Arts, sciences faculty retire, new faculty hired

By this time next year students may see some new faces teaching in the various areas that the college of arts and sciences cover across the Washburn University campus.

“There were around three or four retirees in the college last year and we have around seven or eight this year,” said Laura Stephenson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Many prominent professors at Washburn will finish their careers at the conclusion of the semester.

One of those is Tom Averill, professor of English. He has influenced many at the university and not only in the English department.

“I took a class with him about food in film and literature,” said Emily Smyth, senior psychology major. “He was really good and I loved that class.”

The process to find someone to fill the hole left by Averill has already begun.

“I know they’re conducting interviews to replace him,” said Abbie Stuart, senior English major. “They’re going to hire someone on a full time basis.”

There is a growing trend in the academic world to hire part-time, adjunct instructors to save on costs for universities but the College of Arts and Sciences has no intention of following this trend to replace these retiring faculty members.

“Adjuncts definitely have a needed purpose,” Stephenson said. “But it is important to have full-time faculty in our departments to help students with tasks like advising and, in general, being around to help them succeed.”

Stephenson said that while they are bringing in new faculty to replace those retiring, the new faculty might have a different area of interest or specialty.

“In the case of the mass media department Professor [Frank] Chorba is retiring this semester and his area of interest is radio,” Stephenson said. “The person we just hired for his position specializes in film and video, which shows the changing environment in media.”

The process for hiring a new faculty member is dealt with mainly by the department itself. Stephenson discusses with the department, the chair of the department and the vice president of academic affairs and evaluates the position to see what is needed in the replacement.

They will then develop a search committee within the department to look for potential candidates. Typically they will bring in the top two candidates for an on-campus interview who will meet with the dean and academic affairs vice president.

One of the most important aspects of the process is that students will get an opportunity to meet and evaluate the candidates as they will have some kind of teaching session and in some cases additional things such as a performance (if they are a music candidate) or a research seminar.

Stephenson says it’s a bittersweet time when there is a transition like what is happening over the next few semesters.

“These retiring faculty have contributed so much to this university,” Stephenson said. “We are sad to see them go. At the same time however, it’s also exciting to see the new faculty and the new expertise they can bring to Washburn.”