Whitman is a small liberal arts college in Walla Walla, Washington in the US. Our mission is to provide an academically rigorous education to an exclusively undergraduate student body. Since Fall 2017, Whitman has hosted three SAR scholars in: Politics and Race & Ethnics Studies, Politics and History, and Economics and Global Studies. These scholars have brought rich and diverse course offerings to our students, and in turn, we have provided the opportunity for engagement with bright and engaged undergraduate students in small classes with regular student-faculty interaction.
Whitman’s involvement with SAR has had two key outcomes for our students and faculty. First, it has enabled students to experience unique course offerings—specifically with a global focus—taught by scholars with a deep and direct knowledge of these subjects. Often, scholars offer courses in subjects outside the traditional Whitman curriculum. Second, it has introduced to the faculty the important work that SAR does and widened perspectives of the impact of global scholars.
Whitman’s SAR committee has been able to leverage two College endowments to fund these positions. These long standing endowed lectureships have been used for years to bring a variety of academics and professionals to campus to enrich our curriculum. With the help of the SAR network, our committee has been able to identify SAR scholars who would be strong candidates for these lectureships, work with relevant departments interested in hosting them, and present strong applications to the relevant evaluating faculty committees and administrators who evaluate applications. The different focuses of the two endowed lectureships have been important for our success: the Edward F. Arnold Professor endowment lectureship focuses on academics, while the Edward F. Arnold Professor lectureship focuses primarily on practitioners, i.e., scholars with expertise outside the “traditional” liberal arts (journalism, law, etc.) but whose work is in dialogue with politics, philosophy, economics, etc. In both cases, these endowments allow us to bring to campus scholars with expertise in areas not currently covered in our curriculum and who could therefore present unique course offerings to our students.
The process of hosting SAR scholars has been a learning experience for us at Whitman, one that is ongoing. One key to our success was recognizing that we could use existing endowed lectureships to fund scholars. However, there are demands on these funds from multiple departments and programs, so we cannot rely exclusively on these funds and must seek additional avenues to host scholars in the future. Another factor has been identifying departments and programs that are interested in hosting. Now several years in, the work of SAR is better known among a wider array of departments. None of this would have been possible without considerable support from the College’s administration for the work of SAR, even in times of significant budgetary constraints. Our small size and relatively flat administrative structure also makes the process easier, because decision-making rests in the hands of a few people. The faculty who founded the SAR committee at Whitman made a firm commitment that our primary focus would be to host scholars, and that if we did not make a dedicated attempt to host a scholar every year that we were not doing our job. That commitment continues to this day.
Dr. Timothy E. Machonkin
Associate Professor, Whitman College