Mount St. Mary’s University President Resigns

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It was only a matter of time.  As I watched this tragic event unfold over the last couple of weeks, I did not see any other possible ending.  If you are new to this controversy check out our previous posts here.

Here is the press release:

Emmitsburg, MD (February 29, 2016) Mount St. Mary’s University today announced the resignation of its president, Simon Newman, effective immediately. Karl Einolf, Ph.D., Dean of the Richard J.Bolte, Sr., School of Business has been named by the Mount St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees as the school’s acting president.

“The board is grateful to President Newman for his many accomplishments over the past year, including strengthening the University’s finances, developing a comprehensive strategic plan for our future, and bringing many new ideas to campus that have benefitted the entire Mount community,” said John Coyne, Chairman of the Mount St. Mary’s University Board of Trustees. “We thank him for his service.”

“I am proud of what I have been able to achieve in a relatively short time particularly in helping the University chart a clear course toward a bright future,” said Simon Newman. “I care deeply about the school and the recent publicity relating to my leadership has become too great of a distraction to our mission of educating students. It was a difficult decision but I believe it is the right course of action for the Mount at this time.”

Before Einolf’s appointment to Dean of the Bolte School of Business in 2012, he served on the faculty as a professor of finance. He was a recipient of the University’s Richards Award for Teaching Excellence, and he served for six years as the Director of the Mount’s Honors Program. He has published papers in numerous business and economics journals, and has presented his work at national and international conferences. Before joining the Mount in 1998, Einolf served the Sprint Corporation in various finance, marketing, and human resource positions.

Stay tuned.

Could Mount St. Mary’s University Lose Its Accreditation?

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We have already done several posts about the controversy at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  You can get up to speed here.  When we last left the Mount the faculty had asked president Simon Newman to resign.  Newman ignored the request.  Now the university is in jeopardy of losing its accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.  If the school loses its Middle States accreditation, students will stop coming (and Newman’s retention problem will be solved).

Scott Jaschik has been covering this story at Inside Higher Ed.  Here is a taste of his latest post:

Here are some of the provisions about which Middle States has asked for a report from Mount St. Mary’s and why they could be significant:

  • Integrity. The integrity standards say: “In all its activities, whether internal or external, an institution should keep its promises, honor its contracts and commitments, and represent itself truthfully.” Faculty members say that this was violated when the college gave new students a survey without explaining its use, when faculty members were fired in violations of their contracts and when administrators said faculty members had broken university rules. The integrity provision also states that faculty members have the right “to question assumptions,” something faculty members say the university violated by criticizing professors for disagreeing with the president and not showing sufficient loyalty.

  • Admissions and retention. The standards state that colleges must have “programs and services to ensure that admitted students who marginally meet or do not meet the institution’s qualifications achieve expected learning goals and higher education outcomes at appropriate points.” Critics say that planning to weed out such students with a survey given before they started class violates that standard. Faculty members also note that the Middle States standards invite colleges to provide “evidence that support programs and services for low-achieving students are effective in helping students to persist and to achieve learning goals and higher education outcomes.” The implication of this language, professors say, is that the college is supposed to be committed to helping students persist, not trying to get them to leave.

  • Faculty. The standards require colleges to have “published and implemented standards and procedures for all faculty and other professionals, for actions such as appointment, promotion, tenure, grievance, discipline and dismissal, based on principles of fairness with due regard for the rights of all persons.” Faculty members said that while “published” rules at the colleges may provide for a faculty role in evaluating faculty members, Simon fired people without any faculty role or without any fair rationale. Further, they note that while the president rehired the faculty members, he cited “mercy” as the reason for doing so, suggesting there was nothing wrong with the dismissals.

  • Leadership and governance. The standards say that colleges must have “a climate of shared collegial governance in which all constituencies (such as faculty, administration, staff, students and governing board members, as determined by each institution) involved in carrying out the institution’s mission and goals participate in the governance function in a manner appropriate to that institution. Institutions should seek to create a governance environment in which issues concerning mission, vision, program planning, resource allocation and others, as appropriate, can be discussed openly by those who are responsible for each activity.” Faculty members say this has been violated by firing faculty members who disagree with the president, and by removing administrators and faculty members who don’t share the president’s apparent vision of a lesser emphasis on the liberal arts in the curriculum.

