As the new academic year comes into full swing, the fresh faces on campus aren’t only those of new students. New faculty in multiple departments are just as excited to be joining the Wittenberg community as the returning faculty and students are to be back.
Dr. Jennifer Ison, Visiting Assistant Professor of Conservation Biology, called Wittenberg a “really good fit,” and expressed excitement in regards to beginning work at a college similar to where she studied for her undergraduate education: St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minn. In her career, Ison has also done restoration and botanical work, with a concentration on conservation. As a botanist and conservationist, Ison participated in research programs and pollinator conservation studies, the knowledge from which she wishes to pass on to her students.
As a new professor, Ison wishes to “enhance” the Department of Biology. She hopes to add a “botanical” angle to the biology and environmental science departments, in addition to bringing experience into the classroom that she gained from working in non-profit organizations in the botanical field. Previously, Ison held research jobs in the Chicago Botanic Garden and the University of Illinois in Chicago. It was from these research jobs — where she worked with students — that she realized she wanted to be a professor.
Ison said she has been “inspired by inspired students,” and the students’ “desire” to learn was a part of the inspiration she felt to begin and continue teaching. For those in her classes, Ison follows the age-old adage that one does not truly know something until they can teach it. For Ison, comprehension is the key, not just memorization.
Just a short walk out of the Barbara Kuss Science Center to Hollenbeck Hall is another new professor. Dr. R. Clifton Spargo is serving as Visiting Dixon Professor of Creative Writing this semester. He calls his position “attractive,” and said he likes the idea of being at a small, liberal arts college, especially after spending time at large universities, such as the University of Iowa.
Fargo said that not only did he choose Wittenberg, but “Wittenberg chose him.”
Spargo is not only a professor of creative writing, but he has also written the novels “Beautiful Fools,” “The Last Affair of Zelda,” and “Scott Fitzgerald”– the last of which he is scheduled to do a question and answer in October. He also works with “The Voices and Faces Project” as the creator of a “testimonial writers’ workshop.”
According to the “The Voices and Faces Project’s” website, this documentary initiative was “created to bring the names, faces, and stories of survivors of sexual violence and trafficking to the attention of the public concerns.” Writers workshops are one mechanism that the project attempts to use to fulfill that goal.
According to Spargo, his passions for writing, activism, and advocacy fuel his “desire to teach.” Spargo also called himself a “relentless humanist” because of his craving to learn as much as possible, and to bring truths and questions to life through writing. In his brief time at Wittenberg, Spargo has already noticed an “intimacy” with the campus. He said that these interactions with students have brought to life a love of the campus that is now a part of him.
While both Ison and Spargo are visiting professors — and don’t have a concrete timetable for being at Wittenberg — according to them, one thing is certain: they are both excited to begin teaching.