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Funny... I don't feel dead! If you've forgotten JMC - You weren't there!

An academy for wandering minstrels
Equipping lifelong learners to pursue personal and professional interests in art, activism, law, education, business, medicine, international affairs, social services, science, management, media, and more.
* Michigan State University's first, most experimental, and most innovative residential college *


What was your experience with the JMC faculty (regular core faculty, rotating faculty, and graduate students)? We need to think through what an ideal faculty complement would look like.


A combination of all three - you need a core, but don't become too insular.

- David Brigode (Student: 1969 - 1973)


Like all other JMC students, I had considerable experience with various faculty members. I’m sorry to say that unlike many other JMC students, I did not form a very close relationship with the core faculty. I have fondness for Dean Rohman and I particularly respected Glenn Wright and Leonard Isaacs for their science fiction course. One of the rotating faculty who probably had the strongest influence upon me was Ed Vandervelde from the Geography department who taught a course centered on organic gardening. Over all, I think that the mix of graduate students teaching I&E and language classes, core faculty teaching a mix of required and elective classes, and rotating faculty and adjunct professors from the outside to provide a diversity of elective classes worked fine for the most part. It was very helpful to continually bring in rotating faculty with different ideas and courses to keep the course choices fresh and innovative.

- Paul M. Buehrle (Student: 1969 - 1973)


I had a great experience interacting with the Justin Morrill College faculty. What provided the glue was the fact that none of my Justin Morrill College classes were bigger than 20 students, and many were much smaller. Being in smaller classes required one as a student to be prepared, because you always knew that at least twice during a class you might get called on to respond to a professor’s question. And the faculty was energetic and excited to be teaching us, and that just naturally spills out into a student’s learning experience. The faculty was also permitted to teach in areas where they had great interests and expertise to add to a student’s learning curve. I never came away from a class within the Justin Morrill College experience without learning more than I ever expected. [I cannot say that about many of the classes taken out in the larger University setting.] It was also wonderful to take a class from a "visiting" professor from MSU who brought new thoughts and ideas on various subjects, from religion to science.

Because regular faculty taught most of the Justin Morrill College classes, I did not experience many classes taught by "graduate students." However, I did have a graduate student for my language classes who was terrific. The graduate student was from the country of the language I was studying and it helped immensely. I was much better prepared when I arrived for my over seas learning experience than had I had someone who was not from the country of the language I was studying.

One must also think about the staff of such a residential college situation. The staff must also be interesting and excited about such an arrangement. Because everything is in close proximity to everything else (i.e. living and learning) it is important to ensure that the offices of the faculty and staff are located in the same residential space. If staff is not happy having the students marching in at all times of the day seeking assistance in one form or another, then the atmosphere of the residential living and learning experience will not have that "glow" that I experienced in Justin Morrill College.

- Dennis Hall (Student: 1965 - 1969)


I can't recall having an grad students, but my experiences with almost all JMC courses were good ones. I believe the real strength of the program, however, is in the regular core faculty. They set the tone and the standards that other faculty accept as given.

- Mark Harris (Student: 1973 - 1977)


You know, I don't remember who was core, who was rotating. I do know that there were some faculty members I got a lot more out of than others. The synthesists, the faculty who could combine and weave disciplines together, were the ones I remember from the core faculty, and the ones I learned the most from. These faculty members did have their specialties, but managed to work together to synergize some wonderful classes. "Myth, Ritual, and Drama", team-taught by Sears Eldredge, Glenn Wright, and somebody else, from psychology I believe..., was unquestionably the best course I've ever taken anywhere.

- Steve (Taggart) Johgart (Student: 1973 - 1975)


Most of the faculty I remember dealing with was mellow and low-key with the exception of Tom Hruska, who was very demanding. I remember his class (I & E) best and favorably.

- Leonard Kaufmann (Student: 1967 - 1969)


The outstanding characteristic of JMC faculty was that they were all extremely motivated by the mission of the college, which encompassed a focus on undergraduate teaching. Many of the faculty I encountered elsewhere in MSU and in graduate school were more motivated by their own professional goals than by a mission to teach. I found the enthusiasm for teaching in all levels of JMC faculty — regular, rotating, and graduate students — probably because they were all free to teach what they loved.

Generally, I think a core faculty is important to establish and nurture a college’s mission, and it can be supplemented by rotating faculty and graduate students. Although Gordon Rohman was dean throughout my four years at JMC (I was in the first class), it seems from an outsider’s perspective that the college lost its focus and fell apart when he either went on to other interests or was discouraged by outside (university) forces from pursuing his original dream. I would hope that a strong core faculty would establish a strong identity and mission that would prevent such a recurrence.