Read the entire article here.

Simon Newman, Donald Trump, and Mount St. Mary’s University

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I don’t know how many of you have been following what is going on at Mount St. Mary’s University, but you can get up to speed here.

The faculty at The Mount have given president Simon Newman until tomorrow morning, February 15, to resign from his post.  So far there is no word of a resignation.

The best thing I have read on this controversy comes from Thomas Hibbs, dean of the Honors College and Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture at Baylor University. Hibbs is a Catholic intellectual.

Here is a taste of his piece at The Catholic World Report, “The Donald Trump of Catholic Education“:

Like Trump, Simon Newman and the Board that appointed him, suppose that the skills of the entrepreneur are easily transferable to any and every sphere of human life. If you can run a business, so the assumption goes, then you can run an army, a nation, or a small Catholic university.

But Newman apparently has little knowledge of, or affinity for, the Catholic vision of education. In an open letter, members of the Mount St. Mary’s Advisory Board of the College of Liberal Arts, which met in October with Newman present, stated:

As members of the Advisory Board of the College of Liberal Arts we have met with President Newman on several occasions. Our last meeting took place on October 23, 2015. During President Newman’s presentation that day he exhibited contempt for the Mount’s Catholic identity and tradition and called for a radical de-emphasis of the liberal arts education for which the university has been justly noted. Surveys, he explained, indicate that terms like liberal arts and philosophy do nothing for young people and that the Catholic Church is today less influential in the lives of the young than ever before.

As Pope Francis noted in his recent encyclical, the roots of our cultural crisis can be traced to our inability to see the connections between the parts of the universe; in our loss of a vocabulary concerning the true nature of the human person and its place in the whole; in our tendency to conceive of all knowledge as merely instrumental; and in a consumerist attitude toward nature and the human body. Countering this would require that universities actually take stands on what is most worthy of study and attempt to cultivate in students a genuine love of learning for its own sake. Francis regularly contrasts a curiosity aimed at domination and control with a spirit of wonder that is silently receptive of nature and issues in gratitude toward what is revealed to us in the natural and human orders.

Francis concentrates on integrated education that inculcates habits of gratitude and wonder, precisely the habits that are at the heart of a Catholic liberal arts education. Given the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition and its commitment to the compatibility of, and integral connection between, faith and reason, Catholic schools ought to the places where students can receive simultaneously the highest level of academic challenge and the encouragement and opportunity to develop a deep, articulate, and robust adult Catholic faith.

Read the entire piece here.  It is a strong rebuke to the MSMU president and a strong defense of Catholic higher education.

Mount St. Mary’s Reinstates Fired Professors

eb6e1-mountBut it is not clear whether they will come back as long as Simon Newman remains president of the university.

This article in Inside Higher Ed explains everything.  Newman is trying to extend an olive branch, but for many at The Mount it appears to be a poisoned one.

Here is a taste of Scott Jaschik’s piece:

Whether the tensions will be resolved remains unclear. Inside Higher Ed reached Thane Naberhaus, one of the faculty members who was fired this week, despite having tenure, and asked him if he was planning to return. His email response: “Hell no.”

He elaborated: “I’ll refuse to be reinstated until Newman is gone and some others are gone. “

Ed Egan is the adviser to the student newspaper, and is the other faculty member who was fired and whom the university said has now been reinstated. In an interview, he said that President Newman called him and told him he would be reinstated in part because the Roman Catholic Church has declined a Year of Mercy.

Egan said he was uncertain about returning and that he was bothered by the statement — and went to the faculty meetings to tell his colleagues why. Egan said he told them that the president’s statement was “as if I had done something wrong and was in need of his mercy.” In fact, the reinstatement is an attempt to “placate” the campus so that it will not consider all of the issues that go beyond the two professors.

“Reinstating me does not make these other problems go away and Simon Newman needs to show mercy on Mount St. Mary’s and resign,” Egan said. He added that he is consulting lawyers on his next moves.

