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Faculty add diversity requirement

Hamilton’s faculty voted overwhelmingly in May to adopt an innovative approach for ensuring that all students engage with issues of diversity as part of their studies.

The new requirement will encourage students to think critically about accomplishments, experiences and representations of various social groups in the United States and other countries. Specifically, each department and program will develop proposals for their concentrators to pursue an understanding of how race, gender, socioeconomic status and other similar categories function as hierarchies in society. Implementation proposals are due to the Committee on Academic Policy (CAP) in February; the new requirement becomes effective in fall 2017.

Unlike most of its peer colleges, which ask students to pass from one to as many as four courses that address diversity from a prescribed list, Hamilton is giving individual academic departments and programs ultimate responsibility for the requirement, thereby signaling to students the importance and relevance of the topic to their chosen area of study. It also gives faculty the flexibility to create a requirement that fits their disciplines.

Most discussion among the faculty focused on how the subject might be incorporated in science concentrations, but Patrick Reynolds, professor of biology and dean of faculty at the time, noted that many science-based matters are drawn into significant narratives around race, gender and poverty. By way of example, he said Hurricane Katrina, the Flint, Mich., water crisis, federal drug-testing protocols and other contemporary science issues are often cast in terms of inequitable effects along racial and socioeconomic lines, while federal drug-testing protocols are designed to account for racial and other differences.

“We don’t necessarily have conclusions to present to students,” Reynolds says. “Rather, our faculty believes that students need to develop the ability to consider issues through this additional lens if they are to be effective contributors within the diverse communities in which they will work, live and serve.”

Hamilton’s latest curricular requirement was discussed by the faculty on and off for years, including in 2009 by an ad hoc committee. In the fall of 2014, the CAP took up the issue again by forming a subcommittee to examine how diversity is addressed throughout the curriculum. Interested students and faculty were consulted, curricula at peer colleges were studied, and different options were considered, from no requirement to a “core” course required of all students. Concurrent with that study, the CAP approved a proposal by the Economics Department to include a diversity requirement for its concentrators.

Hamilton’s approach to diversity is consistent with its curricular philosophy. In 2001, the faculty voted to adopt an open curriculum, returning to an educational model that was in place on College Hill for two decades beginning with the 1969-70 academic year. Instead of requiring students to enroll in a prescribed number of courses from different areas (i.e., distribution requirements), colleges with open curricula allow students to choose courses that interest them and that fit their individual academic plan. Advisors help to ensure that students meet the faculty’s expectation of breadth in the liberal arts.

But even an open curriculum has requirements. Hamilton students must pass three writing-intensive courses and one quantitative and symbolic reasoning course, and complete a set of courses within their concentration; the latter includes a senior project and now, beginning with the Class of 2020, one on relevant diversity issues. (Hamilton students also must complete three physical education classes and pass tests for fitness and swimming.)

The writing-intensive and senior project obligations are longstanding, the quantitative literacy requirement began in 1996-97, and the new requirement restores a responsibility to diversity that was part of the curriculum prior to 2001. Each of the requirements ties directly to one or more of the eight educational goals approved by the faculty in 2011. For writing, that goal is communication and expression; for the senior project, the primary goal is disciplinary practice; for quantitative and symbolic reasoning, the goal is analytic discernment; and for the recently adopted diversity requirement, two goals apply: understanding of cultural diversity and ethical, informed and engaged citizenship.

Nationally, the trend is toward adding such a requirement as colleges, especially highly selective residential liberal arts institutions, have enrolled more socioeconomically, ethnically, racially and geographically diverse students, and as American society itself increasingly has become more diverse and globally interconnected.

Fundamentally, the new requirement is a statement by the Hamilton faculty that critical analysis and understanding about how race, ethnicity, age, gender and other social categories affect society are appropriate preparation for the world into which the College’s graduates will assume positions of leadership.

IT’S ABOUT TIME

Through video and film-based works, leading African artists explore how time is understood and experienced — and produced — by the body. In the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum’s fall exhibition Senses of Time: Video and Flim-Based Works of Africa, “bodies climb, dance and dissolve; characters repeat, resist or reverse the expectation that time must move relentlessly forward; and pacing, sequencing, looping, layering and mirroring invite viewers to contemplate tensions between ritual and technological time, personal and political time,” according to the curator’s description.