- Carl Koivuniemi (Student: 1965 - 1969)


Dr. Cade, Mme. Harrod, Maury Crane, and especially Fred Graham all made impressions. Dr. Graham supervised my foreign study in Geneva in the fall of 67 and was always there for me. I also took a French Revolution course from a tutor from Oxford. I am afraid I can't remember his name but his approach was a novel one for me. I do like the idea of core faculty who are committed to the idea of a residential college.

- Suzanne Levy (Student: 1965 - 1969)


I had a mixed, if mostly positive experience with the three types of pedagogues. Each had their own set of challenges that, as my own training progressed, I've come to appreciate more fully.

The "regulars" had to confront both some sense of isolation (from their substantive peers in their respective departments) and budgetary threat (eventually realized) of the organization's elimination. In some ways, they became more close-knit, but this meant that if you pissed off one of them then they all held something against you.

The "rotators" were spared the latter fortune, but risked a uncertain wrath from their "home" departments - especially if they were untenured in a tenure-track slot. Still, they provided a glimpse of "things outside" the JMC cocoon.

And the graduate students (particularly for I & E courses) gave me some of the best and closest scrutiny of my writing (in combination with the comments of the other 6 to 8 contemporaries also working in the NCR paper medium) that I ever had. That was of more than a little contribution to my subsequent training and career. I can't imagine what might have happened had I suffered through ATL coursework.

- William McGarvey (Student: 1966 - 1971)


Not sure what type of answer you are looking for. My experience was generally positive-- got a lot from the full professors as well as grad students. The key ingredient was the small class size, research papers and being encouraged and pushed to be actively involved.

- Joe Milkes (Student: 1967 - 1971)


I was in JMC at a very bad time in terms of disintegrating core faculty. I would suggest a carefully selected group of core faculty representing the major disciplines and relatively few "rotating" or guest faculty. Perhaps a special "star" guest each year, whose materials could be integrated into an ongoing theme. Limit graduate students (i.e., me) as much as possible - you need the commitment and dedication of core faculty.

- Pamela Oestreicher (JMC faculty: 1976 - 1978)


I can’t say I really figured out the difference while I was there, I think I mostly took classes with the core faculty. I do not clearly recall any grad assistants, although it seemed like there might have been some older JMC students helping out at times. I liked the idea of JMC people helping the lower classmen. I think the residential concept requires a consistent core of some size to enable that sense of community, the feeling that there is a group that I’m part of that really cares about me.

- Cleo Parker (Student: 1974 - 1978)


JMC achieved nearly an ideal faculty mix.

Core faculty were competent in their disciplines, committed to teaching undergraduates face-to-face and willing to break disciplinary stovepipes and take risks in interdisciplinary team teaching efforts focused on topics of high interest. Dr. Harold Johnson, a political scientist and economist became a mentor and remains a life-long friend. I contact other former JMC core faculty members when I am in East Lansing.

Most rotating faculty were very successful, at least to the extent that students were enthused about their classes. (Not all rotating faculty left with a good impression of the college or its students.) The late Dr. Alex Butler taught the class I enjoyed most, a Fine Arts offering in Architecture Appreciation, a subject completely detached from my language and social science area of concentration and one which continues to pay me richly for the few hours I invested in it 35 years ago.

The graduate student instructors in languages and Inquiry and Expression, our freshman writing course, were very capable and effective teachers. Several were outstanding and made a lifelong impression, including Marc Asch, who team-taught a political science course.

- Charles K. Roberts (Student: 1966 - 1970)


Best experiences were with regular JMC faculty who "got it" - i.e., who understood the purpose and goals of JMC. I had only one unsatisfactory experience, with a professor from some other department at MSU, who seemed not to understand how to work with JMC at all.

- Nancy R. Shaffer (Student: 1972 - 1975)


My experience was of the highest order; I was stimulated, challenged, and respected and ultimately, can learn anything.

- Deborah Sirotkin Butler (JMC Student: 1966 - 1970)


I think the balance of core and floating worked well. 

It seems to me, though my memory may be quite faulty, that the number of floating faculty was a little less than the core at any one time, and that courses by core faculty thus predominated by about 3 to 1 - or 2 to 1 if core courses with multiple sections are counted only once.

I had superb courses from both groups.  But of course the core faculty were more accessible, because their offices were right there and the doors were usually open.  That is why I think you need a substantial core group.  


- John Stick (Student: 1971 - 1975)


I remember having some very good discussions with faculty in JMC, both while in class and outside of class. The thing that impressed me the most was that they did not set themselves above, or apart from the students, but were very comfortable meeting with and talking with the students on a variety of subjects. Very few of the faculty gave the impression of being unapproachable. In my university course work I did not find this to be the case. The faculty in many of my university (non-JMC) courses was simply not available. If you needed to talk with them it was almost impossible to get to them. Usually you were referred to a graduate assistant. I much preferred the JMC version, where they were almost part of the family, so to speak.

