The Gustavian Weekly

English Department in search of new professor: Qualified candidates apply for Professor in Poetry and Writing | The Gustavian Weekly

By Laura Stickney - Staff Writer | December 8, 2017 | News

Confer-Vickner hall is where most English department classes are held and where professors offices are located.

Confer-Vickner hall is where most English department classes are held and where professors offices are located.

Since early in the term, the English Department has been hard at work in its search for a new assistant professor in poetry.

This grueling process of search committee meetings, application reviews, and eventually candidate evaluations will hopefully end in the hiring of a brilliant new professor.

The need for this new addition stems largely from the fact that Professor Joyce Sutphen is retiring after the end of this year, leaving an important role in the English department unfilled.

“The process is both our evaluation of the candidate, but also candidates’ evaluation of our college too” – Professor Sun Hee Lee

In particular, the English faculty hope that the new professor will be able to fill that role by not only teaching the essential poetry and writing courses within the English curriculum but also the ever-popular Introduction to Creative Writing class.

As they review applications, the English faculty and search committee are looking for candidates who demonstrate not only a strong sense of scholarship and a background in poetry or poetry publication, but also experience with teaching, publishing, and editing.

It is also expected that the new professor will be heavily involved in the student literary magazine, the Firethorne, as well as the online journal, Razor.

More than anything else, however, the English Department would especially like to see a candidate who brings a certain edge to the current course curriculum.

“For instance, we have a new writing course at the 300-level — it’s called Writing in the World — and we’re hoping that this new person will teach it in the way that he or she would like to,” Professor Sun Hee Lee, who is on the search committee, said. 

“Currently that course is taught by Becky Fremo and Baker Lawley in sort of different ways, and so we imagine a new person who would come into that position to have his or her kind of unique take on that.”

As is typical of most searches for permanent college faculty, the English Department must go through a detailed process in order to find and eventually select a professorial candidate.

Gustavus mandates that the department does a national search when seeking a new faculty member, so the position is first advertised in national venues. Those interested can then apply for the position.

“We initially have hundreds of applications,” Lee explained. “So this is a very competitive process.”

After candidates apply, the department and search committee review each application and compile a “semi-finalist” list of candidates they wish to interview; these interviews are usually done over the phone.

From there, finalists are chosen and invited to come to Gustavus for a one-and-a-half day interview, which mainly involves a teaching demonstration and an organized talk.

“For this position, the finalists will give craft talks,” Lee said. “which are kind of a combination of some poetry reading and just discussion of the poet’s writing process.”

Aside from these two main events, the candidates will also have the chance to meet with people like the Provost and the Dean of Humanities, interact with students, and take a tour around campus in order to get a better feel for what Gustavus is like.

“The process is both our evaluation of the candidate but also candidates’ evaluation of our college too,” Lee explained.

“So it’s a really grueling process, and then at the end of that, the search committee meets and hopefully we have someone that we will recommend the Dean to make an offer to.”