Four assistant professors were granted tenure at the winter meeting of the Colby Board of Trustees.
- Valérie Dionne (French and Italian) is an author and scholar of early modern French literature, culture, and philosophy.
- Melissa Glenn (psychology) is a behavioral neuroscientist who studies prenatal nutrition as it affects psychopathology later in life.
- James Scott (mathematics and statistics) specializes in infectious disease epidemiology and mathematical epidemiology.
- Walter “Bill” Sullivan (geology) is an expert on structural geology and plate tectonics and now studies the Norumbega fault in Maine.
All four earned Ph.D.s before coming to Colby, and all four will be promoted to the rank of associate professor for the 2014-15 academic year.
A consistent response when asked about their experiences at Colby was enthusiasm for working with Colby students in classrooms and laboratories and on collaborative research. “I surround myself with them,” said Glenn. “If it weren’t for them, this wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.”
An expert in early modern French literature and philosophy, Valérie Dionne earned a bachelors degree in classics and history at the University of Montreal, in her hometown, and a master’s and Ph.D. in French literature at Princeton. She joined Colby’s faculty in 2007.
Dionne’s doctoral thesis was on the art of conciliation in Montaigne’s Essais. Her book, Montaigne, écrivain de la conciliation (Paris: Classiques Garnier), is expected to be out this summer. Her current research focus is on the Wars of Religion (Catholics versus Protestants) and the French response to the publication of The Prince by Machiavelli.
The best thing about being a professor at Colby, she said, is working with students, particularly when they want to drill into a topic for an honors thesis. “Our goal is to try to bring them to that place,” she said. “They are hardworking and curious and they want to learn. … Sometimes they don’t realize how much they can contribute.”
Melissa Glenn’s 16-page resumé is studded with asterisks representing undergraduate coauthors and co-presenters she’s worked with at Colby. “Like four dozen, easily,” she said. A behavioral neuroscientist, her primary research is into prenatal nutrition, particularly the role of choline as it affects psychopathology later in life.
She recalls her first day on campus, in 2007, when Jenn Corriveau ’10 came to her office enthusiastic about Glenn’s research. Glenn and Corriveau went on to publish a peer-reviewed article on choline’s role in schizophrenia in rats, and they presented four papers and nine posters together at psychology conferences. Corriveau is in a Ph.D. program at UConn and the team is still collaborating, Glenn said.
Her collaboration with students continues with, among others, Ariel Batallon ’15, a CAPS student who started in Glenn’s lab the summer before her freshman year. Glenn’s model for recruiting student collaborators is, “This is the science I’m pursuing and I want to fit you into it,” Glenn said.
She earned her bachelor’s degree at Memorial University in Newfoundland and a master’s and Ph.D. in experimental psychology at Concordia in Montreal. Of Colby students she said, “I surround myself with them. If it weren’t for them, this wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.”
Jim Scott studies infectious disease epidemiology and mathematical epidemiology. He keeps his hand in actual epidemiological studies, including aspects of tuberculosis management, but the title of a recently published article conveys his enthusiasm for teaching: How to Make Epidemiological Training Infectious was published in PLOS Biology in 2012.
That article, he said, came out of work he’s done organizing an epidemiology conference for African graduate students and postdocs for the last six years in Cape Town, South Africa. Back on Mayflower Hill he keeps his statistics students engaged with independent research projects that require data collection to answer questions such as “Is gender concordance between students and their professors associated with higher academic performance?” and “What motivates students to volunteer?” He also works with students doing independent research for the Maine Concussion Management Institute program.
Scott earned his bachelor’s degree at Macalester College and M.P.H., M.A., and doctoral degrees at University of California Berkeley. He said the students are the main reason he wanted to return to a liberal arts environment to teach, and that he found an even tighter-knit community at Colby, perhaps because of its location. Coming to central Maine from more urban campuses, he said he’s found “the ties can be a little bit stronger.”
An expert on structural geology, plate tectonics, and the tectonic evolution of western North America, Bill Sullivan has shifted his focus geographically since arriving at Colby in 2007. He is currently studying the Norumbega Fault, a strike-slip fault that parallels Maine’s coast from Portsmouth, N.H., into New Brunswick.
Sullivan earned his bachelor’s degree from Concord University, the West Virginia state university system’s liberal arts campus, where he was coauthor in his senior year on a geology conference abstract about stratigraphy. Collaborating as a professor with undergraduate students “was something I wanted to do professionally, and I was able to do that when I started at Colby,” he said. His resumé now includes student coauthors on a half dozen peer-reviewed publications and conference abstracts.
Sullivan, who earned his master’s degree at Virginia Tech and his Ph.D. at the University of Wyoming, said the best part of working at Colby is “the students, hands down. They’re great kids, and they’re bright. The resources here are great too, but it’s the students.”