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Message from the President
What Makes a Great Teacher, Albright-Style?
It’s a familiar cycle. The fall semester begins in earnest with the rush of energy of the new first-year students, eager, excited, and ready for orientation. This year we welcomed the largest freshman class in our history – 446 students, our largest by a considerable margin, and the energy level was high indeed!
After a couple of hectic weeks, the tempo of the campus settles in to the familiar rhythms of academic life -- classes, papers, seminars, internships…. It is a testament to the Albright faculty that we take all of this in stride as we start the new academic year, knowing our faculty are ready to engage our students with new ideas and new ways of thinking.
This year we also welcomed a baker’s dozen new faculty members, and it is again a tribute to the quality and character of our faculty that newcomers are integrated so quickly into the life of the campus. Even as I write, I can barely remember who is "new. " Our faculty leap headlong into action, looking for new ways to improve the academic experience, volunteering for committees, developing creative new projects, applying for grants, and being active participants in a vibrant academic life.
What is this special quality that characterizes the Albright faculty? There is something that goes beyond scholarship, beyond outstanding academic credentials, beyond teaching experience. That special quality, I think, is that our faculty exhibit a willingness to engage with students and each other well beyond the confines of the classroom. That sense of cooperation, that degree of collaboration that faculty live at Albright marks them as truly extraordinary and special, even among small liberal arts colleges. And, as president, it is immensely satisfying to see such extraordinary talent in practice each day.
We want to be recognized nationally as a leader in interdisciplinary study, and we are achieving that because of our faculty. These dedicated educators create the educational experience that prepares our students to become leaders on the world stage. So, to sustain that special quality, even as we hire new faculty, we look for scholars who demonstrate the Albright attributes of energy, flexibility, creative thinking, willingness to engage and the ability to collaborate. We look for scholars whose interests cross the boundaries of individual disciplines and teachers with the ability to collaborate and connect on a personal level.
It is one thing, however, to say the faculty is magnificent. It is another thing to prove it. Yet at Albright proof abounds. You see it daily in the performance of our students as they relate to the collaborative educational environment fostered and practiced by our faculty. Nearly half of our students, for example, combine fields of study, with majors like business/digital media or biology/environmental studies. Last year our students had 143 different combinations of majors. At most schools, faculty "compete" for students while our faculty pride themselves on sharing students among departments. Our professors simply make it happen, working with the students to ensure that each student’s individual goals are met.
At Albright, it is not just in working with students, but also in working with each other that our faculty shine. Departmental boundaries come tumbling down at every turn -- a way of life for us but truly remarkable in academe. Computer science and digital media collaborated to win a major grant for handheld wireless technology. Latin American studies and the Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures Department together won a grant to integrate Latin American and Caribbean studies further into the curriculum. Nine faculty from nine disciplines are brushing up their Spanish, preparing for trips during Interim to Spanish–speaking countries and then developing new courses in psychology, art, literature, sociology and more, that incorporate aspects of Latin American experience.
Our faculty consistently receive high marks from students and accolades from alumni who acknowledge their debts of gratitude. High school students who visit Albright in their quest for a college tell us over and over that it is the accessibility and personal attention conveyed by our faculty that most "sells" this small college. So, with the academic year well underway, I want to take a moment to thank the exceptional Albright faculty for the daily gifts they give to our students, our College and us all.
Henry A. Zimon, Ph.D.
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