Strom Thacker, Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Union College
The Byron A. Nichols Fellowship for Faculty Development:
During a teaching career spanning 40 years at Union College (1968-2008), Professor of Political Science Emeritus Byron Nichols taught students how to think by making them think. He promoted and engaged in meaningful intellectual, social and personal interactions with students both in and out of the classroom, helping them to recognize and actualize their potential for growth in all aspects of their lives. His approach to the development of students was always rigorous, intellectual, humanistic and compassionate.
In honor of Byron’s distinguished career, Susan Mullaney Maycock ’72 and her husband Alan Maycock, former professor of chemistry at Union, established The Byron A. Nichols Fellowship for Faculty Development. The rotating fellowship supports faculty members in developing courses, programs and skills that will enhance their intellectual, social and personal interactions with students. Consideration for the fellowship is given to recently promoted associate professors who demonstrate a commitment to Union’s academic community, to developing students, and to fostering positive change within the College. An advisory committee reviews applications and makes recommendations to the Dean of the Faculty who makes the final selection.
Associate Professor of English
Professor Murphy will use the fellowship to design a new course, “The Theory of Things: Objects, Emotions and Ideas,” which will examine humanity’s interest in material culture and the emotional connections that can be made between people and physical objects. According to material culture studies, everyday objects become things when they are misused or exploited, cease to function, or no longer fulfill their original purpose. This course will explore both material and immaterial “things” and how “things” affect people, predominantly marginalized individuals and groups.
This course will ask students to analyze historical discussions of the effects of material culture through a variety of classics and contemporary readings by Karl Marx, George Santayana, Elisabeth Morris, Martin Heidegger, Jean Baudrillard, Bill Brown, Lorraine Daston and Arjun Appadurai. Professor Murphy seeks to have students not only consider tangible objects but move beyond the consideration of the material in order to explore the intangible things that physical objects generate. For instance, human beings desire and value materials things, and in most Western cultures, much emphasis is placed on acquiring objects. While the objects themselves do not create problems, the value individuals place on things may have adverse consequences, particularly for those who do not have the economics means to acquire objects or who are themselves viewed as objects. Indeed, the “desire” to own something and the “value” that is placed on an object are themselves intangible “things” that produce other intangible things – greed, envy, arrogance, violence, deceit, and insecurity, to name a few. Professor Murphy will use lectures, field trips, joint publication, panel discussion and debate, written assignment, guest speakers and independent study research as a final project to help students explore these ideas.
This course is planned to be taught in Spring 2018.
With a lead gift from Susan and Alan Maycock and gifts and pledges from more than 100 of Byron Nichols’s friends, colleagues and former students, approximately $830,000 has been raised to date to celebrate Byron’s legacy at Union College. Please consider a gift to help us achieve our goal of $1 million in order to endow the fellowship fund in perpetuity and to continue to honor Byron’s passion for engaging students in discussion and debate on important issues of our time.
“Our relationship with Byron dates back to 1968 when Alan joined Union’s chemistry faculty at the same time Byron joined the political science faculty. Susan was a member of the first class (1972) of women at the College. During Alan’s four years at Union, we both became very close friends of Byron and his wife, Lynda, and have remained so over the years. Because of our ongoing involvement with Union, we are aware of the issues and challenges facing the College and have a growing appreciation for the contributions that Byron has made. It is remarkable to note the impact that Byron’s courses, mentoring and counsel have had on the personal lives and professional careers of hundreds of students. We established this fund as a way to honor Byron and to ensure that successive generations of faculty members and students alike benefit from the values, skills and commitment that Byron has shared with the Union community over the years.”
– Susan Maycock ’72 and Alan Maycock, Professor of Chemistry (1968-1972)
The Nichols Fellowship is a very valuable addition to the College’s resources for faculty development. As a Nichols Fellow, a Union faculty member has support in thinking creatively and deeply about how to engage students in a way that further expands their critical thinking skills. This is a vital component of the Union experience that we frequently sum up as ‘Think, Connect, Act.’
– Therese McCarty, Stephen J. and Diane K. Ciesinski Dean of the Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Union College (2005-2016)
If you are interested in learning more about the Fellowship or would like to contribute to the fund, please contact:
Bo Pedersen Geel
Coordinator of Donor Relations
Office of College Relations