Faculty members, after the news about the offer to reinstate the two professors, voted to seek the president’s removal. They adopted a letter to Newman that said: “Our community is suffering. In recent weeks, we have been divided due to miscommunications, missteps, and misunderstandings. It is clear that we all could have done things differently to avoid the situation that we now find ourselves in. Regrettably, our problems have become public and have cast a dark shadow across our holy mountain.”

The letter continued: “You have only been with us a short time. We know all too well the great love for this community that comes to those who join us. But it has become apparent that negative public attention has interfered with our ability to continue in our work and to bring new students and faculty to this campus. We have come to the sad conclusion that this state of affairs cannot be resolved while you continue in your current office. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart, in a loving spirit of compassion and forgiveness, that we appeal to your generosity of spirit and ask that you resign your position for the good of our community by 9:00 a.m. on February 15, 2016.”

Newman could not immediately be reached.

The Mount St. Mary’s campus has been in turmoil since word leaked through The Mountain Echo, the student newspaper, last month that President Newman compared struggling students to bunnies that need to be drowned or killed with a Glock. The metaphor grabbed attention, but educators said that the underlying debate was what really mattered. Newman had proposed to use a survey — on which freshmen would be told there were no wrong answers — to identify those at risk of dropping out and to encourage them to do so in the first weeks of the semester. The idea was to raise the university’s graduation rates, since those who leave very early in the semester don’t count in the total enrollment figures. Many professors and some administrators protested the plan, saying that the university has an obligation to try to educate those it admits.

I just don’t see any way that Mount St. Mary University can go forward with Newman in charge.

(Is this the first time that you are hearing about all of this?  Get up to speed here).

Fired Mount St. Mary’s Philosophy Professor Speaks Out

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Earlier this week Simon Newman, the president of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD, fired two professors and demoted his provost because they spoke out against his controversial retention plan.  Get up to speed here.

One of those fired was a tenured philosophy professor named Thane Naberhaus. He is now speaking out on Newman’s apparent assault on the historic Catholic liberal arts identity of Mount St. Mary’s

Here is a taste of an article from Catholic News Agency

Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor who was recently fired from the Maryland university, told CNA that the president wanted to downplay the school’s Catholic identity because, in his words, “Catholic doesn’t sell.”

“He said publicly,” Naberhaus told CNA, “‘if you go in the marketplace, Catholic doesn’t sell, liberal arts doesn’t sell.’”

Here is more on the Catholic identity issue:

David McGinley, a 2011 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s and a member of the Mount’s College of Liberal Arts Advisory Board, had concerns following an Oct. 23, 2015 meeting between Newman and the advisory board.

In that meeting, Newman “showed a lack of appreciation for or desire to continue or further Catholic identity in any regards to what one would call traditional,” McGinley told CNA.

“What he was saying is that Catholicism has lost its relevance,” McGinley added. The concerns Newman raised, he continued, were that Mount St. Mary’s was “not going to get customers to come” if it marketed itself as a Catholic university.

A Facebook group of concerned alumni and students, “Mount Family Speaks Out,” reported that Newman made similar remarks in an August student assembly.

According to a current administrative employee, who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, President Newman has also criticized the cross, saying in passing that there were “too many bleeding crucifixes” in the employee’s office.

“I have a broken crucifix, and I have a crucifix that is done in limestone sculpture,” the source told CNA, adding that the president had made the comment after seeing them.

Naberhaus said that he has heard similar reports from other faculty members – including some instances of the president disparaging the crucifix and using profanity.

Numerous alumni also pointed to the Mount St. Mary’s landing page for prospective students as an example of the new attitude towards Catholic identity, noting that the page does not contain any references to the fact that it is a Catholic school.

“That is Simon Newman’s vision for Mount Saint Mary’s right there, encapsulated in that one webpage,” Naberhaus said.

Naberhaus also said that he has heard Newman refer to students as “Catholic jihadis.”

Read the entire piece here.

Former Mount St. Mary University Professor Weighs-In

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John Schwenkler teaches philosophy at Florida State University, but from 2010-2013 he taught at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD.  (If you need to get up to speed on what is happening at The Mount, check out our coverage here).

Schwenkler pulls no punches when discussing the controversy at his former institution and raises some very important questions about Catholic identity.

