Three Faculty Members Granted Tenure

By Mitch Perry

Last month, the College awarded tenure and the title of associate professor to three faculty members – Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Chong-suk Han, Associate Professor of Spanish Enrique Garcia and Associate Professor of German Natalie Eppelsheimer.

Han and Garcia both expressed delight in receiving tenure, but emphasized that their tenured status would not affect their commitment to their students, to their research or to their roles in the College community.

For Han, receiving tenure “gives you the freedom to take the time you need to really think about what’s ‘next’ and how you want to grow as a scholar and a teacher.” However, Han does not foresee his tenured status having a large impact on his course content or on his academic research. As Han explained it, this is because Middlebury encourages professors, even those without the “protection of tenure,” to research and to teach about topics that interest them – no matter how controversial those topics may be.

Echoing Han’s sentiments, Garcia stated, “I don’t want to become a ‘batata’ after tenure, and become lacking in service, teaching and research.” He explained that “batata” is a Caribbean-Spanish term for a person who is “as inert as a yam waiting on the floor to be picked up.” For Garcia, receiving tenure is validation for what he described as his unique teaching style. For instance, Garcia recently worked with his J-term class to create a Spanish-language film on zombie apocalypse, which Garcia acted in.

“The fact that I have tenure puts me as a different model of professor that students see, [and] I think that I could also be a model for other professors,” Garcia said.

Eppelsheimer was unavailable for comment. But, in an email to the Campus, Chair of the German Department Roman Graf, praised Eppelsheimer’s ability to create “a comfortable, student-centered classroom in which she functions as a conduit of information and impulses to activate her students.” According to Graf, her promotion had the unanimous support of her colleagues in the German department.

Outside the classroom, Han, Garcia, and Eppelsheimer have all made significant contributions to academic research.

According to the College’s press release, Han’s research has contributed to a better “understanding of the intersection between race and sexuality for Asian Americans.” Just last year, the NYU Press published his latest book entitled Geisha of a Different Kind: Negotiating Gay Asian Male Identities.

“Garcia is one of the foremost scholars of Latin/o American visual culture and media studies in the United States,” the press release states. In addition to his first book, Cuban Cinema After the Cold War, Garcia is in the process of writing another entitled Los Bros Hernandez.

Of Eppelsheimer’s research, the press release states, “Her contributions to the theoretical understanding of the relationship between language acquisition and intercultural competency speak to one of the foundations of a Middlebury education.” Additionally, she is currently working on a book about German-Jewish exiles in Kenya.

Finding the balance between the demands of their scholarly research and their commitment to teaching students has not been as challenging as one might expect for Han and Garcia. In fact, both believe that their research has benefited from their engagement with students and vice versa.

“The time I spend teaching really strengthens my research and the time I spend doing research really strengthens my teaching,” Han said. Han believes that his students’ engagement with his latest research material in the classroom helps him think differently about his work.

Garcia also tries to create classes that are engaging for students, but at the same time benefit his research. He feels that keeping up with research is necessary for being a good teacher.

“You could be great inside the classroom, people love you, and classes are fun,” he said. “But, if you become outdated, then your classes begin to fail. It is like you’re stuck teaching what you learned in grad school.”

While both received the same honor, Han and Garcia celebrated receiving tenure in very different ways. Han wrote that he celebrated with a dinner and small get together, but his “real” celebration plans have yet to be determined. Garcia, on the other hand, threw a 24-hour party at his house that began at 10 a.m. on a Saturday and ended at 10 a.m. the next day, and said that he stayed up for the entire event.