On Jan. 17-18, as students were moving back in for the Spring Semester, the faculty gathered at the Wyndam Hotel for the first-ever faculty retreat. The inspiration for the retreat came from President Simon Newman, and was organized by then-Provost David Rehm. Approximately 83 faculty attended the retreat.
The main purpose of the retreat was to “involve faculty in the discussion and thinking around the Mount 2.0 strategic plan, especially as it relates to the type and style of academic programs offered at the Mount in order to enhance our prestige, national reputation and teaching excellence,” according to an email distributed to all attending faculty.
The retreat focused on three main questions: First, if you had to present an elevator speech about the Mount to someone in one minute, what would you say? Second, what are the challenges and opportunities facing humanity over the next 50 years? Third, and building off the second question, what can we do to help solve these problems here at Mount St. Mary’s?
“We are as affected by the education that we give as we hope students are,” Dr. David McCarthy, Professor of Theology, said. “We also discovered how much we love students because we can’t get together without talking about how great students are.”
Faculty worked together in small groups of 8 or 9 to discuss these issues and plan on how to move forward. Rehm organized these groups so that they were as diverse as possible: faculty from different departments, length of time at the Mount, nonacademic experience, and gender were some of the sorting criteria. He noted that the faculty loved interacting with folks they don’t see or work with everyday.
“I thought the retreat provided us with a wonderful opportunity to spend time with colleagues whom we do not often see or know well. For me, they included Melanie Butler in Math and Rob Nickey in Business. I was also impressed with the creativity and good spirits of all of my colleagues, but particularly for the presentation talents of Abbie Kula and Barrett Turner,” said Dr. Carol Hinds, Professor of English.
Throughout the weekend, all professors had the opportunity to share their thoughts and speak their opinions to the rest of the faculty.
“It was really hard to anticipate which member or members of any of the groups would stand up and speak at a given moment – it wasn’t just the senior faculty that spoke, some did, some didn’t, but it was really cool to hear a range of voices presenting that we don’t always hear,” Rehm said.
The faculty tackled topics such as violence and human dignity, resource allocation, intolerance, public health and disease, inequality, terrorism, and more, according to Rehm. Both Rehm and McCarthy noted that the theme for discussion centered around bringing Mount students into the community, whether it be Emmitsburg, Frederick, Baltimore, or more international sites.
“It was like old school Mount, when I got here 18 years ago, we did this quite often. We met in groups of very diverse people quite often and it was very connecting for me,” McCarthy said. “We at the Mount believe in transformative communities and we try to be one.”
Dr. Jennie Hunter-Cevera, former secretary of Maryland Higher Education Commission, and current interim provost, was a guest facilitator for the retreat. Wendy Walsh, manager of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Higher Education Program was also a special guest. Ed Hatter also attended and spoke, bringing his expertise from NASA, NOAA, and the Department of Defense. Mr. Hatter was involved in the construction of the Hubble Space Telescope, and is responsible for the lens crafted for the telescope’s primary mirror.