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Fall 2000

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Class Notes



New academic leader named

     John Berman has been named vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty.
John Berman, VP for academic affairs

     In welcoming Berman, president Jamienne S. Studley cited his “commitment to undergraduate education, to constructive problem-solving, and to campuswide communication” and said, “I welcome his leadership in helping Skidmore live up to its highest aspirations.”

     Berman comes from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where he was a professor of psychology since 1984 and chaired the psychology department for eleven years. His department’s twenty-seven faculty were responsible for approximately 800 undergraduates and 100 doctoral students (out of a total enrollment of 22,000 at the Lincoln campus). Berman’s articles have appeared in such publications as the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, American Psychologist, and the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. (In many cases, his co-author has been his wife, Virginia Murphy-Berman, who will be a visiting faculty member at Skidmore next spring.) A summa cum laude graduate of Xavier University, he holds master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from Northwestern University.

     Berman replaces former dean of the faculty Phyllis Roth, who served more than a decade in that capacity and has returned to Skidmore’s English department as a professor.

     He says, “I’m honored to join the Skidmore community. I’m very interested in the planning effort currently under way and in trying to maximize the unique role that residential liberal arts colleges will play in higher education over the next decade.” In the September faculty meeting, he added, “I’m impressed with Skidmore’s progress on initiatives such as assessment, revising the core curriculum, and raising academic standards and expectations—the faculty has not been ducking tough issues.”

     At Lincoln, Berman emphasized planning and evaluation in his department by developing its first strategic plan. He also fostered the tradition of “teaching circles,” where faculty and graduate students met to discuss teaching, and he oversaw his department’s first plan for assessment of student learning.

     Berman served on the accreditation team for Vassar College in 1998 and for California State University at Bakersfield in 1999. During 1998-99, he spent a year at Williams College as a fellow of the American Council on Education, one of about thirty faculty selected from a national competition. ACE fellows visited a number of campuses, completed exercises focusing on the broad issues in the field, and “shadowed” administrators by taking up residence on other campuses. Berman called it a “spectacular, terribly valuable” experience.

     Looking ahead, Berman ticks off a few key issues with both short- and long-term implications for Skidmore and higher education in general:

  • Technology. “It’s a tool, not an end in itself, but it has the potential to free us up for higher levels of interactions with students.”
  • Institutional focus. “Colleges and universities must find what they are good at and focus on it.” Given the economic realities, “we need to look at how best to cope with a slowing in the growth of resources.”
  • Faculty pressures. In the face of increased expectations for teaching, rapidly changing technologies, a significantly higher bar for research, and raised expectations for service, “we have to make the job of faculty do-able.”

     In addition, Berman told the faculty, he looks forward to strengthening the value of the residential character of Skidmore—that is, not just offering excellent courses but making the most of student-faculty interactions outside the classroom as well.


© 2000 Skidmore College