Here is a taste of his piece at Commonweal:

From 2010-2013 I taught at Mount St. Mary’s University, now the center of a massive controversy prompted by the actions of its new president, Simon Newman, an MBA-possessing former businessman who, since taking over his current position, has:

  • Abruptly cut off a retirement benefit that had been promised for years to the university’s long-time faculty and — more importantly — hourly staff;
  • Made dismissive statements about the value of liberal study, and pushed the university to cut back its liberal arts requirements;
  • Abruptly dismissed from his administrative position Joshua Hochschild, then dean of the College of Liberal Arts, a well-respected professor who had sought to strengthen liberal study and Catholic identity at the Mount, and had corrected the president’s rhetoric and resisted some of his calls for change;
  • Encouraged faculty to think of struggling students as animals who needed to be executed, rather than human persons who needed their help;
  • Created a plan to dismiss 20-25 freshmen — about 5% of a typical entering class at the Mount — in order to improve the university’s self-reported retention statistics;
  • Devised to this end a survey in which students would describe the extent to which e.g. they felt depressed, unliked, and financially unstable during the early weeks of the semester, intending to pitch this survey to students as a tool for self-understanding but then use it to identify those unlikely to succeed, accepting as “collateral damage” those it might mistakenly sweep up;
  • Dismissed from his administrative position David Rehm, then provost of the university, who challenged the president’s judgment;
  • Fired Edward Egan, an untenured professor and advisor to the Mount’s student newspaper, apparently for his role in helping that paper break the story of Newman’s “retention” efforts; and
  • Fired Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor, for what was described as a violation of his “duty of loyalty” to Mount St. Mary’s.

Read the entire piece here.

President of Mount St. Mary University Is Under Fire

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If you have not been following this whole mess at Mount St. Mary University you can get caught up here and here and here.  It involves (by all accounts) a tyrannical university president with a retention plan that offended most of the university’s constituency, a demoted Provost and Dean, and two fired faculty members, one with tenure.

Earlier today The Washington Post weighed in.  According to Susan Svrluga’s article, the American Association of University Professors has responded.   Faculty from around the country have signed a petition protesting the actions of president Simon Newman.

If anyone (other than perhaps some members of the Board of Trustees) are standing with Newman, I have not read about them.  I don’t see how his presidency can survive this controversy.

Academics’ Statement of Protest Regarding Faculty Firings at Mount St. Mary’s University

I was just made aware of this.  Please consider joining the hundreds of academics who have signed it.

Background Information

For a summary account of the faculty firings at Mount St. Mary’s University and the deeper controversy behind them, see Scott Jaschik, “Purge at the Mount”, Inside Higher Education, Feb. 9, 2016: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/mount-st-marys-president-fires-two-faculty-members-one-tenure.

For further details, please visit http://tinyurl.com/msmbackground.

Text of Statement

We the undersigned, as members of the community of scholars, protest the firings of Edward Egan and Thane Naberhaus from their faculty positions at Mount St. Mary’s University.

The manner and circumstance of their dismissal raises serious questions about the respect given to moral conscience and intellectual freedom at Mount St. Mary’s. Of particular concern is that Prof. Egan was fired partly for actions taken in his role as faculty advisor to the university’s student newspaper, which first broke the stories leading to the present controversy. It is also alarming that these faculty were fired without any academic due process as required under AAUP guidelines and the customary standards of tenure.

As a Catholic institution, Mount St. Mary’s is bound by the teachings that “charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1789), and that in the context of the Catholic university “the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected” (Ex Corde Ecclesiae, II.2.iv). As a university, it is bound by the standards that govern any such institution in respect of its faculty.

We call for these faculty to be reinstated immediately, and the administration held accountable for this violation of their rights.

To sign this statement click here.

What Happens When A Businessman Takes Over a Catholic Liberal Arts College?

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You get what is happening at Mount St. Mary’s University.  Tenured faculty members get fired, critics of the president are accused of disloyalty, and a provost resigns.

Here is a taste of a recent piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Mr. Naberhaus, who has publicly criticized the administration but doesn’t consider himself a “rabble rouser,” said in an interview on Monday night that a campus security officer had delivered a letter signed by the president, confiscated his computer, and escorted him to his car.

