Christiansen to take new post

By Amy Lieberman

Political Science department chair Adrienne Christiansen will leave her position at the end of this semester to become director of the Center for Scholarship and Teaching, beginning June 1. Christiansen will still hold her position as a tenured Political Science faculty member, and while she will not teach during the next academic year, in following years she plans to teach one course, Rhetoric of Campaigns and Elections. David Blaney will take over the position as department chair, Christiansen said, and the department has also hired a new non-tenure track professor to undertake her course load.

Christiansen was also recently asked to deliver the Senior Send-Off Lecture, a new addition of senior week the Alumni Office helped develop.

“I was floored,” she said of her selection.

The CST focuses on enhancing faculty development in the areas of teaching and scholarship. Christiansen said that she has been an “active consumer of the program” for years and that over time she gained more responsibilities within the center.

“My colleagues urged me to apply,” Christiansen explained. “And one of the things that I have learned is that I do like administrative work and some of those skills I think are necessary to the position I have developed. I thought this is a way I can serve Macalester and help the institution in a new way.”

Christiansen will continue to advise students but said that she will perform “80 percent of her duties within the CST and 20 percent in the political science department.”

After working in the position for three years, she will go on sabbatical. Then, Christiansen hopes to serve as director for another three years before she returns to the Political Science department. She has taught American political communication, and rhetoric and feminist studies at Macalester for the past 17 years.

Christiansen will still retain her office in the Political Science department, but will also have one in the CST, located on the third floor of the library.

But before she departs, she will stand before seniors 1:30 p.m. on May 12, in the Weyerhaeuser Chapel, to deliver their last lecture.

Stephen Sporer, associate director of alumni relations, proposed the idea to the senior week committee and alumni relations this year. He said that as an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College, he noticed that he and other students always loved the “last lecture” element of senior week, and that he wanted to bring the tradition to Macalester.

Over 125 seniors responded to the nomination request, and Sporer said that Christiansen overwhelmingly received the most votes.

“It was like, this is the appropriate person to kick off the series because obviously people love her. She was really moved by this,” he said.

As Christiansen mulled over potential speech topics and approaches in her office this week, her enthusiasm was made quite clear. But at the same time, she said, her background in speech communications doesn’t excuse her from the “same kind of fluttering anxiety” that often comes with giving a momentous speech.

“You want to try to avoid preaching and saying something just so frothy and light, it is like, why bother,” she said. ” It’s a really wonderful idea. I am not going to be a scholarly lecture about politics. This a celebratory moment and this is something of a challeng.”

Christiansen didn’t want to give away details about her speech, but said that responses to some Macalester students’ perceptions and voiced opinions will probably make the final cut.

“Students at Macalester have certain ideas that they talk a fair amount about sometimes I think they are right and sometimes I wish they would think about it in different ways,” she said. “I want to talk about what it means to make a meaningful in the world and address it in a hopefully meaningful and humorous way.”

Sporer said that this is the first time that alumni development has teamed up with the senior week committee, but that this event will hopefully become an annual one. It also stands a prime opportunity for the alumni office to reach out to their most recent alumni.

“Commencement is such a crazy day,” Sporer said. “Seniors minds are all over the place, but this is right before then, when they can sit collectively and listen to Adrienne’s speech and hear what she has to say.