Following a year-long search for a sculpture and architecture professor, the visual arts department announced yesterday that artist Alicia Eggert will join the visual arts faculty next semester as an assistant professor.
Eggert is currently an adjunct professor at the College of Ceramics at Alfred University in New York, and received her M.F.A. from the same university in 2009. Eggert will teach both sculpture and architecture studio classes starting next fall.
Eggert has a background in interior design and architecture, though most of her professional work focuses on sculpture. Her most recent solo exhibition, titled "A Grand Opening for Gravity," opened in 2009 at Alfred. The same year, Eggert published a limited-edition book of her work titled "You Have the Words I Cannot Seem to Find."
Associate Professor of Art and Chair of the Visual Arts Department James Mullen said, "we believe that [Eggert] is going to offer a great full-time presence in 3D...She has broad interests and works in many media."
The search for the right individual to fill the position began in the fall, when the visual arts department posted an online application for the position. One hundred fifty people applied, and the department formed a search committee composed of students and faculty members to narrow down the candidates.
Eggert visited the campus in the spring, and students on the search committee said she would be exciting to work with in the fall.
"She's got a lot of energy, she has interests in teaching and involving different majors in the department, she is curious and expansive and has ideas to develop classes involving the social and natural sciences," said Mullen.
Students on the search committee shared a meal with each of the three final candidates for the position and then shared their views with the visual arts faculty in a forum that preceded the candidate's selection.
Mullen said that the addition of a new faculty member is not the result of new funding, but rather the culmination of a two-year search for a much-needed professorship. "We have had lots of unusual flow in staffing—now this position has been consolidated," said Mullen. Two years ago, the visual arts department conducted an unsuccessful search for a new professor, so the addition of Eggert is filling a long-standing void in the department.
"She is a bit younger than we are, and we're trying to get a diverse range of experiences. It will be great to have another woman on the long-term faculty," said Mullen.
Cassandra Rodrigues '10, who participated in the selection committee, liked Eggert's friendliness and competence but noted that she did not have much teaching experience at a college level.
"[Eggert] has an incredible range of skills which will add a big dimension to the art department, but I was still a little surprised she was chosen for the position," Rodrigues wrote in an e-mail to the Orient.
Several visual arts students have expressed concerns that the addition of a professor responsible for both sculpture and architecture classes will weaken the architecture courses within the visual arts department; the departure of Professor Wiebke N. Theodore from the visual arts faculty next year adds to the fear of architecture students that the department is veering away from architectural interests.
Maina Handmaker '11 reflected on the merits of Theodore's combination of architecture and sustainability, saying, "the Architectural Design course at Bowdoin has been about the fundamental connections between environmental sustainability and the visual arts...I hope that the new professor joining our visual arts team helps this grow."
Indeed, students have voiced concerns that the loss of Theodore will detract from the visual art department's involvement in sustainable development. One visual arts student, who asked not to be named, said, "One of my favorite parts about the architecture [courses] at Bowdoin is the fact that [they draw] students from a far more diverse academic background than any other introductory art class, and Wiebke is able to capitalize on this by teaching a very hands-on, fundamentals-based curriculum that teaches people how to address real problems through design. Architecture is a specialized field, and it really does take an architect to teach it well."
Another student went so far as to say that the selection of an assistant professor that would combine the study of sculpture and architecture is "a step in the wrong direction for architecture at Bowdoin."
However, Mullen noted that it was precisely the demand for Theodore's courses that drove the department to seek a full-time architecture professor. In an e-mail to the Orient, Mullen said, "the success of the offerings in general led to the departmental decision to incorporate architecture into our search for a 3D instructor so that we could offer those classes on a more consistent basis. We are excited that it appears that Wiebke will continue her relationship with the environmental studies program, allowing students the opportunity to work with her on sustainability issues."