Fellows program successful so far

Emily Passey

The Lawrence Postdoctoral Fellows program has gotten off to a steady start this term. Professor Peter Glick, director of the fellows program, and many of the faculty mentors involved, have many positive things to say about its success thus far.
The program was initiated in October 2004 by President Beck. Professors formed committees, deadlines were set, and by late winter applications were pouring in. The committee initially thought they may find only three or four eligible candidates, but in the end asked eight postdoctorals to join the program. Those eight accepted, signaling initial success on the part of the Lawrence faculty.
Despite its hurried creation, the program was well thought out in all aspects, including studying its success. The program’s initiatives are documented on the Lawrence website.
The fellows committee set out a series of goals which they wanted the program to meet and – as far as professor Glick can see – these are being met. He stresses that extensive research is being done and a complete evaluation of the program’s success will be ready in the spring.
The main objective of the fellows program is to amp up Lawrence’s fresh and intellectually vibrant learning environment by bringing in “renewing” ideas. Glick notes that postdocs – straight out of graduate school – are familiar with the newest technologies and ideas and bring insight not only to teachers who are further from graduate school but to students who are preparing to go. It is what Glick calls a “win-win-win-win” situation for faculty, students, the fellows, and the name of Lawrence University. Many of the professors involved agree heartily with Glick’s sentiments.
Though they are “freshmen” at Lawrence, the fellows are already making themselves known in the community. There have been – and will be – performances and science hall colloquia given by or with the help of fellows. They are mentoring student research groups when not teaching in the classroom. In physics, Professor Matt Stoneking is excited to have a research partner in plasma physics. “More work will get done and I will have more fun doing it,” he says. For most professors, especially in the sciences, the fellows are collaborators and assistants as well as colleagues. And because Lawrence is such a small school, this is an opportunity that did not exist to this extent before.
As for the fellows themselves, their experience in the program thus far seems to be a good one. Philosophy fellow Jennifer Keefe has positive remarks about being at Lawrence, “Everyone is friendly and I think there is a relaxed and industrious atmosphere here,” she says. David Sunderlin, the fellow in geology, notes of the Lawrence students, “I can’t tell you how many times I have stayed in Youngchild later than I thought I would so that I could try to research a spectacularly phrased and insightful question from a student that day. Once a question like that is posed and deliciously interesting, it is hard to get it out of your mind.”
Professor Glick believes that the program has done well thus far. Their mentors agree with Glick. Professor Gene Biringer is the faculty mentor to Jennifer Fitzgerald in music composition and says, “The fellows committee has done an outstanding job in developing the program in less than one year.” In philosophy, Professor Tom Ryckman says that Jennifer Keefe is a “nice fit” and that the program “is enhancing the academic environment at Lawrence.” Theatre professor Kathy Privatt is a “huge fan” of the program. Professor Marcia Bjornerud, geology, notes that paleobiology, Sunderlin’s expertise, has been exciting for students in biology and geology. From all angles, the program seems to be succeeding and meeting its goals.
Who can say what is to come of Lawrence’s innovative program in future years? More advertising is being done this year and Glick hopes that the data collected and analyzed over next summer may be able to serve as a guideline for other universities. Lawrence’s program is comparable to the Mellon scholar program at other small institutions, but because our fellows program is being studied and directed solely by Lawrence, it is a little different and quite impressive for a school of Lawrence’s size and locale.