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The Scarlet & Black

President Osgood addresses his changes to academics

President Russell K. Osgood sits in his office in Nollen House, located in 1121 Park Street. - Marfa Prokhorova

During President Russell K. Osgood’s 12-year tenure at Grinnell College, major additions and improvements have been made towards academics.

“I think we’ve had a strong academic program when I came,” Osgood said. “One thing a president can do is screw things up, and I think we have not done that. I think we’ve enhanced what we’ve had.”

The Fund for Excellence, which is responsible for many of these changes, was a Trustee-funded initiative that began nine years ago. It catalyzed many now familiar academic programs, including Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs) and the Japanese language department, and also helped launch the Faulconer Gallery.

“It’s a major burst of academic change during my time here at Grinnell College,” Osgood said. The Fund also provided for the creation of the Center of the Prairie Studies, Center for Humanities and the Center for International Studies.

Also stemming from the Fund for Excellence is the Expanding Knowledge Initiative (EKI) which brought many concentrations and positions to various academic departments, including Neuroscience, Earth Systems Science, and Arabic, among other concentrated fields of study. The EKI, along with an increasing student body, has increased the faculty by 10%. Since President Osgood has been in office, approximately 50% of the current faculty was hired.

With this increase in faculty, President Osgood says that he sees a “generational shift” in Grinnell’s professors.

“The younger faculty are more interested in producing scholarship,” Osgood said. “The College has attempted to meet that goal of the faculty, by more junior leagues and more opportunities for scholarship production.”

Osgood believes this increased opportunity for scholarship production correlates to better teaching in the classroom, as well as attracting the best faculty to come to Grinnell.

“The idea there would be that we have faculty who were either interdisciplinary or were experts in new areas of knowledge, so for us, Arabic is a new area of knowledge,” Osgood said.

Osgood and the College have also created additional opportunities for professors to produce scholarly work.

“We created a regular junior leave program and senior leave program, which is funded out of the base budget, which means if you’re meritorious, you get a half semester off between sabbaticals to allow you to prepare or work on your scholarship,” Osgood said.

Looking ahead, President Osgood believes that the curriculum will inevitably change, citing two reasons.

“For one, there’s a myth that liberal arts colleges’ curricula don’t change, but that is only a myth. They are constantly changing. And second, I think the cross pressures on colleges and universities are going to increase, and rightly so, because how can we keep increasing tuition and fees, and so I think that will affect the academic program in some way, hopefully not in any significant way.”

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