Dean of Faculty Report, October 2007

At every monthly faculty meeting during the school year, the Dean of Faculty presents brief overviews of recent publications and other achievements by the Mount Holyoke faculty. Here are excerpts from the October 2007 report of Donal O'Shea, Dean of Faculty.

Reviewing reviews

When we passed post-tenure review six years ago, we promised ourselves to review it. My sense is that it has been more beneficial than not; that the full professor reviews are working well, and the associate professor reviews less well. I will send around a note asking you for your impressions.

Changes to the long-term teaching faculty:

As of September 2007, we were 192 FTEs (147 tenure, 7 senior lecturers, 34 tenure-track, 4 lecturers) not including Physical Education.

There were five retirements and three resignations last year. The latter were Sami Rollins of Computer Science, and Mary Jo Salter and Michele Stephens, both of English.

New permanent faculty include six full-time and two part-time in academic areas. The full-time faculty are: Iyko Day (Assistant Professor of English), Angela Dickens (Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemistry), Mark Lauer (lecturer in German studies) Omar Quintero (Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences) and, in PE/Athletics, Miriam Esber (lecturer in Physical Education and athletics-lacrosse) and Kanae Haneishi (lecturer in Physical Education and athletics-soccer). We share Thom Long (Five College Assistant Professor of Architectural Studies) with Hampshire and Nadya Sbaiti (Five College Assistant Professor of History) with Smith.

We will be conducting six full-time and two part-time (that is, shared) searches this coming year. These will be in Asian studies (Chinese language), economics (micro/health), two in English (Medieval and Romanticism), politics (theory), and physics. We are seeking shared positions in Latin American anthropology and gender, race, and science.


George Cobb, Robert L. Rooke Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, has received a 2007 Founders Award from the American Statistical Association. This is the highest award offered by the nation’s preeminent statistical society. The citation reads “for extraordinary contributions to advances in statistical education, for exemplary and altruistic service to the profession, including serving as an ASA Vice President; for vision, creativity and eloquence in advancing undergraduate statistics education; for effective outreach to the mathematics community; for promoting the role of statistics in the liberal arts; and for mentoring future and current statisticians.” Sort of says it all ...

Donna van Handle, senior lecturer in German studies and dean of international students, has received the Outstanding German Educator Award from the AATG (American Association of Teachers of German). This is the AATG’s highest honor. It will be presented at its annual meeting on November 17 in San Antonio.


Visiting Assistant Professor of History Patrick Healy’s book The Chronicle of Hugh of Flavigny: Reform and the Investiture Contest in the Late Eleventh Century, has appeared with Ashgate. Patrick describes the book, which grew out of his doctoral thesis, as more than most anyone would want to know about the investiture contest, the bitterly contested eleventh-century dispute triggered by the power struggle between the Holy Roman Emperor, King Henry IV, and the reformist pope, Gregory VII. A few pages in and you realize that this stuff is really interesting and the ramifications still echo today. The book really begins in the second chapter with a sketch of the development of St-Vanne Abbey in Verdun and the individuals associated with it. It then turns to the life of Hugh of Flavigny, who received his early education at the abbey, went into exile to Dijon with a group of the monks, become abbot of Flavigny at a very young age, and wrote an ambitious history from the birth of Christ up to the year 1000 and a closer account of the first century of the new millennium. Patrick guides the reader through Hugh’s Chronicon, sifting accounts of the times therein with what is known from other sources. What emerges is a portrait of a place, a man, a book, and the shifting events of the final years of the eleventh century from the viewpoint of the place, the man, and his account of the events. The effect of individual charisma, reformers’ zeal, converts’ fanaticism, duplicity, and naked self-interest all play a role. The controversies preceding and stemming from Gregory’s insistence in 1075 that Henry renounce rights over the German church illustrate the interplay between the personal and the institutional, between bishoprics and monasteries, and between the ecclesiastical and the royal. The consequences ripple outward from Verdun to Lotharingia to Europe and from this time before universities and corporations to the first Crusade to the geopolitical landscape of today and our current institutions.

Professor and chair of Theatre Arts Vanessa James’s new book Shakespeare’s Genealogies has just appeared with Melcher Media. Like her first book, the Genealogy of Greek Mythology, it is a visual feast and an organizational and scholarly tour de force. It unfolds accordion style, more than 17 feet on each side, each leaf containing a synopsis of one of the 37 plays traditionally attributed to Shakespeare, three plays more recently ascribed to him, and two dramatic poems. The plays are classified under the headings “Myths and Legends,” “Legends into History,” “Roman History Plays,” “British History Plays,” and “Continental Plays.” There are no fewer than five beautiful, multi-leaved genealogies, one for Shakespeare’s family and one for each category of plays save the continental ones. A plus sign indicates a mating -- how can mathematics compete? Virtually every leaf is adorned with photographs and figures. There are brief, lovely essays on character identification, famous Shakespearean actors, the lost plays, apocrypha, and various authorship controversies. There are indices, lists of Shakespeare’s contemporaries and patrons, and much, much more. This is as good as it gets and will give you or anyone to whom you give it hours of pleasure.

Don O’Shea