Teaching Transitions

Fourteen members of Hamilton’s faculty retired during the last academic year:

Carole Bellini-Sharp, the Margaret Bundy Scott Professor of Theatre, joined the Kirkland faculty in 1973 and, after the two colleges merged, remained at Hamilton, where she was instrumental in shaping the theatre program. Having directed more than 60 professional and college productions, she has worked for more than a decade with The Roy Hart International Theatre Institute in Malérargues, France.

Professor of Sociology Dennis Gilbert joined the Kirkland faculty in 1976 and transitioned to Hamilton when the colleges combined. His research focuses on Latin American society and history and the American class system. The recipient of many fellowships and grants, he is author of The American Class Structure in an Age of Growing Inequality (2003) and Mexico’s Middle Class in the Neoliberal (2007). 

Joe Malloy, associate professor of German and Russian languages and literatures, came to Hamilton in 1982. His research interests include German opera, especially the works of Mozart and Wagner; German poetry of the 18th and 19th centuries, especially Goethe and the Romantic School; and computer technology and instructional uses.

Professor of Biology Sue Ann Miller joined the Kirkland faculty in 1975 and remained on the Hamilton faculty. She investigates the influence of cell division and cell death on early vertebrate embryos, and her work can be found in such journals as Developmental Biology, the Journal of Experimental Zoology and Anatomical Sciences Education.

Professor of French John O’Neal came to Hamilton in 1984. Having written extensively in French and English about 18th-century French literature and thought, his most recent book is The Progressive Poetics of Confusion in the French Enlightenment (2011). Six-time director of the Hamilton in France program, he holds the honor of commandeur in the Order of the French Academic Palms.

Pat O’Neill, the Leonard C. Ferguson Professor of Literature and Creative Writing, joined the faculty in 1986 and focuses on Victorian and postcolonial literature, film studies and digital humanities. The author of Robert Browning and Twentieth-Century Criticism (1995), she recently created a digital archive promoting the works of Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali.

Professor of Psychology Greg Pierce came to Hamilton in 1991. His research focuses on stress and coping and the impact of intrusive thoughts on performance. His work in two different areas (supportive relationships and cognitive interference) has appeared in numerous professional journals.

Robert Redfield, the Samuel F. Pratt Professor of Mathematics, came to Hamilton in 1986. His areas of expertise include lattice-ordered fields, rings and groups, vector lattices and ordered topological spaces. The author of several dozen papers, he has presented at numerous professional meetings and colloquia.

Carl Rubino, the Winslow Professor of Classics, joined the faculty in 1989. He is a longtime collaborator of the Nobel Laureate physicist Ilya Prigogine and has published on the connections between science and the humanities, with an emphasis on complexity theory, the problem of time and the impact of the theory of evolution on ethics.

Richard Seager, the Bates and Benjamin Professor of Classical and Religious Studies, came to Hamilton in 1994. With a focus on religions of the United States, his interests include immigration, religion and the environment, and cultural encounters in the age of globalization. His latest books include Buddhism in America (1999) and Encountering the Dharma (2006).

Litchfield Professor of Physics Ann Silversmith joined the faculty in 1989 and introduced laser spectroscopy to the Physics Department. Specializing in developing new laser materials useful in the solid-state laser industry, she is investigating the spectroscopy of rare earth doped sol-gel glasses. Her research has been funded by the Research Corporation and the National Science Foundation.

Joan Stewart joined the faculty in 2003, the same year she was named Hamilton’s president. Her scholarship focuses on 18th-century French literature, especially women writers, and her latest book, The Enlightenment of Age (2010), is a study of women and aging in early modern France. 

Ned Walker ’62, the Christian A. Johnson Distinguished Professor of Global Political Theory, joined the faculty in 2006. Former president of the Middle East Institute and assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, he is former U.S. ambassador to Israel, the Arab Republic of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.

Doug Weldon, the Stone Professor of Psychology, joined the Kirkland faculty in 1978. He remained on the Hamilton faculty and studies the brain mechanisms of attention, developmental neurobiology of learning and memory, and the role of calcium-binding proteins in neural plasticity. His work has been published in such journals as Behavioral Neuroscience and the Journal of Neuroscience Education.

Eight faculty members have been named to endowed chairs. As described in the Faculty Handbook, appointment to a named chair “is an honor reflecting the special distinction that the holder of the chair brings to the College and his or her profession.” 
  • Doug Ambrose was appointed the Carolyn C. and David M. Ellis ’38 Distinguished Teaching Professor of History.
  • Brian Collett was named the Winslow Chair in Greek, Latin or Modern Science (Physics).
  • Martine Guyot-Bender was designated the Margaret Bundy Scott Professor of French.
  • Gordon Jones was named the Litchfield Professor of Astronomy.
  • Tim Kelly was appointed the Samuel F. Pratt Professor of Mathematics. Heidi Ravven was designated the Bates and Benjamin Professor of Classical and Religious Studies.
  • Patrick Reynolds was named the Stone Professor of Natural History.
  • Michael “Doc” Woods was appointed the Leonard C. Ferguson Professor of Music.

