In the wake of departing professors and an increase of student majors, Allegheny College’s Environmental Science and Sustainability Department will be adding some new faculty members to the department.
According to Eric Pallant, professor and chair of environmental science and sustainability, the department plans to hire at least two full-time, tenure-track faculty members. An additional position opened up upon the departure of Benjamin Haywood, former assistant professor of environmental science and sustainability.
“As you can imagine, I wrestled with this decision for some time, and it was not easy to make,” Haywood said in an email to environmental science and sustainability majors. “I am tremendously grateful for my time at Allegheny and have especially appreciated teaching at Allegheny.”
He is the new director of teaching and learning at Furman University in South Carolina, according to the email read. Haywood was at the Allegheny for five and a half years.
The first order of business for the department was to cover the classes Haywood was supposed to teach this spring.
“What we do in any situation that catches us by surprise is we move as few students around as possible and move as many faculty pieces as possible to cover what courses he needed to have covered,” Pallant said.
Haywood was supposed to team-teach the class “Introduction to Environmental Science” with Casey Bradshaw-Wilson, assistant professor of environmental science and sustainability. The number of students in the course was reduced to accomodate for Haywood’s departure. Additionally, Haywood was signed up to teach an FS 201 course, which has been given to Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability Kelly Pearce, who gave up an FS 102 class.
“His (senior comprehensive) students we had to redistribute to other faculty,” Pallant said.
The remaining members of the department immediately began working with the application process. More than 70 applications were received for the open positions.
“We have a committee of faculty in the ES department, plus two faculty who are outside the ES department to serve as more objective lenses,” Pallant said. “On our search process, we have a very extensive scoring sheet that we evaluate candidates on six different categories, and then draw down the number of applicants to the highest scores and the combination of all six categories to around 20 candidates.”
Twenty candidates were then reduced to 12, which were interviewed by the panel via Skype. The five best candidates will be invited to Allegheny to give open presentations, which will begin Monday, Jan. 27. The department strives to hiring interdisciplinary professors.
“We always look for (interdisciplinary professors), and we always look for the very best and most interesting and exciting teacher we can find, almost without regard to what their specialty is,” Pallant said. “(Haywood) was that person when we interviewed him six years ago, and his specialty happened to be birds.”
Pallant pointed out that the college was not originally looking for an ornithologist when hiring Haywood due to the small number of students wishing to pursue the field right out of high school. He emphasized Haywood’s excellence as an instructor that interested various students in ornithology.
“Likewise, (Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability) Beth Choate is a brilliant teacher — we wouldn’t go out even to this day to look for an entomologist because the number of students in high school who really want to study insects is even smaller than the number of students who want to study birds,” Pallant said. “But again, she is such a good teacher and can see the big picture on the environment and is so interdisciplinary. That was what we’re looking for and continues to be what we’re looking for as we do this search.”
In addition to Haywood, the department will be smaller next year due to several conflicting schedules. Professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability Rich Bowden will be on sabbatical for the entirety of the 2020-21 school year, and Bradshaw-Wilson will be on maternity leave next fall.
“The goal is to hire two tenure-track positions, one of which is to replace (Haywood), one of which is an additional position,” Pallant said. “We may hire somebody on a temporary basis to replace Bowden and keep the numbers up.”
Presentations for the five prospective new faculty members will begin at 12:15 p.m. Monday in Carr Hall.