Campus adjusts to merger between English and Foreign ...
Searching for a parking spot on campus is not a new phenomenon to Lipscomb students, but searching for a favorite professor’s new office might be.
Many students are unaware that Lipscomb’s English and Foreign Languages departments have merged to create the Department of English and Modern Languages, although the name has not yet been officially approved by the administration.
Students who are aware of the merge are mainly English and modern languages majors, and so far, reactions have been mixed.
“Frankly, I’m just kind of a little confused as to how it might affect me,” said Chris Netterville, a sophomore English major from Nashville. “There hasn’t been that much explanation about it, just the fact that the merge itself is existing, and the offices are moving to join together in the library.”
“I really wish there was more broad, open information about it,” Netterville said. “I think that is one thing the students are lacking. Just more information about the merge and what the teachers think it will entail.”
Students’ concerns center heavily on the fact that although the professors have moved to Beaman Library, classes will still be held in Swang and Elam, potentially affecting the community of the departments.
“I don’t know if that means when I go to talk to my teachers now, or go sit in the lounge area, if I have to be really quiet,” Netterville said. “Does that mean I [can’t] talk in my own department? That’s something I’m worried about.”
“Right now, I’m not really happy about it,” said Rachel Craddock, a senior English major from Belpre, Ohio. “But, I know that we haven’t really gotten settled in so I’m hoping that once we do it will get better.
“It just seems strange that the professors are going to be in the library and our classes are still in Swang,” Craddock said. “I’m hoping they’ll put some classrooms in the library eventually.”
The English department is known on campus for having a close-knit community of students and faculty members. Craddock said what she is worried about most is that the moving of the offices will affect the overall closeness of the department and the student professor interaction.
“I’m just hoping that it all works out and we can keep our community aspect in the department,” Craddock said. “We’ve been known for having a good community because we are close to each other – physically close to each other – and so it’s going to be kind of hard to keep that up.”
But Craddock’s anxiety does not overshadow her excitement at being able to add the modern languages students to the departmental community.
“I like that they’re merging the departments,” Craddock said. “I think there [will be] a lot of great opportunities and it’s going to keep the foreign languages department alive.”
The modern languages majors are looking forward to some of the new opportunities that await them.
“[The merge] affects me in several different ways being from both departments,” said Neely Baugh, an English and Spanish double major from Franklin, Tenn. “I think what I’m looking forward to most is the foreign languages department getting a new space. The space in the basement of Elam was just not good at all.”
“This merge really alleviates some stress as a Spanish major,” said Andrew Dorris, an international business and Spanish double major from Hoover, Ala. “Last year, they talked to us about how the foreign languages department might dissolve, which would mean that I don’t know if I could be a Spanish major and might have to look into transferring.
“A positive of this is that I still have a department, and it’s actually grown in size, which I think will be good for us in general.”
To Dorris, the merge should go over seamlessly.
“We’ve already had activities with the English and modern languages together,” Dorris said. “I think that will give us more of a name for ourselves on campus. It will also help to grow interest with the majors we have inside of our program.”
The English and modern languages professors moved into their new office space in the Beaman library mid-September, leaving behind their old office space in Swang and the basement of Elam, respectively. The space was designed by university administration and has been in the works since before the beginning of summer.
“We were told about it at the end of May and no, we were not a part of the design of it,” said Dr. Kimberly Reed, the new chair of the English and Modern Languages department. “We’re working with it, and everything is going well.
“The move was a little more work intense than I had anticipated,” Reed said. “Just like with any place, when you move into a new place, you find things you love and some things that may need to be readjusted or fixed, and that’s the same here. We think that the design is wonderful in that it looks like it’s always been here and doesn’t look like it’s been pasted onto the library.”
The renovated space, located on the first floor of Beaman on the west side, houses numerous offices, a small kitchen area, and a glass-walled conference room for classes. The design took away library study rooms, tables, and book shelves.
The library moved 250,000 books to make room for the renovations. Carolyn Wilson, the library director, said that right now, the upstairs east wing of the library is close shelved while they figure out where all the books are going to go. But, once the sides are equalized, there will be no room for growth.
“It remains to be seen,” Wilson said. “We haven’t had time to test it yet. We’ve lost study rooms, we’ve lost space, we’ve lost expansion capability. We’re trying to adjust to it, but it’s too new to make a comment. We are just going to have to give it some time.”
Beaman Library hosted a special open house event on Sept. 24th for students to come in and see the renovations and learn about new library resources.
Eunice Wells, the Technology Reference Librarian and Webmaster, said she is looking forward to having more students in the library on a regular basis who will utilize the resources.
“Our English students are very much library users and we think this will be a good alliance for them to have their faculty here,” Wells said.
Reed, an English professor and graduate of Vanderbilt University, is excited about the opportunity to have all the languages together in one department.
“I am very excited because my background is in comparative literature which, for me, is English and French both,” Reed said. “Those are my two great loves academically, and I’m very excited they are now in one department.”
Students will remember Dr. Matt Hearn as the chair of the English department and Dr. Charles McVey as the head of the Foreign Languages department. While both are still teaching and very much a part of the Lipscomb community, Reed said they were ready to step back from their administrative positions.
“Teachers at Lipscomb are here primarily because we love to teach,” Reed said. “Being department chair, unfortunately, takes us away from the classroom and away from our students because we have other work that we have to do on behalf of the entire department.
“It’s a little bit of a sacrifice for somebody to become department chair. It’s a sacrifice we’re glad to make, but we miss some of that interaction with our students.”
Reed said she believes the merge will benefit the university because it will allow the faculty to come together and offer more specific programs that a smaller department could not have handled by itself.
“By bringing the faculty together we can pool our resources more efficiently and come up with programs that just one department or the other couldn’t do as well by themselves,” Reed said.
There is also the potential for joint classes to be added to the catalog that would encompass all the majors.
“I have always wanted to offer a class in translation studies,” Reed said. “That would be something for a few of us to team-teach, and it wouldn’t matter if a student was an English major, Spanish, German or French major. That would be a benefit to all majors.”
Addressing student concerns about how the merge will affect the overall community of the department, Reed said she knows where that feeling is coming from, but plans on not letting it get the best of her faculty and students.
“I certainly understand that concern and I share it to a degree,” Reed said. “But, I think that community is so strong to this department, and it’s such an important element of what makes us who we are, that we absolutely will not let go of it.”
Reed thanked the librarians for their helpfulness and generosity as the new department moves in.
“I’ve got to say that the librarians here have been wonderful in welcoming us,” Reed said. “They have made it very clear that this main floor is an area that is for group study. We can talk. We can have activities out in the open library. They are excited to see us bring that sense of community here and they want to join in with us for that.
“So, we don’t have to speak in very quiet tones when we go out into the library. If people want a quiet place to study, they’ll be invited to go upstairs in the library.”
While the departments are slowly adjusting to the new situation and planning for the year, Reed acknowledged that the move was made smoother by the help of faculty and students.
“I will say that being department chair during this transition has been much, much easier because I have such wonderful faculty and wonderful majors.”
Photo credit: Whitney Jarreld