Four Professors Granted Tenure

by Richard Paige

December 18, 2013

Wabash College President Gregory D. Hess and Dean of the College Gary A. Phillips announced the promotion and tenure of four members of the faculty. Professors James Cherry (theater), Ethan Hollander (political science), Derek Nelson (religion), and Eric Olofson (psychology) all have earned the rank of associate professor and granted tenure at the 181-year-old liberal arts institution.

“These professors have demonstrated excellence as teachers and research scholars, and have contributed to the strength of the institution through their myriad contributions — from directing plays and leading immersion trips to engaging students in collaborative research and advising them on their careers,” said President Hess.

Dr. Cherry joined the theater faculty in 2007 after spending eight years in New York City earning his master’s degree and doctorate from the City University of New York. A graduate of Bates College in 1995, he earned a master’s in theater from Villanova in 1998. Cherry also holds a Certificate of Theatre Studies from the International Centre for Advanced Theatre Studies from the University of Helsinki in 2004.

“The freedom with which we are invested is critical,” said Cherry. “If you have a good idea at Wabash – for scholarship, pedagogy, creative pursuits, etc. – the answer I have always heard is: go for it, take a whack at it. This freedom is a central pillar of a Wabash liberal arts education: for students and faculty alike, the mantra is to embrace what you love, take advantage of the freedom to do good work, and learn from mistakes and triumphs,” said Cherry.

James CherryCherry’s course offerings include History and Literature of the Theater: Ancient Greece to the Spanish Golden Age and the French Renaissance to the Age of Realism, American Theater and Modern European Drama, as well as an introductory theater course.  He is the co-chair of the Freshman Tutorial program at Wabash and is an active author and presenter of scholarly research relating to the theater. Additionally, Cherry has contributed to the theater more than 20 times as an actor or director.

“The theater world is but one place where Jim Cherry exposes students to the central liberal arts questions,” said Dean Phillips. “A skillful leader of the Wabash Freshman Tutorial program and highly visible organizer in his professional theater association, Jim brings to Wabash that special New York City edge that sharpens liberal arts questions and student intellect to keep us honest and focused on the College’s mission.”

Dr. Hollander joined the political science faculty in 2008 after spending the previous two years as a faculty fellow at the University of California, San Diego, where he had earned his master’s degree (1999) and Ph.D. (2006). A 1994 graduate of Wesleyan University, Hollander also spent a year at St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Ireland in 1992-93.

“Tenure is a lifelong commitment that the College makes to a professor,” said Hollander. “But as I see it, it also goes the other way. It's a commitment that the professor makes to the College. Looks like Wabash and I are in it for the long haul, and that's fine by me.”

Hollander focuses on comparative politics, international relations, nationalism, ethnic conflict and genocide, warfare, state-sponsored violence and terrorism, authoritarian regimes, and the Holocaust. He was the organizer of a Wabash immersion trip to Cuba in November, and has taken three classes to study the politics of the European Union. Hollander is also completing a book entitled, Swords or Shields? Implementing and Subverting the Final Solution in German-Occupied Europe.

“Ethan is adept in leading Wabash students around the globe, most recently to Cuba, to immerse them in the most challenging cultures and questions of our times – the Holocaust, totalitarian regimes, and the Arab Spring,” said Phillips. “Equally knowledgeable about the Crawfordsville and Indianapolis scenes, he has introduced many new faculty and staff members to the cultural riches of our region. The legacy of local and global political science leadership at the College is being carried on by Ethan, who will lead his department to new and challenging places.”

Dr. Nelson joined the religion faculty in 2012 after spending six years at Thiel College, where he served as an assistant (2006-10) and associate (2010-12) professor and the co-director of the Thiel Global Institute (2007-12). A 1999 summa cum laude graduate of Wabash, Nelson earned his master’s of divinity from Yale in 2002 and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif.  He also earned a Certification in Clinical-Pastoral Education from Stanford in 2006.

“These days it seems that when most folks think about higher education, they do so only in connection to one’s expected career path,” said Nelson. “My favorite thing about Wabash students is that they trust the faculty. They allow us to help prepare them for excellence in the workplace by immersing themselves in a discipline that might not seem, at the outset, to be highly practical for their first job after Wabash. But that model has worked for Wabash men for many decades.”

An ordained Lutheran pastor, Nelson’s course offerings include a history of Christianity to the Reformation, Theological Ethics, Religion Derek Nelsonand Film, an Introduction to Theology, and Augustine and Aquinas. He also leads Enduring Questions, the required freshman course, and is the Director of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership program. Further, Nelson is co-author on an intellectual biography of Martin Luther entitled, Luther. The Resilience of Reform, and recently published the second edition of his mentor Bill Placher’s book, A History of Christian Theology.

“Derek brings to the Religion Department and the College proven leadership in the wider academy and the church,” Phillips said. “His appetite and humor combine to invite students and faculty colleagues to want to achieve excellence and serve a purpose beyond themselves. One of his special skills as a theologian and teacher of theology is to lead this liberal arts college in wrestling with the most demanding questions about the human, the divine, and, yes, the not so divine of this world, and importantly to show us what can be done.”

A member of the Wabash psychology faculty since 2008, Dr. Olofson earned his master’s degree (2005) and Ph.D. (2008) in psychology from the University of Oregon. He was a summa cum laude graduate of Concordia College in 2002, earning a B.A. in psychology and philosophy.

“Through the tremendous support of my department, my colleagues, and the administration, I have been able to grow as a teacher and researcher,” Olofson continued. “I was able to create a course, Fatherhood, which was tailored to Wabash student interests, and the success of that course has, in turn, shaped my own scholarly interests. The experiences I have had with those students, often in lengthy one-on-one summer internships, have allowed me to see just how powerfully a Wabash education changes young men, and also have allowed me to grow.”

Eric OlofsonOlofson’s scholarly focus is on infant and child cognitive development.  His recent course offerings include an Introduction to Psychology, Fatherhood, Research Methods and Statistics, Language Acquisition, Child Development, and Research in Developmental Psychology.

“Eric brings to the Psychology Department a signature course in fatherhood, collaborative scholarship with students grounded in cutting-edge questions of language acquisition, and strong leadership that has dramatically increased student graduate fellowship interest and applications and promises to elevate Wabash’s national profile,” said Phillips. “He represents a new generation of Wabash faculty deeply engaged with and committed to students, and that bodes well for Wabash students who find in Eric an authentic model for thinking critically and living humanely.

“There is no greater honor the College can bestow upon a faculty member than the award of tenure,” Dean Phillips continued. “It is my privilege to welcome Eric, Ethan, Jim and Derek into the tenured rank of the Wabash faculty. All can be confident that our students and our College will be in very good hands for many years to come.”

These promotions are effective July 1, 2014.


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