity to help choose your next upper division professor?

This goes beyond searching RateMyProfessors.com for the ideal professor to deciding who gets to teach at USD. In the English department, some students are given the opportunity to participate in the process.

Professor Cynthia Caywood explained why the English department allows students to partake in the process.

“We get to learn more about how the candidates relate to the students, and how they really teach,” Caywood said. “It also helps [the candidates] see if they like our community.”

This is a practice employed by a few of the departments here on campus. This week the candidates were being interviewed for the Romantic era of literature teaching position.

In a time when a new professor is on the horizon, students currently pursuing majors and minors in English reminisce about the past professor in the position, Barton Thurber.

“You knew when you met him that he was one of the smartest guys you had, and ever would meet but he could still really talk to you with wry humor and it was fun,” senior Greg Pisacane said.

Though these seem like big Oxfords to fill, Thurber himself stepped up during a bit of a crunch five years ago. During this time, the former professor Mary Quinn retired and the department found itself searching for the right person to fill the gap. Unfortunately, the right one never came along during their previous interviews a few years ago.
I recently met with two of the three candidates hoping to fill the position this fall.

The two potentional candidates were young and enthusiastic. Ivan Ortiz and John Havard both evoked a hands-on teaching and learning styles. Each seemed to exude an enthusiasm for the epoch that balanced with their own fresh perspectives on the classical material.

Ortiz explained his research related to the development of transportation and technology (primarily hot air balloons and steam engines) and those effects on the period writers.

Havard emphasized the importance of engaging students to bring in their own outside knowledge from different disciplines, like science or religious studies, to synthesize with his course in order to examine the era through many different lenses. Many students hope that the incoming teacher will be able to embody some of the best qualities brought to the position previously by Thurber.

“He treated students like they were intelligent, and his pearls of wisdom were buried under caustic sarcasm towards often very complex material,” Janet Easler, a former Romanticism student, said.

Caywood believes that within the next month faculty decisions will wrap up, and an offer for fall 2013 will possibly be extended to one of the candidates who suits the community of faculty and students in the English department.