Faculty Newsletter

Faculty News

Appointments to Endowed Chairs

President Bahls has appointed Don Erickson to the Dorothy Parkander Chair in Literature and Van Symons to the William Friestat Chair for Studies in World Peace. Congratulations to Don and Van!

Don Erickson grew up in and around Chicago, where he attended Lake Forest College (B.A., 1964, Phi Beta Kappa) and the University of Chicago (M.A., 1965) before joining the Augustana faculty. He left to continue graduate study at Washington University from 1968-71, completing his Ph.D. in 1975. His dissertation was on 18th century English satirists. He has been a Professor of English at Augustana since 1989; he has served as Chair of the Division of Language and Literature (1989-95), Chair of the English Department (1996-99), and president of the college’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter (1995-2000). He is father of three grown children: Peter, John, and Ann.

His abiding academic passion has been the conversation among academic disciplines, and question of what common ground they share. He has taught in most of the college’s interdisciplinary programs, including term abroad programs in Europe and Asia, and the early years of the FOUNDATIONS honors program. He was twice selected for NEH sponsored summer programs–most recently the “Age of Handel” seminar at Yale jointly sponsored by NEH and the Aston Magna Academy.  He serves on the General Education committee, which is administering the college’s newest, most ambitious experiment in faculty cooperation across disciplines.

Most of his writing has been for presentation at meetings, workshops, or conferences of Augustana faculty and students, his preferred audience. He has amused colleagues at various Augustana occasions with celebratory poems leavened with impertinence.

He will be on sabbatical in the winter term of this academic year, researching and writing on the current state of conversation in higher education on theory and practice of the liberal arts. Another of his research interests—albeit more as citizen than academic—is global warming and the prospect for more sane, just, and sustainable human choices.


Van Symons joined the Augustana College faculty in the fall of 1978 after completing a Ph.D. in Asian History at Brown University and a four-year teaching stint at Whittier College in Southern California.  As a Chinese historian, specializing in Qing dynastic history, Symons teaches survey courses in East Asian history and upper level courses in Chinese and Japanese history.  He has also worked with colleagues to develop the Asian Studies Program at Augustana, and often teaches in the college’s unique 11-week long East Asian International Term.   

Symons has authored a book titled Qing Ginseng Management: Chinese Monopolies in Microcosm, co-authored the book Peace, War, and Trade along the Great Wall with the noted Mongol historian Sechin Jagchid, and more recently co-edited the book Asia in the Undergraduate Curriculum with Suzanne Barnett. 

During the 1990-91 academic year, Symons was the Visiting Mansfield Professor of Modern Asian Affairs at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at The University of Montana.  In 1995, he began a long relationship with ASIANetwork, a consortium of over 170 liberal arts colleges committed to strengthening the study of Asia on their campuses.  After serving on their Board of Directors for four years, he accepted a six year posting as Executive Director of ASIANetwork, during which time the headquarters of the consortium was housed at Augustana College.   This was a period of rapid growth during which the Freeman, Ford, Luce and other Foundations funneled over $5 million dollars to ASIANetwork so it could implement a wide range of innovative curriculum, faculty and student development initiatives. Symons currently directs the ASIANetwork Freeman Student-Faculty Fellows Program, a $5.7 million initiative which sends 12 to 15 faculty mentors, each with up to five students, to East and Southeast Asia to conduct undergraduate research every year.   

Dr. Symons’s wife, Ruth, also works at Augustana as the pianist for the Augustana Choir and Chamber Singers and as the Managing Editor of The Sociological Quarterly.  The Symons have raised five children.  For the past 29 years, Symons has biked twelve miles to and from work almost every day.  In 33 years of teaching, he does not remember a day when he did not look forward to coming to his office.  He loves to play racquetball, hunt, fish, canoe and backpack, and engage in almost any outdoor activity. 


Other News

Katherine Lavelle recently published an article, “The Cup Heard Round the World: A Burkean Analysis of the NBA’s Reaction to the Brawl at Auburn Hills.” It appears in the Fall 2007 edition of the Iowa Journal of Communication. This essay is part of Katherine’s research program on race, identity, and sports.

“Planting Time,” a story by Paul Lewellan, has been accepted for publication in The University of Maine’s Puckerbrush Review.

Tom Mayer was featured in a news clip for KPLR-TV, St. Louis , on July 13. See link to view. http://cw11tv.trb.com/news/kplr-news-071307-10,0,1288321.story?coll=kplr-news-1

Yard Sale, a solo show written and performed by Melissa McBain, depicts an aging but feisty woman, preparing for her final move. As the character packs she grows younger. Humorous and outrageous actions are juxtaposed with significant losses in her dramatic journey back into childhood. Yard Sale premiered at New Ground Theatre in Davenport, Iowa in June 2007.

For a review: http://www.rcreader.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12043&Itemid=48

Melissa will also present her play Altar Call as a staged reading in Chicago at the Center on Halsted’s Hoover-Leppen Theater in conjunction with a Clergy United seminar on the Bible and homosexuality on September 15. It depicts a Baptist minister’s daughter trapped between the demands of her fundamentalist father, the needs of her gay son and the crushing demands of her unfaithful husband. Attached is a press release about the play by the Liberty Education Forum.
Press Release

David Snowball’s
FundAlarm Annex was mentioned in June by BusinessWeek and USA Today.




Kim Vivian’s review of Herbert Schutz’s The Carolingians in Central Europe, their History, Arts and Architecture: A Cultural History of Central Europe, 750-900, Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2004, appeared in The Medieval Review from 17 July 2007. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/textidx?c=tmr;cc=tmr;ql=vivian;rgn=main;view=text;idno=baj9928.0707.012


In early July, Michael Zemek led 71 children and 22 adults through a week-long middle school choral and worship experience called Young Lutherans Sing (YLS) on the campus of Carthage College in Kenosha , Wisconsin . Sponsored by the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, YLS gathers kids from across the country for classes and rehearsals in vocal/choral performance, handbells, and Orff instruments as young people are valued not only as future leaders of the church, but today's leaders as well.  Augustana music education students Beth Hayman, Kim Holland, Amy Keipert and Kyle Severson provided outstanding leadership, friendship, and mentoring as YLS camp counselors.  As the national YLS task force chair and program director, Michael is already busy with preparations for YLS 2008.

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