Three LU professors receive tenure

Emily Passey

After completion of the tenure review process three faculty members, Peter Blitstein in history, David Hall in chemistry, and Kurt Krebsbach in computer science, were each promoted to associate professorship and granted job security in the form of tenure.
Provost and Dean of the Faculty David Burrows spoke about the tenure process, emphasizing the three tenets which every professor must demonstrate in the tenure review: teaching excellence, scholarly work and service to the university.
Students’ opinions of professors are “considered very important” in the tenure process, and even alumni are sent evaluations for professors being considered for tenure. Burrows notes that, in the tenure process, “Teaching excellence comes first.”
Blitstein, currently in his sixth year at Lawrence, echoes this opinion. Blitstein places great emphasis on the student evaluations, noting that they are the best means by which to judge a professor’s teaching skills.
Blitstein specializes in Russian and Eastern European history and his scholarly work focuses on Stalin’s Soviet Union and its policies for dealing with non-Russian ethnic groups.
Blitstein brings this expertise into the classroom by teaching courses in the history of nationalism, ethnicity and ethnic conflict, and even a course he created on espionage in Russia and the U.S. during the Soviet regime, entitled Spy vs. Spy.
“I feel a deep ethical responsibility in front of the classroom,” said Blitstein. He feels that it is especially important for him to keep several viewpoints in play when teaching because of the often-controversial nature of his subject matter.
David Hall, in his fifth year at Lawrence, seems to possess the same sort of sincere enthusiasm for his research and his teaching as Blitstein. Just as inimitable as his classroom personality, known often as “Dr. Dave,” is his work in the biochemistry of asthma and its exacerbation by the common cold.
Along with his work in asthma, Hall has also worked on the interdisciplinary field of nanotechnology and, after several years of working towards its creation, has successfully nailed down the biochemistry major.
In his discipline, Hall “absolutely” works with students. It has always been a goal of his to work at a small school like Lawrence and one can see why.
While working on the Academic Technology Committee, he helped pioneer the Moodle program, “love it or hate it,” and also podcasting of lectures.
Now that he is tenured, Hall hopes to find a name for a mug in the VR.
Kurt Krebsbach, the only full-time computer science professor, brings the same teaching enthusiasm but his own unique prowess to his field.
Along with being a class of ’85 alumnus – the first to graduate with a degree in computer science, as well as a bachelor’s in music – Krebsbach holds a doctorate in computer science and also worked in the nonacademic realm at an artificial intelligence lab.
Because of these experiences, he stresses that he brings knowledge of not only the academic world but also the industrial world – the two places where a computer science major is likely to end up.
Along with publishing regularly in the artificial intelligence field, Krebsbach has also involved students in AI and robotics research, a recent development for him. His research, along with the help of his students, is to create AI systems that can “plan under uncertainty.”
Krebsbach came to Lawrence in order to “give back to Lawrence for the time [he] had as a student here.” Now that he is tenured, he hopes to spend the rest of his career giving back.
More rewarding than his higher-paying job in the AI lab, Krebsbach feels that his job is to “help change students’ lives.” Echoing both Blitstein and Hall, Krebsbach says, “The main thing is that I can do this for a lot longer.

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