Wmc Dean Considers The College's State -- And Future

Seligman Picks Faculty As The Main Strength

March 06, 1991

Last fall, David B. Seligman was appointed Western Maryland College's new vice president and dean of academic affairs.

Seligman replaced Melvin D. "Del" Palmer, who, after seven years in the position, returned to teaching comparative literature courses full time at WMC. Palmer first came to the college in 1965.

A Newark, N.J., native, Seligman has a doctorate in philosophy from Duke University and a bachelor's degree in the same discipline from the University of Rochester in New York. He comes to Westminster from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where he was associatedean of the faculty for the past eight years.

What follows are excerpts from a recent interview with Seligman conducted by Sherri Kimmel Diegel, managing editor of the Hill, Western Maryland's alumni magazine, reprinted with permission.

In your view, what are Western Maryland's strengths?

The greatest resource that this institution has is its faculty. I think that this is a faculty of astonishing ability and accomplishment.

There is a tendency, I think, on the part of a lot of folks, to assume that the faculty of Harvard, or Princeton, or Swarthmore or what have you, are clever, bright, energetic and accomplished people, but that the faculties of other places, like Western Maryland College, are simply toilers in the field, sort of your plain, ordinary, garden-variety folk who just go out there every day and teach their courses. Well, they're wrong.

The fact of the matter is these are enormously gifted, exciting, energetic, talented, resourceful, humane people. The real powerhouse resource of this college is the faculty.

You've mentioned two plans you have for improving the faculty. One was expanding the faculty grants program. The other is scholar lectures, having people in certain disciplines giving lectures in their area of expertise. Could you discuss these ideas?

My understanding when I came to the college was that one of the objectives of moving to a standard (teaching) load (for professors) of three courses per semester rather than four was to enable the faculty ofthe college to spend more time and devote more energy, more effectively, to such things as improvement of their teaching, development of new instructional methods or materials; to strengthen their roles as advisers to students as part of our efforts in improving retention and at providing a more effective educational experience for undergraduates; and to upgrading their involvement with research, scholarship and artistic productivity in their disciplines.

One of the ways to do that is by seeking external funding, grant funding to help them todo those sorts of things -- the scholarship research, the artistic production and so forth.

I'm trying to be very active in calling tothe attention of faculty members opportunities for grant funding in their disciplines as I come across them.

The second thing that I have done is to enlist the aid of some professional assistance in thatarea, and we have retained a firm out of Washington, D.C., which specializes in assisting faculty in developing grant proposals and seeking outside funding.

The second thing you asked me about was something that I mentioned when I was appointed. I suggested that a tradition which exists in many other countries and in a few universities andcolleges in this country might be something that we'd like to try onat Western Maryland College. And that is the so-called inaugural lecture, the notion being that when a faculty member is elevated to the rank of professor, or full professor, as it is sometimes called, it would be appropriate for him or for her to give an inaugural lecture to the entire campus community.

I have suggested that to the faculty affairs committee, and there's a great deal of interest in it, and we'll see what comes of it. The first such inaugural lecture will occur sometime this spring, and it will be mine. I will be presenting tothe community a lecture either on some issue or topic or concern in higher education or, preferably, on something from my own research.

A large proportion of the faculty at Western Maryland is aging. Many professors were hired in the early and mid-'60s and are nearing retirement age. Do you foresee a problem in a few years with mass retirement? Are there plans to deal with such a time?

I just did a study for the academic affairs committee of the board of trustees on the graying of the Western Maryland College faculty. It is a concern, because there are a couple of bulges in the faculty age pattern.

One of them is in the age group from about 55 to 65, and those are the people who, in the next 10 years or so, will be retiring, or approaching retirement age. There is reason for concern, primarily because there is a national concern. There is reason to believe that there are not as many folks in the pipeline as there will need to be to fill those faculty positions as those retirements come up.

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