Students walked into the first day of Survey of American Literature expecting the typical first day introductions and overview of the course. Instead, the class escalated into a heated racial debate centered on terms used in early American literature. New professors, welcome to Mills College.
Tiffany MacBain said Mills gave her an offer she couldn't refuse. She is a new English professor on a one-year contract with Mills who finished her post-doctorate at UC Davis in 2004. Mills offered MacBain five literature classes and one composition class this fall as well as a graduate class in the spring.
Having taught at both Davis and CSU Sacramento, MacBain said there is definitely a difference between large state schools and small, private ones such as Mills.
"Students here are better prepared for discussions and more engaged," Macbain said. "The subject matter just seems to mean more." Mills' small class sizes and strong liberal arts focus attracted MacBain after teaching at such large, science-oriented schools.
Coming to a single-sex institution can take some adjustment, especially one with unique traditions like Mills. "I have to get used to saying 'freshwoman', but I'm still trying to figure out if it makes any difference in the classroom," said MacBain. "I'm a huge advocate of women's education because women definitely need to rise to the top in the classroom."
Mills is welcoming back assistant dance professor Katherine Mezur, who has returned after receiving her MA here. She is the author of Beautiful Boys/Outlaw Bodies: Devising Female-likeness on the Kabuki Stage and works as a feminist scholar, director, and choreographer. Mezar also specializes in Japanese theatre, dance, and performance studies.
Many in the English department felt the loss of medieval expert Dr. Ed Milowicki after he retired last year. "Dr. Milowicki was such a unique professor with interesting insights on medieval literature," said junior Nicole DaSilva. "It'll be interesting to see what the new professor contributes to the department." Now filling the position of "medieval scholar" is Diane Cady, an expert in medieval literature and author of Damned Goods: Gender and Commerce in the Canterbury Tales. Cady has her Ph.D. from Cornell University and has taught at St. John's University. She recently won the W.M. Keck Foundation fellowship from the Huntington Library.
Mills also welcomes Carol Chetkovich as associate professor and director of Public Policy, Jacques Servin as assistant professor of Intermedia Arts, and Jared Young as assistant professor of Biology. All of the new professors come from a wide background in liberal arts education, and five of them hold Ph.Ds in their field.
Some students feel that adding new professors every year allows students a broad spectrum of ideas. "I like to have new professors every year; it helps give me different perspectives," said senior Jenn Leier.
Mills is welcoming these new professors to a diverse faculty that includes a wide range of talents. Ninety percent of the faculty hold terminal degrees (the highest degree possible in their field), 22 percent are faculty of color, and 60 percent of the faculty are women. Of the new professors, five are women.