Four Distinguished Faculty Members Awarded Tenure
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
The College awarded tenure to four professors this semester: David Leibowitz of the political science department, Maria Mendonça of the music department, Sam Pack of the anthropology department and William Suarez-Potts of the history department. All will be associate professors as of July 1.
Pack has taught at Kenyon since 2006. His academic focus is media anthropology, and he completed his doctoral dissertation on the effect of mainstream American television on Native Americans. Students identified Pack’s strong opinions and high expectations for student work as characteristics of his classroom dynamic.
“What I love most about his teaching style is his ability to inspire critical thinking amongst his students through back-and-forth debate,” said Olivia Sison ’13, who has taken his Introduction to Cultural Anthropology and Anthropology of Mass Media classes.
The chair of the anthropology department, David Suggs, also spoke to Pack’s energy as a teacher. “We are delighted that Professor Pack brings such a vibrant educational and research program to our department,” he said.
Mendonça came to Kenyon after teaching at Bowling Green State University. As an ethnomusicologist, she focuses on the intersections of music and culture.
Anabel Yahuitl Garcia ’14, who took a Music, Human Rights and Cultural Rights Seminar with Mendonça, said she was “one of a kind” and recalled her devotion and passion as a professor.
“I love talking to her because she inspires me to go on with the work I am doing,” she said.
Joe Lerangis ’12, a music major, praised Mendonça’s “deep knowledge of ethnomusicology and passion for students.”
Reginald Sanders, the chair of the music department, believes that Mendonça’s combination of specializations adds to the school and community. “Her broad experience with the musics and cultures of the world has enabled her to enrich the Kenyon curriculum in interdisciplinary ways in the fields of music, anthropology and Asian studies,” he said.
Leibowitz first came to Kenyon in 2003 as a Bradley Post-Doctoral Fellow. He became a tenure-track professor in 2006. His specialization is in political philosophy, particularly that of the ancients. “Plato is, above all, the writer that I work on,” Leibowitz said.
At Kenyon, Leibowitz has taught sections of the popular first-year seminar The Quest for Justice, Classical Quest for Justice and an upper-level seminar on Socrates. Many students have praised his teaching skills, his classroom impersonations of Socrates and his level of expertise in the subject.
“In his area of study, he is unparalleled,” said CT Crow ’14, who took Classical Quest for Justice with Liebowitz.
John Elliott, who chairs the political science department, acknowledged Professor Leibowitz’s expertise in the subject and his popularity. “The debate [among] Kenyon students seems to be whether he’s more outstanding as a lecturer in the Classical Quest for Justice or as a seminar leader in his famous Socrates seminar,” he said. “My colleagues and I all find him a delightful colleague; he enriches our curriculum.”
Suarez-Potts has taught at Kenyon since 2006. He specializes in Latin American and Mexican history; legal, border and labor history; economic and business history and international relations. “My publications have encompassed the legal and labor history of Mexico,” he wrote in an email.
Students who have taken his classes believe Suarez-Potts’ patient teaching style allowed them to more easily interact with difficult texts and sources. “He’s always available for extra help and will give lots of good, critical feedback on one’s progress in the class,” said Steven Schmidt ’15, who took Early Latin American History and Modern Latin American History.
Glenn McNair, the chair of the history department, commended Suarez-Potts’ dedication to teaching. “He cares passionately for Latin American history and for his students. Having observed his classes, it’s evident that he puts … a considerable amount of time and energy into preparing for his classes,” he said.
Tenure was created in academia to protect academic liberty and decrease the dismissal of professors on political grounds. “It gives faculty a certain freedom to research and express their thoughts without always thinking that someone’s looking over their shoulders,” Leibowitz said.
Moreover, receiving tenure lends recognition to a faculty member’s work and contribution to the school. “In a faculty member’s life, [tenure] is a huge milestone. It’s the milestone,” Pack said.
Including this year’s recipients, 21 faculty members have been awarded tenure since 2009.
“I attribute the high tenure rate to the successful [faculty] search process,” Provost Nayef Samhat said. “The pre-tenure process and the tenure process reaffirm, in fact, the decision and the success of the search process.”
Samhat also commended the ability of the Faculty Search Committee to hire professors who “teach with excellence, engage in their disciplines with energy and enthusiasm … and … make contribution[s] to the community in a number of ways.”