The letter, a copy of which The Chronicleobtained, said that Mr. Naberhaus owed “a duty of loyalty” to the university and that his recent, unspecified actions violated that duty and justified his firing.

“Further, because of your conduct and its impact on the university, you have been designated persona non grata,” the letter continued. “As such, you are not welcome to visit the university’s campus or to attend any university activities or sporting events on the university’s property. Failure to comply with this directive will result in legal proceedings.”

The letter, which Mr. Naberhaus believes is identical to the one Mr. Egan received, accused him of causing “considerable damage” to the university and its reputation. It also warned him not to delete any electronic documents or communications on his personal computer that relate to the university, and said the university reserved the right to take legal action against him. Mr. Naberhaus, in turn, is considering his legal options.

“I raised some concerns at faculty meetings and posted a few articles online, but I didn’t realize that was illegal,” he said.

More Strange Things are Happening at Mount St. Mary’s University

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Last week we published a post on the controversy surrounding the new retention plan at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Now, it seems, President Simon Newman is cleaning house.  According to this article in the Frederick News-Post he has fired two professors and demoted the Provost.  It is not clear whether the firings came because these employees opposed the retention plan, but according to this article at Inside Higher Ed, Provost David Rehm was demoted because he did oppose the plan.

As you may recall, in an e-mail describing the plan Newman mentioned putting a gun to the head of struggling students as an incentive for them to leave.  He also described these students as “bunnies” who need to “drown.”

In January, Joshua Hochschild, the Dean of Liberal Arts and a philosopher, was demoted. Some of you may recall that Hochschild was asked to leave Wheaton College in 2006 because he converted to Catholicism.

The Provost, David Rehm, is the son of NPR host Diane Rehm.  (This has nothing to do with the story, but it is interesting).

As least one of the two faculty members fired had tenured.

And the new interim Provost comes to the university with a troubled past and no experience leading a liberal arts college.

As I wrote in my previous post, I wonder how the Catholic mission of Mount St. Mary’s University is informing this whole controversy.

What is Going on at Mount St. Mary’s University?

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I’ve always been a fan of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  I spoke there a few years ago and was really impressed with the faculty and administrators I met during the visit.

If appears that the new President at the Mount is in hot water due to a controversial retention plan.  Read all about it in this article at The Chronicle of Higher Education.  

Some of you may have been following this story, but for those who have not, it has something to do with drowning bunnies (freshmen) and putting a “Glock” to the heads of students.

Here is a taste:

E-mails and conversations about freshman-retention plans don’t typically set the world on fire. But when they appeared in the campus newspaper of Mount St. Mary’s University of Maryland last month, they thrust the small Roman Catholic campus and its president, Simon P. Newman, into a spotlight that Mr. Newman never anticipated — or wanted.

In one of the emails, which were first obtained by the student-run paper, The Mountain Echo, Mr. Newman discussed his strategy in stark terms: “My short-term goal is to have 20-25 people leave by the 25th. This one thing will boost our retention 4-5%. A larger committee or group needs to work on the details, but I think you get the objective.”

A conversation described by The Mountain Echo, said to have taken place between Mr. Newman and Gregory W. Murry, an assistant professor of history, was even more direct. According to the newspaper, the president told Mr. Murry: “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”

Read the rest here.

What strikes me about this article is that the Catholic mission of the Mount is not mentioned.  What role does the strong Catholic mission of the Mount play in the decisions being made by the President, this controversial retention plan, and the student and faculty resistance?

 

Early American History Job Opening at Mount Saint Mary’s University

The good folks at “The Mount” have a tenure-track opening in early American history.  This would be a wonderful place to workIf you are interested in teaching in a church-related (Catholic) liberal arts college with great colleagues, I would encourage you to apply.  Personally, it would be great to have another early Americanist on the Route 15 corridor!

The Department of History at Mount St. Mary’s University seeks an outstanding teacher-scholar for the position of Assistant Professor (tenure-track) beginning August 2014. The ideal candidate will demonstrate a strong commitment to teaching and research on  Early American History.  The department is particularly interested in candidates with special training in the history of the Atlantic World or the slave trade and slavery.  The department seeks a colleague who will be able to contribute both to advanced undergraduate research in the History major and to the Veritas Program, the university’s common liberal arts curriculum that includes a two-semester sequence of interdisciplinary courses on the American Experience.  Successful candidates will share our commitment to the dignity and solidarity of all persons and the value of intercultural understanding.  Ph.D. is expected; ABD candidates will also be considered.

