Dean of the College Todd McDorman announced the promotion and tenure of two Wabash College faculty members. English professor Derek Mong and chemistry professor Paul Schmitt have successfully completed the tenure process and will assume the rank of associate professor at the 189-year-old liberal arts institution.
“Professor Mong is an incredibly talented writer who is equally talented at teaching writing and literature to Wabash students,” said McDorman. “He has developed a range of engaging and creative courses and assignments in which he inspires students with his passionate teaching on varied topics including reading the comics, travel writing, and the environment.
“I don’t know if there are enough superlatives to capture the volume, breadth, and quality of Derek’s accomplishments,” McDorman continued. “I’ve been impressed by how over the past two years in particular Derek has emerged as an important faculty voice on institutional topics ranging from promoting the creative arts to diversifying the curriculum, and he did important work on the Academic Policy Committee in helping us prepare for the challenges of the 2020-21 academic year.”
Mong came to Wabash College from Portland, Oregon, in the fall of 2016. He teaches courses in creative writing, poetry, American Literature, and various all-college courses, including Freshman Tutorial. He recently developed a survey on comics and graphic novels as well as two seminars: ”Literature & Photography“ and "Emily Dickinson & Lyric Theory.”
“Tenure is an unfathomably lovely and necessary academic institution,” said Mong. “It allows faculty to pursue long, exploratory projects that may, or may not, succeed. It frees you to fail, which--as Samuel Beckett knew--is the one constant in writing. ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better,’ he famously wrote. Poets and artists know this intuitively; the act of making is an act of repeated failure and constant revision. Tenure lets you fail a little longer and, hopefully, find your way to a richer, more elusive project before you're done.
“On a more immediate level, it means I get to keep doing what I love to do. I consider myself unimaginably lucky in that regard, and I'm very grateful to Wabash, my colleagues, particularly in the English Department, and my students for their trust and their support.”
Mong’s research interests include the American Renaissance, translation studies, photography, and American poetry from the 19th-21st centuries. He currently makes his home with his family in Crawfordsville.
“Professor Schmitt has been a terrific and versatile teacher, excelling in both analytical and physical chemistry,” McDorman said. “Students praise his ability to teach problem-solving skills and, in doing so, to help them develop beyond their own expectations. Paul also has been incredibly accessible to students, particularly during the pandemic, and has developed an immersion course, “Chemistry of Wine,” that has engaged both students and alumni.
“Through his research, Paul has developed valuable industry relations and been a strong mentor who has supervised more than 15 students in the summer. And he has shown strong leadership on the Pre-Health Committee providing excellent care in getting to know students and leading the letter-writing process for medical school applications.”
Schmitt came to Wabash College after completing his Ph.D. at Purdue University. His research is centered around using nonlinear optical microscopy, specifically second harmonic generation (SHG), to increase the quality of emerging agrochemical and pharmaceutical materials. As a crystal-specific imaging technique, SHG microscopy enables many otherwise challenging measurements in formulation development. Professor Schmitt has an active collaboration with Corteva Agriscience (Indianapolis, IN) using feedback from SHG microscopy to decrease formulation development time.
“There is a lot of hard work that goes in to teaching, research, and serving the College, and it is very rewarding to have Wabash recognize and honor that work,” said Schmidt. “More than that, it is confirmation that this college values my particular approach to my discipline—whether it is how I teach a topic in the classroom, or working with students on research projects in the lab. I look forward to continuing my work here for years to come.”
Outside of the classroom and lab, Schmitt enjoys many hobbies, including fly fishing, rock climbing, cooking, and playing music. He has family nearby in Michigan and enjoys spending time with them.
Mong’s and Schmitt’s promotions are effective July 1, 2022.