The College announced on Feb. 1 that it had granted tenure to four professors: Maggie Clinton of the History Department, Louisa Stein of Film and Media Culture, Shawna Shapiro of the Writing and Linguistics Programs and Jeffrey Howarth of Geography.
In an email, Clinton told the Campus that she is excited for the academic flexibility that tenure will provide her.
“It’s hard to be an excellent teacher when you’re worried about finishing research that might help you land a more secure position at another school, or to experiment with new teaching methods when you’re not certain that your institution entirely has your back,” she said. “Tenure means that you can be fully invested in your students, your institution and the surrounding community without worrying that you’ll soon have to find work elsewhere.”
With this in mind, Clinton is working on a new book project regarding “political and environmental aspects of petroleum marketing and prospecting in China from the 19th century onwards.”
Like Clinton, Stein is excited for the freedom of research made possible by this promotion.
“It does free me to take on more unconventional projects,” she said. “Right now, I’m working with a couple of friends/fellow scholars on a book project about the cultural significance of the social network Tumblr. It’s going to be a multi-vocal collection comprised of many short pieces, bringing together academics and non-academic Tumblr users; certainly it’s a less traditional format and approach than my previous collections.”
Stein added that her promotion suggests that her areas of scholarship —“girl culture, fan culture and remix culture”—are being taken seriously by academics.
Shapiro, the first tenured faculty member in the Writing Program, feels that tenure will grant her a greater voice.
“I feel that having tenure allows me to speak out more openly and honestly about concerns I might have about our institution, as well as about issues in the local community (I live in Burlington),” she said. “I would like to help advocate for increased attention to issues of equity on our campus, and to encourage all of us to think deeply about the privileges we have being at Middlebury and how we might use our privilege to make positive change in the world.”
With this promotion, Shapiro hopes to broaden her audience beyond academia.
“I would like to reflect on what I have learned when taking my research out of the ivory tower and into the community, and possibly to write with— not just about— people in our community,” she said.
Howarth, who could not be reached for comment, currently holds a National Science Foundation grant devoted to improving STEM education, and is a 2014 recipient of the College’s Gladstone Award Honoring Excellence in teaching. In the College’s press release, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Andi Lloyd described Howarth as a professor who “gives deep thought to the question of what to teach and how to teach it.”