New faculty hires across 13 departments

Thirteen academic departments at the college have hired new faculty for this year, according to the office of the provost. These departments are: philosophy, mathematics and statistics, economics, biology, political science, history, chemistry and biochemistry, English, art and art history, social work, psychology, business and nursing.

Craig Hanson, chair of the art and art history department, stated that this year was an unusual one in terms of number of incoming professors and the job searches that brought them here. A variety of forces from the past couple of years, including retirements and buyouts, pushed the number of new hires to be about three times their usual amount.

One of the new hires is Chris Fox, a graphic design professor succeeding Prof. Frank Speyers, who had served at Calvin for over 25 years. Hanson said the search began last fall once it became known that Speyers was retiring. Among the pool of viable applicants, Fox, who has experience teaching graphic design at various West Michigan institutions including Michigan State, became the unanimous pick of the hiring committee.

Hanson noted that Calvin has had students interested in graphic design for a long time, but only recently was a graphic design major introduced. Graphic design majors now make up about 60 percent of students in the art department, compared to about 20 percent a decade ago. Hanson added that he expects some modest curricular changes will be made under Fox.

“The program just comes to look like whoever runs the program, and I find Chris Fox to be an incredibly engaged, compelling professor who’s really interested in students solving problems.”

Another new hire is Aliel Cunningham, a linguistics professor. Cunningham is stepping into the shoes of former English professor James Vanden Bosch, who had served at Calvin for over 30 years.

When the position was advertised nationally last fall, many applicants found Calvin’s faith aspect attractive. This is sometimes not the case, said Karen Saupe, co-chair of the English department.

“A hiring process is a little bit like a dating service. Both sides are trying to find the perfect match,” Saupe said.

Cunningham previously taught online courses at a Christian college in Lithuania. Because of her degree in linguistics, Saupe anticipates that the linguistics major could grow in a lot of different directions, as the new professor helps to shape the curriculum in response to students’ interests. Although she is not as interested in corpus linguistics as Vanden Bosch was, Vanden Bosch has equipped the department with tools and resources to help students in this area.

Instead, Saupe added, the new hire brings a potential to grow the ESL program, which is in high demand. Cunningham is interested in potentially connecting Calvin students with pen pals of students learning English in other countries. Additionally, as the English department’s first full-fledged linguistics specialty professor, Cunningham will be a resource for linguistics majors seeking advice for research projects and next steps after graduation.

In addition to the art and English departments, eleven other academic departments are welcoming new faculty this fall, succeeding those who have departed in recent years.