HC adds post-doctoral fellows, classes centered around Hastings Habits

Additional contribution provided by Jordan Ismaiel.

Hastings College has added three new faculty members this year who have redesigned the previous “Questions” class into the new First-Year Seminars. These new faculty are all post-doctoral fellows, a position renewable every year for up to three years, adding to their teaching experience within higher education before moving onto a tenured faculty position. 

Fellows Dr. Eric Kennedy, Dr. Nathan Mertens and Dr. Christopher Strickland, along with First-Year Seminars Director Dr. Maggie Callahan-Mabus, redesigned the courses this past summer to work off of the “Hastings Habits.” The Habits include active citizenship, care of all things, civil candor, creative spirit and radical hospitality.

“This was completely revamped and designed by the post-doctoral fellows collaboratively, together… We have designed our curriculum around each of those habits with an interdisciplinary lens to examine the concepts and themes of what those habits mean,” Strickland said. “This is a class designed to help individuals prepare to become academic scholars so we work on multimodal literacies, development, communication skills, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, reflection; so developing essential skills for students.”

This block’s seminar focuses on the habit of civil candor which the fellows have used to outline their classes. Each seminar has the same overall structure and course work, but is influenced by the each of the fellow’s educational backgrounds.

Kennedy holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Pennsylvania State University-Penn State York, a Master of Arts in English from Marquette University and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in English with a minor in film and media arts from Louisiana State University. 

Mertens holds a Bachelor of Arts in saxophone performance and woodwind pedagogy from Hastings College, a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a Doctor of Music Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. Mertens is also one of the first American saxophonists to receive a fellowship at the Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo, Japan. 

Strickland holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in studio art-painting from the University of Southern Maine, a Masters of Education in arts integration for curriculum instruction and assessment design and a PhD in educational leadership with a concentration on advocacy of arts education from Lesley University.

The fellows feel that, with their backgrounds, they can better prepare students for class outcomes and goals.

“I want them to be more engaged with the content, be more engaged with what they’re thinking and that’s coming across in both conversations and discussions in class, and in a lot of their writing,” Mertens said about how the classes have impacted his students so far from the new structure. “We were able to design our own project within the outcomes, but the best way that we think we can reach our students.”

The fellows hope that, with these classes, students will approach thinking on a deeper, more critical level and develop skills essential to achieving success in other classes.

“What I am hoping for my students to get out of this is to have skills that are going to support them in every class that they take as a college student. And for what I focus on, that means critical analysis and critical reflection; understanding why we do the things we do and why we do them the way we do. So, I’m constantly in my classes challenging students to push their thinking further about the ‘why and how,’” Kennedy said.