Dr. Charles Selengut and Dr. Jill Schennum, professors from the Department of Sociology, Economics and Anthropology at County College of Morris (CCM), along with their former colleague Dr. Olivia Hetzler, are on a mission to promote the value of community colleges.
Most recently, the three authored an article on “Sociology, Stigma and Community Colleges” for the American Sociological Association (ASA) newsletter. In that article, they noted, “It is highly important today to recognize the significant role of community colleges in the public higher education system and to make them visible and avoid negative labeling.”
Two years ago they also led a panel discussion at the ASA annual conference on the contributions of community college professors.
“We plan to continue our efforts,” says Selengut, the author of two nationally recognized books on religious violence. “People need to realize the quality of the faculty that can be found at community colleges.”
His books are “Our Promised Land: Faith and Militant Zionism in Israeli Settlements” (Rowman & Littlefield) and “Sacred Fury: Understanding Religious Violence” (AltaMira Press).
Prompting the professors’ efforts is the resistance each has encountered as a community college faculty member. For one, it was a publisher who did not want to include a community college affiliation in the author’s bio because it felt it would limit the book’s acceptance as a scholarly work. For another, it was being rejected by a prestigious academic publisher because of the lack of affiliation with a selective liberal arts college or research university. And for another, it was being told as a Ph.D. student that teaching at a community college was an “invisible option.”
Yet, all three value their experience as community college faculty. And while Hetzler recently left her position at CCM to relocate back to the Midwest, she continues to serve on the ASA’s community college task force.
Schennum, who has authored a book on the economic disparities that resulted from the loss of union jobs following the closing of Bethlehem Steel, says she particularly values being a teacher at a community college. Her book is due to be published in early 2017.
“I love teaching at a community college where you can really focus on your students, rather than teaching in a large lecture format,” she says. “Community colleges also attract a very diverse student body, and what we offer is a high quality education that is affordable and accessible so people can realize their potential.”
“The quality of the work experience at a community college is something to really appreciate,” says Selengut. “It’s friendly and intimate.”
If Selengut and Schennum have their way, awareness about the quality of the faculty and learning experience at community colleges will continue to grow.
As they note in their article, “We must overcome the status and prestige distinctions that separate faculty across the United States.” Central to that, they add, “is making community colleges more visible.”Photo: Dr. Charles Selengut and Dr. Jill Schennum, professors at County College of Morris, are on a mission to promote the value of community colleges.
Credit: John Hester