Dr. Sam Mitrani, Prof of History, Comments to the BOT | March 17, 2022

We will soon be losing two of the faculty who most exemplify COD’s excellence in helping students learn how to understand the world they live in, and consciously think through how they want to shape its future – which is, in my view, the real measure of student success. These two exemplify what full-time faculty represent to our students and the broader community.

Ben Whisenhunt is a renowned historian of Russia. He has written or edited eight books, published 15 articles in peer-reviewed journals and about 75 book reviews, founded a major scholarly journal on Russian-American relations, presented at dozens of conferences, was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Russia — I could keep going, but I can feel Ben getting embarrassed…

Ben has brought this expertise to his students and to the broader community. He has brought four groups of students to Russia itself. He has given dozens of presentations, helping us all understand more fully what has brought Russia and the rest of the world to where it is now – which is today more vital than ever.

Ben is not just a Russian specialist: he has designed three new and popular courses for the history program: History of Terrorism, Native American History, and 20th Century World History. He served as the first chair of the history department and helped us forge new 2+2 agreements with transfer schools. Most importantly, Ben imparts to students a passion to understand the social world they live in, to grapple with the complexity of history, to seek to put themselves in the shoes of people from different times and places – the only way to make sense of the complex, interwoven world we live in.

Ben’s replacement will have very large shoes to fill. But his work will live on in all of us.

Deborah Adelman – also retiring soon — teaches writing, literature, and film studies as a way of teaching students how to think deeply and broadly about their world. To this end, Deb has brought a global, interdisciplinary perspective to our students and the college community.

She has taught a Learning Communities class that links English and Environmental Biology for 25 years. She has helped build – and defend — the Community Farm, where students grow food for students, part of the Food Security Initiative. She has helped launch and build the Sustainability Film and Discussion Series, which ran throughout the pandemic and which made COD one of the venues for the One Earth Film festival, a major Chicago based festival. She has brought students on a service-learning field studies trip to Oaxaca, Mexico in which students lived with host families in a village. She is a key leader of Global Flicks. She has also presented at many national and international conferences – I could go on and on.

In short, like Ben, Deb has brought far more to the college than a list of her classes can summarize. She has helped our students learn to think about their world, the variety of people in it, and some of the key challenges we will face as a human species moving into the future. I can only hope that when we hire her replacement, we seek to find someone with a similar transnational, humane perspective.

These are just two examples among our 300 colleagues, unique but also emblematic of what full-time faculty bring to the school. I hope the board can see in their stories why we need to hire and retain full-time faculty.