Nate Therien, Five Colleges’ academic programs director since 1995, will retire at the end of April. Therien is only the second person to hold the position since it was created in 1969.
“The consortium certainly does more now than it did when I started, because the campuses, often with support from external grants, have chosen to intensify their collaboration in many areas,” he says, pointing out that the Joint Faculty Appointment program has grown from 9 to 40 appointments, certificate programs increased from 5 to 17, and there are now two Five College majors (in architectural studies and film studies).
Asked about some programs that particularly engaged his efforts over the years, he points to Crossroads in the Study of the Americas (CISA), the African Studies program, and the major in architectural studies.
“They are good examples of different ways programs evolve to serve changing needs,” he said. “When CISA began in 1997, its purpose was to support faculty members, including many junior hires, interested in new cross-disciplinary and transnational approaches to the study of the Americas and the exploration of relational aspects of identity. There were Five College faculty retreats devoted to rethinking the field and campus curricula, a series of course-development seminars, a postdoctoral fellowship, and student symposia,” he said. “CISA’s work helped transform the campuses, and as the campuses did more on their own, its offerings were reduced.” Many veterans of the program’s early days are now chairing departments, he added. And junior faculty CISA Fellows still convene for works-in-progress presentations three times a semester.
African Studies, historically one of the consortium’s most active programs, “has been a major focus of my work,” he said. “By working together, Africanists at the campuses have made the Five Colleges an internationally recognized center for the study of Africa, to the advantage of students and faculty members at each of the campuses. No single campus on its own could have done as much.”
Architectural studies is an example of how cooperation helped to bring a new field to the campuses, says Therien. “Although the future of Five College architectural studies is still being written, the presence of three joint appointments and the intensification of multilayered collaboration among the campuses, including the university’s professional program, suggest much is possible.”
Therien says that more than service to particular programs, what he has found most satisfying over the years is working with colleagues to sustain a culture of collaboration that enables faculty members to find ways to work together in the interest of their students. “In my experience,” he said, “this has been most effective when senior campus leaders engage across the campuses with one another to give strategic direction.”
Therien’s retirement plans include sailing with his wife, engaging locally in the politics of resistance, and becoming a better cook. He also says he looks forward to attending campus events “as a civilian.”
Join us at Nate Therien’s retirement party:
April 27, 4–6 p.m., Alumni House, Amherst College