Classes ending in 0 and 5 will celebrate milestone reunions this summer.
Register today online!
Last year we broke our all-time attendance record with over 900 Alumni Weekend participants. With your help, we can break that record again!
For Associate Professor of English Paul Gaffney, the decision to run for faculty chair required a great deal of consideration. After several months of coaxing from his colleagues, he decided to step into this role so that he could represent the faculty’s voice during a critical time of transition and expansion for the College.
Gaffney started his two-year term as faculty chair on July 1, 2013. Faculty elected him to serve as their representative to the administration and board of trustees. In this capacity, Gaffney meets every other week with Dean of the College Robert Haak and President Tom Chema to keep them apprised of the faculty’s concerns and interests. In return, he lets the faculty know about any issues the College is facing and what’s being done to address them.
Of primary interest to the faculty is the direction that the College is heading, Gaffney shared. “There are so many opportunities out there. We are all hopeful about where the College will go in the future. And, we want to preserve the strength in our identity that makes Hiram unique. Online programs and satellite courses, Weekend College, everything that’s being done must be true to who we are.”
Tied to that is the incoming president who will be taking the reins later this year. Gaffney is eager to work with the new leader, President-Elect Lori Varlotta, to understand what’s important to Hiram’s faculty and how she sees the College.
“That was the main reason I agreed to run for faculty chair – so that I’d be able to do what I could to bring the faculty’s vision to the new president to make sure that’s represented,” he explained. “It’s exciting to bring someone in who will have new ideas to work with to move forward.” Once President-Elect Varlotta has settled in, Gaffney plans to look back over processes, review committees and evaluate how decisions are made to ensure that all is working as well as possible. “It can be easy to lose track of these things,” he said. “With the new president, this will be the perfect time to reexamine those areas.”
There is no doubt that Gaffney is committed to pursuing measures that will continue to strengthen the faculty. He knows that many are spread very thin with a multitude of new programs and initiatives that have been recently implemented. And, he’d like to find ways to provide more breathing room for them to work on their teaching methods, explore new ideas and ways of doing things, and perform their scholarship the way they should, including working with students outside the classroom.
As the College evolves, one of the greatest challenges he faces will be contending with the expansion of academic programs and faculty as more Professional and Graduate Studies (PGS) offerings – such as satellite or online/blended programs – enter the mix. Strong, open lines of communication are essential to seeing that these courses are done right.
“We can’t be in separate buildings, doing separate things. We’ll need to have continual contact with representatives from all departments,” he stated. “I’m working with those in PGS to develop new programs and have regular channels so that we communicate with those new faculty in the same way. It takes an investment of time to do that.”
With more faculty off-campus, Gaffney realizes that it may not be possible for them to have the same experience as their campus-based colleagues. He feels that it’s important to make sure they know that they are very much a part of Hiram. He’s currently meeting with the Graduate Council to work on ideas to achieve that.
When he’s not acting as faculty chair, Gaffney can be found in the classroom teaching a number of English and literature courses. As a professor, he especially enjoys the close contact that Hiram faculty have with their students. And, he appreciates having the chance to see students develop over their four years here. Besides having them in multiple classes and talking to them in his office or at the coffee shop, he also likes joining them off campus on trips to Cleveland to see theater or visit the art museum.
“My approach is to try to break down the kind of wall that some see between the classroom and the rest of the world. The main thing is I want students to see that this is not a self-contained endeavor here. We want to prepare them for their lives, not just their jobs, but their whole person.”
Another way he accomplishes that is by leading study abroad trips. He’s twice led trips to Great Britain in 2010 and 2012 and has another one planned for the spring three-week term in 2014. In the first two programs, he partnered with his wife, Jayme Schwartzberg, a landscape architect with Cleveland-based McKnight Associates, to offer an interdisciplinary course that examined British literature and how the country was built. For the spring tour, Theater professor Rick Hyde will accompany Gaffney and 22 students as they explore a Shakespeare course.
“The ability to look at things from two different fields and the synergy that results from that is exciting,” he said. “We’re walking through these places that we’ve only read about in novels. The students’ experience then is more connected to the real world.”
His interest in providing students with a more worldly perspective led to his involvement with organizing the newest Center of Distinction, the Center for Global Interaction. One of the many goals of this particular Center is to make the study abroad experience more accessible to more students by raising funds to support the programs.
“So many of our students haven’t been outside of the United States or even a small area that (traveling abroad) really does give them a new perspective. I’d like for us to do more of these programs and this Center holds the exciting possibility to offer more programs to more students.”
When he’s not at Hiram or traveling the world, Gaffney and his wife, Jayme, make their home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. There, if he’s not doing something job-related, he’s likely doing something with his hands. He’s a self-professed “tinkerer” who relishes the change of pace that working on his house, or in his yard or on cars and motorcycles provides. It plays into his belief of connecting the abstract with the physical.
Gaffney likes hearing from alumni and talks with them fairly often. He invites alumni and friends to look him up while on campus. He enjoys listening to input from different people and will even take those interested on a personal tour of Bonney Castle.
“I want to hear from anyone who is interested in talking to me. I’m always trying to solicit ideas and thoughts from people outside of the faculty to bring back to campus.”
By Barb (Boso) Bragiel, ’91