Message from the Dean

John M. Staudenmaier, S.J.

Highligher & Laureate, Summer 2002 issue

Related article: Letter from William Dunifon, College of Education & Human Services


John M. Staudenmaier, S.J., Ph.D. teaches the history of America, Detroit, technology, advertising, labor and capitalism. Currently, he is studying Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company. Staudenmaier is author of Technology's Storytellers: Reweaving the Human Fabric, as well as articles and book reviews in his field of study. He is also editor of Technology & Culture. He has held numerous scholarly appointments, most recently the Gasson Chair at Boston College. He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from St. Louis University and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. His home page is here.


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Getting It Right Matters

I've known for years, as a teacher, what a relief it is when term two's final grades have been posted and an open period beckons. Summer, technically the three months for which faculty members are not paid (they have nine month contracts), means different things for different faculty members. Some teach summer school classes, some manage and teach summer programs abroad (currently College faculty manage entirely or teach in the University's programs at Oxford University in England, in the Italian city of Volterra, and in the ancient theatre district of Greece).

For many faculty, summer is a time to push their current research projects along, to finish book reviews they have committed to writing for scholarly journals, and to attend professional meetings.

For seven years now I've served as editor of one such journal, Technology & Culture. I've come to expect that in early June and again at the end of summer we will receive a larger than normal influx of referee reports, book reviews, and manuscript revisions or new submissions. During the teaching year, most scholars are too busy to finish this kind of work, so projects tend to make their way to editors after a stretch of non-teaching time.

A final thought about the scholarly work of faculty members: One of my greatest surprises when I began editing T&C was the quality and care with which scholars wrote their referee reports. At T&C, we like four referees for each manuscript. The work is, in all the ordinary senses of the word, completely unrewarded. We don't pay referees. They work anonymously (only the editorial team knows who referees whom) and they typically spend hours working with a manuscript that runs 7,000 to 12,000 words (not counting footnotes). Why do they do it? Because, I think, they believe in the integrity of the discipline which is their intellectual home. Getting it right matters.

Such are some of the hidden labors of faculty that students don't usually notice. Our faculty has a remarkably strong record, not only in publishing, but in these other hidden labors of the scholarly world. I thought you would like to know.

On another front, let me say a few words about the summer's biggest job for me, now that I'm a twelve-month contract guy. As you will surely have heard, the University is combining the former College of Liberal Arts and the former College of Education & Human Services into the College of Liberal Arts & Education. I will know a lot more about this new College in the fall after we have been up and running for a while. But let me hazard a few preliminary thoughts about what this may mean for us.

Perhaps the most important single opportunity that the new College will provide is creative interaction between departmental majors and minors and the teacher certification process that requires all fully licensed graduates to complete a major and a minor in addition to their education courses. Negotiations between the Education Department and Liberal Arts Departments about State of Michigan requirements are often labor intensive. The fact that the chair of Education will be meeting regularly with the chairs of English, History, Political Science etc. should help the University as a whole to stay in tune with the State requirements for teachers--a notable payoff of the change.

I am thinking too, that the new College will have a remarkably strong balance between programs whose majors tend to see their degree as launching them into professional practice (e.g., Education, Psychology, Communications Studies, Social Work, Counseling) and programs whose majors tend to see their degree either as launching them toward further graduate study (e.g. a Ph.D. program in History or Philosophy or Religious Studies or English) or as a powerful in-depth background for their next career move (as in a Political Science or History major who goes on to law school). A university stays intellectually healthy when some of its energy is focused on pushing the frontiers of its disciplines and some of its energy prepares students to use those disciplines for other professional purposes. By bringing together a richer mix of both kinds of teaching, the new College of Liberal Arts & Education should enhance UDM's already strong tradition of the professional and the academic.

More on the new College next time. Have a great summer.

John M. Staudenmaier, S.J.
Dean, College of Liberal Arts
Editor, Technology & Culture