CST teaching professors

By April DeJarlais

Macalester offers many places and opportunities for students who want to improve their work. For faculty looking to brush up their skills or pick up some new ones, there is the Jan Serie Center for Scholarship and Teaching. Under the new direction of Adrienne Christiansen this year, the CST has added the Conversations about Our Scholarly Lives series, discussions with visiting and adjunct professors, natural science grants, and a symposium for faculty interested in secularity.

In its seventh year, the CST provides resources and programs to make faculty better scholars and teachers. It organizes faculty discussions, lunches four times a week and informal “happy hours” in which professors from all departments can mingle and exchange ideas. The Center also manages all faculty grants, for which professors must apply.

Christiansen, a professor in the political science department, took the position of director after Jan Serie, the Center’s founder and director of six years, passed away last fall. She credits Serie with laying the groundwork for the CST and said directing Serie’s namesake Center is “humbling and delightful.”

In her 19 years at Macalester, Christiansen has seen a large turnover of faculty. This year there have been 15 new tenured professors, and one-third of the current faculty is newer to the school. Christiansen referred to the newer faculty as “the future” of the school, and stressed the need for them to know and talk with each other. Most professors are required to teach five classes per year, while newer ones must teach four while participating in CST programs.

The Center benefits faculty at any career stage. There is a voluntary mentoring program where professors with six to 10 years of experience are paired with those who have served at Macalester for more than three decades. Those in the middle of their faculty careers have the CST’s Academic Mid-Career Faculty Program. Other colleges have faculty improvement programs, but the Mid-Career Program is unique to Macalester.

“[The Mid-Career Program] is a really progressive, forward thinking kind of program,” Christiansen said. “It’s a powerful switch for mid-career faculty, so that they think about higher education more purposefully.”

The CST helps professors grow and become better scholars, but in turn also helps students. A more able and well-connected faculty can provide many opportunities for students to advance.

“It benefits students directly; they just don’t know it,” Christiansen said.