When administrators in Eustis went looking for an associate vice president for academic affairs to lead the first comprehensive review of Colby’s curriculum in two decades, they found the best candidate right across the street, in the Diamond Building.
A member of the economics faculty for 19 years, Michael Donihue ’79 started the new job July 1 and is focused on “all things curricular,” he said.
Working primarily with the Academic Affairs Committee and three curricular planning working groups established for the review, Donihue maintains that the faculty must be at the center of efforts to define a Colby liberal arts education for the 21st century. He is eager to manage the role of the faculty in articulating “a vision of where Colby is headed,” he said.
Donihue assumed his new titles—associate vice president for academic affairs and associate dean of the faculty—after disparate studies and forces aligned to prompt a review of how Colby teaches:
- A 2007 New England Association of Schools & Colleges reaccreditation praised the College but urged more attention to “articulating and measuring student outcomes.”
- A faculty Ad Hoc Curricular Planning Committee, established in 2007 in response to reaccreditation self-studies, proposed the three working groups, which are focused on curricular oversight, teaching communication skills, and academic engagement with an emphasis on project-based learning.
- On the federal level, the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education and a Senate inquiry got colleges’ attention with calls for various new types of accountability.
- Demographic forecasts show a steep drop-off in the number of high school graduates who traditionally populate Colby’s applicant pool. “This is the one that put chills down my spine when we started,” said Donihue, whose academic specialties are economic forecasting and macroeconomic policy.
Donihue is clearly energized by the opportunity to help steer the College’s mission, but he’s wistful about his hiatus from the classroom, particularly given historic turmoil in the world economy. As governments scrambled and markets continued to plummet in early October, he said, “This would be a great time to be teaching macroeconomics.”