Faculty members who received contract renewals, tenure and promotion to full professor answered questions about their areas of expertise, what they love about Whitman and what they do in the community. Edited excerpts follow.
The following faculty members received contract renewals:
Assistant professor of history
Areas of specialty: Marine environmental history, particularly in Tokugawa Japan (1603-1868) and modern Japan, focusing on whales and whaling, shipwrecks and castaways.
The best thing about working at Whitman: The enthusiasm of the students for environmental issues. For a college this size, there is an extremely large environmental studies program.
Assistant professor of psychology
Areas of specialty: The role of disgust in anxiety-related disorders.
The best thing about working at Whitman: Gaining new perspectives on my research topics from faculty and students in other disciplines.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: I provide exposure therapy to community members with anxiety-related disorders. In my lab, we try to understand why this therapy is less effective at reducing disgust compared to fear.
Assistant professor of film and media studies
Areas of specialty: Arab and Middle Eastern film and television, American television history and theory, and media globalization. I also teach science-fiction film and gender and media.
The best thing about working at Whitman: The students. They are passionate and engaged in the intellectual questions I am interested in. They do the reading, they do the thinking, they are present and willing, and they are very dedicated.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: I've given lectures at various places around town and in the Oregon/Washington area on Islamophobia. I also play the banjo, sometimes in public places!
Assistant professor of art history & visual culture studies and Asian & Middle Eastern studies
Areas of specialty: Asian visual culture, focusing on South Asia. I teach Mughal art and culture, Buddhist aesthetic traditions, the history of museum display and artistic production in colonial India. I research the origins and development of portraiture in 16th- and 17th-century North India, Mughal-Rajput cultural exchange, historical representation, art and book collecting, and political diplomacy and gift exchange.
The best thing about working at Whitman: Getting to know my students and having intellectually engaging conversations with them. I'm also so grateful that I get to teach largely what I want. And my colleagues are incredibly supportive.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: I've been advising a collector (an alumnus, in fact) on the purchase of South Asian art. I support the collections staff on campus, serving on the Collections Committee and the Sheehan Gallery Committee, for example.
Assistant professor of religion
Areas of specialty: Islamic studies, Qur'anic studies, music in the Middle East. Most specifically, the recitation of the Qur'an and how to understand meaning across the sound, text and experience of recited scripture.
The best thing about working at Whitman: Working alongside so many other people who are just as passionate as I am.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: I love hiking, cooking Omani food (and all other kinds of food, really), knitting and crocheting.
Assistant professor of English
Areas of specialty: Religious writing in late medieval England, especially vernacular scripture, both creative adaptations integrated into poetic literature and close translations made for academic, devotional or pastoral purposes.
The best thing about working at Whitman: This is a place where I'm growing intellectually along with my students. I have the time and resources to be creative and take risks with my teaching, and I'm surrounded by colleagues who care deeply about being both teachers and scholars.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: I help with Catholic services at the penitentiary.
Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel
Assistant professor of English
Areas of specialty: Creative nonfiction.
The best thing about working at Whitman: Talking about writing with students! I also admire their willingness to be creative. Examples of that creativity can be seen on a Tumblr I've made to house student work, The Infinite Essay.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: Write.
Assistant professor of Spanish
Areas of specialty: Theatre and performance studies in the Hispanic world, coloniality/decolonial studies, Andean studies, human rights and literature, theatre applied to pedagogy.
Assistant professor of physics
Areas of specialty: Optics and precision measurement, specifically for use in gravitational-wave detection.
The best thing about working at Whitman: The friendly, supportive environment (especially among Physics Department colleagues) and the smart, motivated students.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: Take trips to work at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in Hanford. I've been with the project for more than 10 years, and being within driving distance is a huge benefit.
The following faculty members received tenure:
Associate professor of geology and chair of the Geology Department
Areas of specialty: Past soils: how to recognize them and what they can tell us about past climates.
The best thing about working at Whitman: The outstanding students. And the autonomy we're given. We are asked to do "excellent" work as teachers, scholars and as participants in faculty governance, but we have the freedom to decide the best way to achieve these goals.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: Volunteer with schools to teach little geology classes or help with more mundane things. Currently, I help my wife, Joy, who started a school garden at Berney Elementary. Sometimes I participate in summer workshops for local teachers.
Associate professor of music
Areas of specialty: Analysis of cross-cultural music and the American experimental music tradition, particularly the composers Lou Harrison and Alan Hovhaness.
The best thing about working at Whitman: The close interaction with students, small class sizes and interacting with faculty from various disciplines.
Associate professor of computer science
Areas of specialty: My broad area of specialty is human-computer interaction. My current specialty is persuasive technology.
