The faculty members at the college – the backgrounds they bring to teaching, their understanding of learning, their commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and learning, and their skills to do such teaching – are at the heart of the our academic success. All of these elements intertwine as faculty members enter into relationships with teaching partners, students and the material they intend to investigate in their programs. Thus to teach at Evergreen is not only an academic experience but also deeply relational.
The most powerful learning within an interdisciplinary curriculum comes only in part from the range of area of studies included; it is in the act of inquiry into matters where members have a stake in the ideas - the basis for reflexive thinking - that members draw together historical (from academic disciplines) and current (from public life) perspectives into more integrated learning. Interdisciplinary teaching rests, simultaneously, on active inquiry with colleagues and students, and ongoing planning and refinement of their programs.
Teaching, like all learning, is based in a capacity for reflexive thought. In the process of teaching faculty members change what they know and how they think; their interdisciplinary and disciplinary knowledge and insight expand, and their skills of inquiry sharpen. By its nature, interdisciplinary teaching invites faculty members into unfamiliar areas of study. It can lead to unexpected and surprising new learning. Students make it abundantly clear, in their evaluations of their own learning, that faculty members who are similarly engaged in genuine inquiry are key to their learning.
Faculty issues and concerns
There are a number of conditions present within the faculty that today provide sources of creativity as well as strain. Two stand out for special attention. First, we are a very different faculty group from who we were at our last reaccreditation. Close to fifty percent of our current faculty members have been hired in the last ten years; an addition fifteen percent have been here for 15 years or less; and the remainder have taught at the college since its earlier years. Many of the faculty in this latter group will be retiring within the next five years.
The current faculty has a different disciplinary distribution than at our last review. Most notably we have hired more faculty members for our professional graduate and undergraduate programs; we have fewer faculty members in the humanities (21% of the faculty in 2005, down from 25% in 1997) and greater numbers in the sciences ( 35% in 2005, up from 26% in 1997). The following shows the number of faculty members hired and those that retired by planning unit over the last ten years.
The change in demographics among the faculty has had a direct effected on curricular offerings, as well as approaches to pedagogy and epistemology. These changes can be viewed in a variety of ways. For some, they are an unsurprising change in student interest and academic priorities in higher education. But we should also consider how these changes affect our ability to do interdisciplinary studies.