McCall leads Harpur College in new era
For new Harpur College of Arts and Sciences Dean Anne McCall, liberal arts lay the foundation for understanding the world around us.
“A liberal arts and sciences education prepares people for a lifetime of careers, as well as advanced professional degrees,” she said.
“Learning about the way the world works — whether it’s molecules and what makes them up or learning about how different societies organize themselves — is key to success as a citizen and a professional.”
McCall joined Harpur College in August after serving five years as dean of arts, humanities and social sciences at the University of Denver. Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Cincinnati, McCall also taught at Tulane University and Vassar College. Her research specializes in 19th-century France, and she is now working on a book about law and literature during that era.
“She is smart and very articulate,” President Harvey Stenger said following McCall’s appointment, “and has the experience and leadership skills that will allow her to work with faculty and students to make a great college even better.”
The appeal of Harpur College
The “high level of ambition and accomplishment” of students and faculty members initially attracted McCall to the open dean’s position, she said.
“I was impressed with the incoming credentials of the students, along with their accomplishments while they were here, the high graduation rate, the challenging classes they chose to take and their excitement about the (University),” McCall said.
A self-proclaimed “administrative geek,” McCall also said she was excited by the campus’ support of a road-map process that was developed by a “dynamic administration.”
“I had not seen a university that had an open process where you could volunteer to be on a committee and that participation was a function of your readiness to attend a lot of meetings,” she said. “I thought: ‘How interesting and open.’ In my mind, that translated to a healthy appetite for experimentation.”
McCall called the University’s transdisciplinary areas of excellence (TAEs) “a selling point for me from the very beginning.” The five TAEs, which are citizenship, rights and cultural belonging; material and visual worlds; smart energy; health sciences; and sustainable communities — will guide the University’s future research and scholarship growth.
“It is what universities should be doing,” McCall said of the TAEs. “The payoff will be enormous for the institution, our students and for creating knowledge.”
The student-teacher partnership
While Harpur College provides students with a variety of departments and classes to develop their minds, they sometimes don’t know what they are preparing for, McCall said. Therefore, it is imperative for students and faculty “to work together to claim” liberal arts and embrace the changing conditions in which students will seek future opportunities.
“Classes are one thing,” McCall said. “Now let’s work on a parallel track that gives you professional experiences that will help you over a four-year period.”
Internships, research opportunities and Harpur programs such as the Liberal Arts to Careers Externship are all ways that students can complement their classes.
When you have smart, motivated students in these kinds of situations, they are going to come up with things we’ve never thought of ourselves,” she said. “That’s important because most of the jobs now didn’t exist 20 years ago. It’s all changing so fast.
“Education works well in Harpur College because our students don’t simply learn things,” she added. “They discover and become co-researchers, co-authors on papers and artists who have their own exhibits.”
Faculty members are essential for students to become part of the intellectual community, McCall said.
“I believe whole-heartedly in the scholar-teacher model, where research fuels good teaching and good teaching fuels research,” she said. “For our intellectual community to be vibrant, we need to be engaged in creating knowledge ourselves. It’s vital to be active researchers, artists, writers and scientists.”
McCall admitted that balancing research and creative activities with good teaching is “the daily challenge of every faculty.”
“It’s the price we pay for being scholar-teachers,” she said. “It’s always a tension. If we didn’t have that tension, we would either stop being good teachers or we would generate fewer research ideas. I say embrace the tension and work on keeping the balance healthy.”
The importance of alumni
The student-teacher relationship produces alumni, and Harpur College is fortunate to have an “active, accomplished and dedicated” group of graduates, McCall said.
It is “magnificent” that physicians, lawyers, artists, scientists and other alumni continue to return to campus and support the University through talks or giving, she added.
“Alumni enrich our campus and institution just by being who they are,” McCall said. “What’s beautiful about Harpur at its age is that it now has a multi-generational component to the academic community. Harpur College and Binghamton University are young, yet mature enough to benefit from the perspective and involvement of successful alumni. Our alumni are members of this community, and I am looking forward to meeting them.”
McCall will have a chance to meet many of those alumni when they return to campus for Homecoming 2013. She will lead a “Meet the Dean” reception at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, in the Harpur Dean’s Office Suite (LN-2430).
‘A vibrant place’
With a lively intellectual community and students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni working to make Binghamton the premier public university of the 21st century, the future of Harpur College is bright, McCall said.
“Harpur College has weathered some hard times in the past several years with cuts at the state level and students struggling financially,” she said. “Thanks to the NYSUNY 2020 plan, the success of the faculty and the generosity of our donors, we’ve turned a corner. We are now entering a period of creative growth that is reshaping our identity while honoring our core commitments. This puts us at the forefront of American universities.
“This is a vibrant place to work, learn, imagine and grow. I’m thrilled to be part of it, and I hope others are, too. I’m honored to be here and excited to join the community.”