The best thing about working at Whitman: It's very exciting to grow a new program!
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: When I taught HCI in fall 2015, three of the four projects were based in the community, working with city government, the Blue Mountain Land Trust and the Blue Mountain Humane Society.
Associate professor of physics
Areas of specialty: The theory of elementary particles and the evolution of the universe. In recent years, I have worked to relate theories of dark matter to observations made in experiments designed to detect dark matter.
The best thing about working at Whitman: I love teaching. I love research. Whitman supports and acknowledges both of these endeavors.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: Science outreach, especially targeted at girls in the Walla Walla community. Most recently, I participated Great Explorations, the one-day science and engineering camp for middle school girls run by the Walla Walla AAUW (American Association of University Women).
Associate professor of art
Areas of specialty: Traditional and non-traditional methods of printmaking, book art.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: The Annual Día de los Muertos Art Festival, which includes the steamroller print project.
Associate professor of chemistry
Areas of specialty: Computational and bioinorganic chemistry, studying biological systems containing metal ions that do chemically challenging transformations. Biological transformations often are achieved under ambient conditions whereas similar reactions in a laboratory setting require extreme conditions. Understanding how nature works so efficiently can have implications for developing environmentally friendly synthetic materials.
The best thing about working at Whitman: I love the small class settings that allow me to interact with my students, getting to know them well and being part of their learning experience. I enjoy involving students in my research and being able to carry out quality research even at a small liberal arts college. And I love the vibrant and welcoming communities at Whitman and in the Walla Walla area.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: I have done science outreach on computational simulation at Walla Walla public schools. I also gave a talk at the community college about my cultural upbringing during Women's History Month and met with students from Walla Walla University to discuss culture and my Islamic faith.
Associate professor of music
Areas of specialty: As a jazz performer (trombone) and composer, I'm interested in creating new music that blends modern jazz with Middle Eastern music.
The best thing about working at Whitman: The vibrant curiosity and passion our students have for things they undertake.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: I enjoy performing around the world with musicians from the Middle East and the West, bridging cultures and building relationships.
The following faculty members received promotion to full professor:
Professor of English and general studies
Areas of specialty: Scottish Romanticism, literary representation of war in the 17th and 18th centuries, disability studies and digital humanities.
The best thing about working at Whitman: Engaged, intelligent students whose ideas and energy inspire me.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: I am treasurer of the Daniel Defoe Society and the chair of the James Hogg Society.
Professor of politics
Areas of specialty: I teach and write about the U.S.-Mexico border, immigration, global political economy and food politics. I've been active in interdisciplinary programs, including Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies, and the Global Studies Initiative.
The best thing about working at Whitman: That's easy: the students. On a day-to-day basis, I am absolutely gobsmacked by how lucky I am to get the chance to work with and mentor these young people. Because of my work on immigration politics, I've also gotten to see firsthand how seriously they take their responsibility as citizens.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: One of the things I love most about teaching my Food Politics course is that I get to take students to hang out with local farmers, farmworkers and ranchers. I'm also one of the cofounders of the Walla Walla Immigrant Rights Coalition, a community group working to promote pro-public safety, pro-immigrant policies in our region.
Professor of history
Areas of specialty: The cultural and intellectual history of 12th-century England and France. I am researching the ways in which 12th-century intellectuals understood the Crusades in light of received traditions of biblical interpretation.
The best thing about working at Whitman: It allows me to be the scholar I trained to be, not only through generous support for my research, but also by giving me free rein to explore the boundaries of my discipline with engaged students. I've also been able to branch into gender studies and environmental studies while developing a traditional curriculum in medieval history.
Professor of physics
Areas of specialty: Biophysics, protein crystallography, structural biology.
The best thing about working at Whitman: Puzzling through problems with students in the classroom and in the lab.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: I've visited a Walla Walla High School classroom to give a presentation on structural biology.
Professor of sociology
Areas of specialty: Intermarriage, race, ethnicity, Jewish Americans, Asian Americans.
The best thing about working at Whitman: The students and my departmental colleagues.
Professor of anthropology and interdisciplinary studies
Areas of specialty: Medical anthropology, Latin America (Andes), science studies, indigenous movements, cancer.
The best thing about working at Whitman: The ability to reinvent yourself every so often.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: I am the board president of Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, the community's HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C care and prevention agency.
Professor of mathematics
Areas of specialty: Computational geometry, redistricting algorithms, proofs without words.
The best thing about working at Whitman: Working with talented and engaged students.
What you do outside the classroom or in the community: My wife, Laura Schueller, and I organize the annual Walla Walla Valley elementary school math contest for fourth- and fifth-grade students. I'm also a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in Walla Walla.