Departments readjust after mass retirement

With 23 professors retiring at the end of the 2017-18 year, Allegheny College has already undergone changes in its curriculum. Although Professor of History Barry Shapiro is one of the retiring professors, the international studies major and french studies minor will not see any significant changes.

Registrar and Associate Dean of Academics Ian Binnington said the number of professors retiring was designed as an early retirement incentive program.

“There is a plan across campus in various departments to make sure the classes are covered,” Binnington said. “I’m not aware of any expectations that faculty will take on more classes. One of the reason the Provost felt we were able to do this was because of the planned reduction in new students. We had fewer students now than we had five years ago, so it makes sense that we would have fewer faculty than we had five years ago.”

Professor of French Laura Reeck said she had been able to prepare for Shapiro’s retirement and start a conversation with other faculty members about finding someone to teach his classes.

“We will miss him as a colleague and obviously as having him as part of the program,” Reeck said. “His retirement will not force any curricular revisions or any particular changes within the International Studies program. It will remain as exactly as it is right now.”

With the French studies minor, Shapiro’s departure will proportionally have a bigger impact since he has a master’s degree in French history, Reeck said. Visiting Assistant Professor of French Jan Starczewski will step into Shapiro’s place for the 2018-19 year. Reeck said she is excited about Starczewski teaching Shapiro’s classes next year.

“He works a lot on religion and the Enlightenment period in France,” Reeck said.

“He’s very interested generally in questions of secularism, which is a very dominant theme in France in both political and public life. I think that his particular area of interest fits very well with the international studies program and fits well with history and fits well with what we do here in this department. He’s truly someone who can step across different disciplines.”

Starczewski said he is looking forward to teaching the new classes. Right now, he said he currently plans to keep the same classes Shapiro has.

“It’s not the first time I’m teaching history,” Starczewski said. “I’ve taught history classes before. I actually have a master’s [degree] in history. It’s a topic I’m very interested in. When I was hired here, I think that because I had experience in history, both teaching and academically, it was a good match.”

Although the international studies major is experiencing minimal changes, the department has grown. For the first time in the Fall of 2017, international studies had an introductory course, according to Reeck.

“I think that’s been very important in terms of having students begin to relate to each other as possible majors,” Reeck said. “They get to see each other’s faces.”

International Studies Major Camila Gomez, ’19, said she does not foresee any changes as having a poor effect on the department.

“I do foresee more classes being offered,” Gomez said. “For example, this year for the first time, they had an actual international studies class … You can still graduate on time and meet all your requirements as an international studies major focusing on France or as a French studies minor. It’s not like we’re in a gridlock moment.”

Binnington said he is confident in the impact the retiring professors will have on various departments.

“I think they will have the impact that they were intended to have,” Binnington said.