A message from Dean Ted Kohn
Recently, my family and I have been watching the old “Twilight Zone” series. So as I reflect upon my arrival in Vermont four months ago, I keep hearing Rod Serling say, “Picture if you will…”.
Picture if you will: A family of four, plus a cat in a crate, flying direct from Ankara, Turkey, departing their home of fourteen years at midnight, and landing in Burlington approximately twenty hours later, on July 9. Further picture: They will purchase their new house in Montpelier the very next day, and move in on July 12. Of course, their furniture, clothes, and books will not arrive by ship container until September. But like a good American family, they make sure they purchase a television. (Cue eerie “Twilight Zone” theme music.)
Five days later, on July 17, I arrived on campus for my first day of work in my new office – a dorm room in Hawkins Hall. (I was given a double, while CoLA office manager Sharon Smith had a triple next door, symbolizing our relative importance to the college). After that, it was, as President Schneider noted, like “drinking from a fire hose.” I tried to meet as many people on campus as possible, trying to understand how the many moving parts of the university fit together. And as I came to know the college and its faculty, I was constantly struck by two things. First, how proud I was that the “best and brightest” at Norwich are “my” faculty. The College of Liberal Arts produces more scholarship, teaches more classes, and does more university service than any other college. Second, how humbled I was that the primary question I kept hearing was, “How does this impact our students?” This is not a question I ever heard during my fourteen years at my previous institution. I quickly came to understand that this simple question guides nearly everything we do at Norwich.
The college’s success manifests itself in many ways, from our winners of the Dodge Award for Teaching, to the many CoLA scholars recognized during the recent Faculty Scholarship Celebration. Our faculty win grants. We foster diversity. We take students on high-impact trips to Boston, New York and Washington, D.C. We arrange further experiential learning trips to West Point, to prisons and courtrooms, and to radio stations. This is not to say we do not have challenges as a college. We have programs that face diminished enrollments. We have lower budgets. And the ongoing construction creates a sense of displacement and isolation. These are not issues that any department or program can safely say, “Oh, that is not our problem.” These have to be faced by all of us together.
I want to thank Lea Williams for her service as interim college dean during the spring and summer. Her assistance in helping me get settled and answering my barrage of questions—some important, but many trivial —has been invaluable and beyond what was required. I would also like to thank my Office Manager, the unsinkable Sharon Smith. I look forward to coming to work every day knowing that I am working with a knowledgeable and consummate professional, and also with a good friend. Isabel Nielsen and Katie Sanders also deserve all our thanks. Together, our amazing administrative assistants are our “Great Wall” protecting all of us from chaos.
Finally, I want to thank all of you, my new colleagues. Thank you for your kind words of welcome. Thank you for your collegiality. Thank you for your professionalism. Thank you for your dedication to teaching and our students’ experience. Thank you for your fascinating and impressive scholarly accomplishments. Thank you for getting your midterm grades in on time. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work toward our common goals.