Annual Fund hits dollar goal

The Annual Fund topped the $7 million mark for the first time, with 8,027 alumni showing their support for Hamilton by making a gift between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016. 

The final tally came in at $7,004,429, eclipsing the previous mark of $6,910,359 set in 2014-15. Alumni participation totaled 44.8%, representing an increase of 131 donors from the previous year. Additionally, 472 alumni who had never given before made a gift this year.

“As is the case each year, every single gift was needed as we inched along to our $7 million target,” says Fred Rogers, director of the Annual Fund. “It’s never easy, and the headwinds are strong in the competitive contemporary world of philanthropy where so many worthy organizations are reaching out for support. But we’re proud to be able to say for yet another year that Hamiltonians have never missed a goal.”

One notable positive indicator for future Annual Fund success came from the College’s younger alumni. In 2015-16, 45.9% of those who graduated within the last 10 years made a gift. Other highlights of the fund year included $2,153,452 in gifts from 1,482 parents and a Senior Gift campaign that saw 90.8% of the Class of 2016 participating. In addition, 536 individuals joined or renewed their membership in the 1812 Leadership Circle by making an Annual Fund-specific gift of $2,500 or more. 

Social media played a key role in engaging and motivating donors this year. The one-day #LeapForHamilton challenge on Feb. 29 prompted 2,868 donors to make a gift. That number not only crushed Hamilton’s previous one-day donor record of 686 gifts, but also the one-month total of 2,179 set in December 2014.

Hamilton allocated Annual Fund gifts to three of the College’s highest priorities — $4.9 million to scholarships (the total annual budget for which is more than $34 million); $1.4 million to the work of the Career Center, from organizing programs that help students define postgraduate goals to offering stipends for unpaid internships; and $700,000 to mentoring programs at the Writing and Oral Communication centers, upholding Hamilton’s tradition of preparing skilled writers and speakers.

“It’s inspiring — and personally motivating — to see Hamilton’s donors respond so generously to the needs of today’s students on the Hill,” Rogers says.

New leaders at writing and Oral communication centers

No matter their class year, students and alumni will testify to this: At Hamilton, they learned to write and speak well. You’ll hear that from concentrators in history, biology, French, mathematics and across the disciplines. In support of that academic rigor, the Nesbitt-Johnson Writing Center and the Oral Communication Center provide students with peer tutoring and other essential support. Both centers have new leaders.

Jennifer Ambrose now heads the Writing Center, replacing Sharon Williams who had been with the center since its opening in 1987. Amy Housley Gaffney has taken over for Jim Helmer, who served as director of the Oral Communication Center since 2010. 

Ambrose began her writing center experience as an undergraduate at Hartwick College, tutoring students preparing for a composition course. She earned a doctorate in American studies from the University of Iowa, where most recently she was assistant director at the Hanson Center for Technical Communication in the College of Engineering. There she hired, trained and managed a staff of undergraduate peer tutors and a professional and graduate grading staff. At the Hanson Center, Ambrose expanded English as a foreign language tutoring, developed and updated website materials, and enhanced ways to track and assess demographic statistics by semester. She also is an experienced editor of academic writing.

Gaffney’s doctorate is in communication, rhetoric and digital media from North Carolina State University. She comes to the Hill from the University of Kentucky, where she was director of assessment, instructional communication and research; assistant professor of instructional communication and research; and associate graduate faculty member in the College of Communication and Information. The author of several journal articles, Gaffney has taught instructional communication and technology, and communication theory at the graduate level. Undergraduate courses she’s taught include public speaking and a range of communication courses, among other subjects.

As leaders, Ambrose and Gaffney are positioned to have an impact on hundreds of students. Every Hamilton student is required to pass three writing-intensive courses. In 2015-16, the College offered 141 writing-intensive courses and 113 courses that stressed oral presentations, and scores of students rely on the centers for help. Last academic year the Writing Center held 2,423 individual writing conferences, and nearly 90 percent of seniors say they’ve had at least one conference at the center over the course of their four years. The Oral Communication Center held more than 600 conferences last academic year.

Contact Information


Stacey Himmelberger

Editor, Hamilton Alumni Review
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
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