- Darlene Swartz-Hubsky (Student: 1969 - 1973)


Both the regular faculty and rotating faculty had important roles. A good residential college should have a mix of both.

The core faculty helped to give the college its identity. They defined the curriculum and set the tone. It was of the utmost importance that they were located in Snyder/Phillips. They were readily accessible and usually ate lunch in our cafeteria. By the end of my second year I was on a first name basis with most of the professors. That helped to set up the sense of community in the place.

The rotating faculty brought an infusion of new ideas and courses. Too much inbreeding or repetition is bad for any institution.

- Robert Walter (Student: 1969 - 1974)

RE: Core JMC faculty

The core JMC faculty were uniformly high-quality scholars with an honest interest in everyday instruction and clear personal commitments to their respective fields of expertise. They were consistently innovative in the courses they offered us. They were amenable to team-teaching courses with peer faculty from other disciplines (drawn from both inside and outside JMC) to offer us a multidisciplinary approach to topics and issues. The fact that a small number of dedicated faculty offered JMC classes meant that JMC students were familiar with many core faculty members. The fact that these faculty had offices and classes within the JMC residential community meant that friendships (and hence heightened personal interactions) grew up between students and teachers. Unlike the University at large, the relation between faculty and students was less 'us and them' and something more like 'those of us and these of us'.

By the time of my arrival (1969) JMC had established core faculty positions in all three major disciplinary areas (humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences). All three faculty areas were strong, with the Natural Science faculty being particularly noteworthy for sustaining quality programs with the smallest core staff.

One problem encountered by the JMC core faculty concerned their commitment to JMC and its effect on their perceived 'career track' status relative to the University and departmental expectations of the time. When JMC was disbanded, several of the senior core faculty had to accept lower-level appointments in University departments - positions not consistent with either their experience or their demonstrated quality of scholarship and / or instruction. I have direct knowledge that this caused considerable stress and consternation among more than a few of them. Any future program should take care to make sure that making a commitment to dedicated undergraduate teaching does not mean 'going out on a limb' with regard to one's academic career prospects.


RE: Junior / auxiliary JMC faculty

Many of the instructors within JMC were junior staffers or even grad students obtained from other departments. Though these people were members of the JMC staff, they occupied a position in the pecking order below the JMC core faculty. The largest group of such 'juniors' were the Inquiry and Expression instructors. My understanding is that many of the foreign language instructors had this same relative status. Ironically, these staff members were simultaneously (a) the ones most universally encountered and liked by the broadest swath of JMC students and (b) the ones least 'enfranchised' with respect to JMC as an institution. I suspected at the time (and confirmed in recent years) that this junior status and its associated powerlessness caused some frictions.


RE: Visiting faculty

Some visiting faculty members only 'appeared' once in JMC; others returned frequently enough to become tacit members of the JMC community (e.g., Albert Cafagna from the Philosophy Department). By and large, these visiting faculty members were as high-quality scholars as the JMC core faculty members. Some, however, didn't readily adapt to the smaller class sizes and discursive character of JMC's topical courses (i.e., they tended to stick with a pedantic lecture mode no doubt developed in the University). All the visiting faculty I encountered seemed to relish their experience teaching in JMC. I recall some commenting that their JMC courses offered them the ability to develop and conduct courses of particular significance or interest to them as scholars, but which their home departments' structures didn't accommodate. All the visiting faculty courses I took within JMC were conducted by senior faculty members. I know that some courses were conducted by junior faculty (and even grad assistants) from various University departments, but I can't comment on those.

The incorporation of visiting faculty into JMC operations was a 'win-win' situation. Visiting scholars could enjoy an opportunity to conduct classes they couldn't otherwise run. We JMC students enjoyed a continually shifting group of interesting and generally competent teachers. I never heard anything to indicate that University teachers visiting JMC were disadvantaged in the same way or to the same extent that JMC's own core faculty would eventually be. Indeed, I never heard anything to indicate that doing a turn at JMC entailed any disadvantage at all.


- Randy Whitaker (Student: 1969 - 1973)


This is definitely the biggest disappointment about myself that I have as far as my JMC experience goes. I never really took the time to get to know the faculty as well as I should have or could have or would have if I could do it all over again. When I started college, I was from a small town and very intimidated by everything, and was actually more worried about just getting by than to actually get to know the professors and graduate students like I could have. The opportunity was there though, but I just didn't know how to communicate with them. I do remember that many times faculty members would have their classes over to their homes for dinner or discussion. I really can't even remember who exactly was the core faculty or rotating faculty.

- Larry Wickett (Student: 1965 - 1969; ongoing JMC experience til 1976)

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