Sunnie Yi Ning '18Assistant News Editor
This year, 18 new full-time faculty members will be teaching at Smith. New faculty teach and conduct research on subjects ranging from Africana studies to statistical and data sciences. The classes they teach include traditional courses such as Calculus and Chinese as well as innovative courses such as Sport: In Search of the American Dream and a seminar on death and violence in films.
Many of the faculty members have chosen Smith because of its liberal arts qualities and contribution to women’s education. Film Studies Professor Jen Malkowski, who did a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Smith, was drawn back to Smith because of its “politically engaged students in a strongly feminist environment.”
Eric Tibbetts from the Exercise and Sport Studies (ESS) department had worked for a women-serving non-profit for five years before coming to Smith. “I enjoy the energy that comes from working in a majority female space and helping create greater equity and opportunity for women. The ESS department, in particular, aims to help address the under-representation of women in the coaching world a mission I'm very much on board with,” said Tibbetts.
The new faculty members bring a renewed sense of excitement to the academic departments by bringing new projects and perspectives and by innovative teaching methods. Malkowski, for example, will play important roles in the expansion of the Film Studies program into Film and Media Studies, incorporating many media forms beyond just film.
Her classes will feature television, video games and internet media. She is now in the process of developing a new video gaming lab at Smith and is hoping to connect with students across campus interested in playing, analyzing and even making games.
Jen Beichman professor of mathematics and statistics is working to make Calculus I a better experience for students. “A large part of my position is coordinating the introductory courses, something I am very passionate about,” said Beichman. A big part of her job is to work with other instructors to build a consistent and useful course for students, and it was, in fact, a big part of her decision to come to Smith.
Many new faculty members were surprised to see how intellectually and politically engaged the students are at Smith. “I've really been pleasantly surprised by their knowledge and willingness to contribute and challenge myself and each other,” Tibbetts said.
Malkowski noted that Smithies in her class share the same academic interest and habit as her; “Smithies can be the most delightful nerds, which I say with affection and self-identification as a fellow nerd.”
So far the new faculty members found that the Smith community has been inclusive, welcoming and exciting. In particular, many noted a difference between big universities and Smith. East Asian Languages and Literature Professor Lu Yu said, “I worked in some big universities before, but I prefer the environment and atmosphere here.” For Beichman, the passion and energy of Smith students are more palpable because she came from a large state school.
Tibbetts appreciates that Smith is trying to think critically about teaching and is attempting to place itself in conversation with the issues at play in the wider community. Malkowski also noted that students and professors learn from each other at Smith. “I feel excited to walk into my classroom each time knowing that I'll learn things from my students and not just teach things to them. That's more true at Smith than at most colleges,” she said.