Professors Depart, Department in Limbo
BY ERIC STEIGLEDER
The UMW Modern Foreign Language Department lost two professors this semester, causing disruptions for both students and faculty.
Ian Campbell, associate professor of Arabic, left the University in order to be closer to his family in Georgia. Leonard Koos, professor of French and chair of the department, is currently on sabbatical for a year in order to attend to an unexpected family illness on the West Coast.
In the short term, new Chair of the Modern foreign language department Ana Chichester has recently been appointed to replace Koos for the current academic year. Chichester has been teaching at UMW since 1992, and was clear on her role as the new department chair.
“My role,” Chichester said, “is to keep us moving forward in Arabic and Chinese and to continue to strengthen our other programs.”
Claire Guerlain has helped replace Koos as the department’s new language coordinator for French.
Campbell has been replaced by a temporary hire, Shukri Abed.
According to Rosemary Barra, dean of faculty, both professors were making personal decisions when they decided to leave the University.
“Koos is on personal leave,” Barra said. “But he has not resigned permanently from his post. In Campbell’s case, he has decided to make a change to be closer to his family.”
Neither Koos nor Campbell were available for comment.
Yet Campbell’s decision, regardless of his reasoning, has had repercussions, especially for seniors in the department. Chichester felt that Campbell’s somewhat sudden absence has had a definite negative impact.
“It has had an effect on the Arabic students,” She said. “Dr. Campbell had promised several fourth years’ individual studies. So it has had an effect on their security.”
Senior Sierra Stoney was one of these students.
“This summer I went to Morocco. Campbell was supposed to take us, but resigned, and thereby dropped all of his previous obligations,” Stonet said in an e-mail. “We thought we weren’t going to get to go, but then Rutgers’ University was kind enough to let us into their program.”
Stoney went on to explain that although she and her classmates would still be able to go to Morocco, getting to Fes, only accessible by national airline or train became their responsibility.
Stoney also elaborated on difficulties created for the upcoming school year.
“For this year, I expected to have an independent study to allow me to retain my language skills,” She said. “Without one, I fear that I will lose them. I wasn’t aware that the new Arabic professor was offering the opportunity for an independent study until very recently, but am disappointed that the option isn’t even there anymore.”
In the case of Koos’ departure, everyone, including Koos himself, was taken by surprise.
It was kind of last minute,” She said. “It was unexpected for him and for us.”
Chichester was open about the important role Koos played as department chair and the effect he had on the modern foreign language department as a whole.
“He was a terrific chair at a time of important expansion,” Chichester said. “He started the Arabic program. He also started the Chinese program, and enrollment is great.”
Chichester was confident that Koos would return, explaining that she is functioning as acting chair of the department for only a year.
Chichester also explained that due to Koos’ absence, the department had to find a replacement to cover the classes he had planned to teach. Guerlai now teaches two of those classes. She also provides a French Conversation Session once a week.
A native French speaker, Guerlain will only be at the University for a year, and will then return to France to continue her language studies.
Guerlian explained that she applied for an exchange program at UMW, yet was unsure exactly what her job would entail until she arrived. Coming into the University without prior knowledge of Koos’ leave has allowed Guerlain to approach the situation as just another facet of her professional responsibilities.
“So far I think the department may be a little confusing, but it’s also the beginning of the year,” Guerlian said. “You learn adaptation. It’s what I’m here for.”
Chichester remains optimistic on the Arabic front as well. She said that the department has not only appointed a temporary Arabic professor for the current academic year, but has also begun an extensive search for a full time replacement.
Chichester explained that the department has already begun circulating advertising on four separate websites, including those of the Middle East Studies Association and the Association of Arabic Teachers.
The replacement, Shukri Abed, is a graduate of Harvard University and the current Chair of the Department of Languages and Regional Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C. Abed has also helped introduce and develop Arabic programs at both the University of Maryland and James Madison University.
“The good news is we have someone who is very experienced,” Chichester said. “We didn’t replace an associate professor with an inexperienced professor.”