[The Montana Professor 21.2, Spring 2011 <http://mtprof.msun.edu>]

Notes from the Editor's Desk

Richard Walton
Philosophy (Emeritus)

—Richard Walton
Richard Walton

We open the Spring 2011 issue of The Montana Professor with a fine essay by a longtime member of UM-Missoula's English Department, Prof. Jesse Bier. Prof. Bier joined the faculty at a time when it included Leslie Fiedler, then already a prominent member of the community of American letters. Fiedler was a passionate believer in the universal value of the study of literature. He founded UM's popular humanities course, in which he taught until he left the University for greener pastures. Prof. Bier, now writing from the perspective of 15 years in retirement, shares Fiedler's conviction, and is dismayed to find it under attack by scholars in the discipline itself, as well as being in danger of being passed by in the evolution of higher education in the direction of what Prof. Bier refers to as "the corporate university." He argues that "What graduates into the real world need is not higher vocational training, as of Business Schools especially, but the adaptive mechanisms of thought provided by any serious core curriculum in liberal arts and—surprise! literature, in particular." In support of his thesis he offers remarkable examples of the careful critical analysis of literature from the canon. We welcome Prof. Bier to our pages and hope that we will hear from him again.

We welcome, also, UM's new President, Royce Engstrom, who offers us his thoughts on "Public Policy Drivers of Higher Education." His article provides a nice contrast with that of Prof. Bier, who cares not one whit for contemporary public policy regarding higher education. President Engstrom, who assumed his office only last fall, discusses the most prominent of the forces shaping American higher education, considering their particular relevance to the situation of the institutions of the MUS. He considers four principal issues that, he says, "...[S]hape the agenda of the Montana Board of Regents, the strategic planning of public institutions within the state of Montana, and the day-to-day decision-making of our universities and colleges." We can all benefit from learning what lies behind the Regents' thinking as they assert increasing control over the MUS.

Celia Schahczenski takes us away from concern with education to bring to our attention a major recent action of the Federal Communications Commission, the adoption of rules meant to insure what has come to be called "net neutrality." Prof. Schahczenski supports the Commission's action, although it was opposed by a strong faction in Congress, and by numerous members of the Internet user community, despite its apparent benefits. In promulgating these regulations the FCC extends the scope of its powers, one of the primary reasons for resistance to its action. The effects of the net neutrality regulations for universities and colleges are not yet clear. We expect to have an article in the fall issue taking up that important matter.

Moving even further from our workaday activities, Brian Sharkey offers us an account of his first few years of retirement. Most of us look forward in retirement to spending more time on the golf course, the ski slopes or the trout streams, as well as travelling and seeing more of the grandchildren. Prof. Sharkey, however, could not shake the writing habit. While he did manage some of these leisure time activities, as the photograph accompanying his article indicates (it was taken on the shore of a high mountain lake), he remained tied to his writing desk long enough to produce about a book each year. Chacun à son goût: as for me....

We close out our articles with an intriguing contribution from Peter Koehn, long a prominent force for international studies on the UM-Missoula campus. He argues for the importance of developing something he calls "transnational competence," by which he means, "...the capabilities necessary for initiating and sustaining collaborative interactions among diverse individuals across political, cultural, and knowledge boundaries." Indeed, as the globe continues to shrink we must expect that higher education's responsibilities to prepare students for life in a world where political boundaries are increasingly less important will have to expand. Prof. Koehn offers an unusual perspective on that responsibility.

Our "Hobby Corner" feature returns in this issue in a somewhat unusual fashion. In the past we have had contributions from faculty members or retirees of the various MUS units providing us accounts of their hobbies, from ham radio to collecting antique stoves. This time TMP Board member Alan Weltzien describes the hobby of a faculty colleague, Steve Mock, who is a dedicated mountain climber and climbing teacher. I am reminded of a dinner conversation at a conference some years ago where one of those present, a member of the faculty of a Colorado institution, proudly informed his tablemates that he was well along in the project of climbing all the peaks in Colorado which were higher than 14,000 feet, to which another member of the group replied that he had long ago accomplished the comparable feat for his state, Minnesota.

We include only two book reviews in this issue because both are of necessity rather substantial. We trust that you will find both worthy. Both serve to balance the general tenor of our first three articles quite nicely.

Finally, we introduce, with some trepidation, a new occasional feature, "The Last Word," where you will find from time to time a guest editorial, i.e., something of the nature of an op-ed, a satirical piece relevant to the interests of our readership, or perhaps a response to something we have previously published. Your acting Co-Editor has chosen to inaugurate this feature himself so as not to set the bar too high for subsequent contributors.

The Vagabond Professor:

The fall issue of this volume of the journal included a second installment of an occasional feature we call "The Vagabond Professor," which presents one or more photographs of a notable Montana place, asking readers to identify it. One reader solved the puzzle this time. The photographs were of a church in the tiny community of Laurin, a few miles east of Sheridan. The church, St. Mary of the Assumption, is exceedingly beautiful. Our pictures did not begin to do it justice, it being necessary that we print only in black and white for budgetary reasons. If you should visit Virginia City next summer it is worth the drive over to Laurin to see this little cathedral. We may hope that sometime a good string quartet might perform there. The acoustics appear to be excellent.

You, too, can be a vagabond professor! The Editors would be pleased to receive contributions from our readers for this feature. Just send us a small (3-5) set of pictures of the Montana place you would like to challenge others to identify, along with any necessary explanatory comments. The photo files should be large enough to permit printing pictures with high resolution (300 dpi) or about 800 kb in JPEG format will usually be sufficient, but better to err on the high side.

Looking ahead:

With this issue The Montana Professor completes 21 years of service to the community of higher education professionals in Montana. The journal has come a long way from its beginnings as the brainchild of a small group of faculty members at Montana State University-Billings, then yet known as Eastern Montana College. The mission of the journal has broadened in those years, as indicated, for example, by the addition of a descriptive sub-title to its name a few years ago. Its audience, too, has broadened, now including several hundred outside of Montana, and always including several national publications. Our articles have been republished in such organs as The Chronicle of Higher Education. Our primary audience remains, however, the faculty members and academic administrators of Montana institutions and our focus continues to be on topics of interest to that audience. Consequently, most of our best contributions come from members of our primary audience. If you would like to be added to the list of our notable contributors, see a member of our Board on your campus. We will begin a series of articles on the current state of the disciplines in the fall, for example, and there are always important books in our own fields that those in other fields should know about.

[The Montana Professor 21.2, Spring 2011 <http://mtprof.msun.edu>]

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