Mount St. Mary’s University, the second oldest Catholic university in America, seeks faculty members eager to engage and support our Catholic identity.  Application materials should discuss how you might contribute to the University’s Catholic liberal arts mission, how your work engages with the Catholic intellectual tradition, or how your own faith tradition informs your vocation as teacher and scholar. 

Application review will begin on October 15; applications received by this time will receive full consideration, but the search will remain open until the position is filled.

The Mount is a comprehensive, nationally recognized Catholic university, where Faith, Discovery, Leadership, and Community describe our collective calling and promise.  The University enrolls 2,300 students and has a 14:1 student to faculty ratio.  We seek to build an inclusive faculty that can engage the interests of an increasingly diverse student population; we welcome applications from minority candidates.  Additional information about Mount St. Mary’s University is available at www.msmary.edu.

A Visit To Mount Saint Mary’s University

I spent most of day on Tuesday at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmittsburg, MD.  “The Mount” is located about forty-five miles south of Messiah College on Route 15.  I pass it whenever I drive to the Washington D.C. area. This, however, was my first visit to the university. Thanks to Charles Strauss, a fellow alumnus of the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts at Valparaiso University and a relatively new member of the History Department at The Mount, for the invitation to speak to history majors and give a lecture on Christian America to the students in the university’s “American Experience” courses.

I began my day at The Mount by having coffee with Curtis Johnson, the chair of the History Department and a well-known scholar of religion in the early republic.  I have admired his work ever since I read Islands of Holiness: Rural Religion in Update New York, 1790-1860 and Redeeming America: Evangelicals and the Road to the Civil War in graduate school.  He is currently at work on a project that will argue that Charles Finney’s “New Measures” were largely ineffective in bringing upstate New York Baptists into the evangelical fold during the Second Great Awakening.  Look for his forthcoming article in The Journal of the Early Republic. Of course we also chatted about the challenges of presiding over history departments at small church-related liberal arts colleges and the differences between how a Catholic college like the Mount and an Anabaptist-Evangelical college like Messiah approach the liberal arts.

Over meals during the course of the day I got to chat with several members of Mount Saint Mary’s History Department.  It was a pleasure meeting Jamie Gianoutsos, Michelle Patterson, Teresa Rupp, Liz Strauss, and Steven White.  (I hope I am not forgetting anyone).  There seems to be a real sense of camaraderie among the members of the department, something that you do not always see in the academic world. I also got a chance to chat for a few minutes with Joshua Hochschild, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.  Some of you may recall that several years ago Joshua was asked to leave Wheaton College (IL) after he converted to Catholicism.

In the afternoon I had a great discussion with history majors about my chapter “What You Can Do With a History Major?” in Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past.  (They read the chapter in advance). Many of the Mount’s history majors share common anxieties about how to put their degrees to work after graduation, but I was impressed with how they were already thinking about how to market their degrees in fields like politics, occupational therapy, and divinity. We discussed the transferable skills history majors bring to the job market.

My evening lecture drew heavily from Was America Founded as a Christian Nation: A Historical Introduction?  My host for the evening was David Wehner, an Americanist in the English Department and the director of the American Experience courses.  Dave has developed a very innovative (at least to me) way for students to get the most out of these large lectures.  After I presented to about 200 students, we took a 3-4 minute break before the Q&A to allow the students who wanted to leave to filter out of the lecture hall. Everyone was invited to the Q&A, but only those who were interested in engaging more deeply with the topic chose to stay.  I am guessing about thirty or forty students stayed for what turned out to be a very good session.  I really like this way of handling plenary lectures, especially when students are involved.  It allows those who are only present because they are required to be there to exit the room without the kind of noisy and rude disruptions that often happen as students pack up and leave in the middle of the Q&A.

I always learn a lot when I visit campuses for speaking engagements and my visit to The Mount was no exception.  I will now drive down Route 15 in Emmitsburg with a new appreciation for the kind of intellectual pursuits going on at the second oldest Catholic University (1808) in the country.