Dr. Clark Hultquist, chair of BSS. Photo courtesy of Marketing and Communications.
A lot has changed since 2012, the last time that Professor Clark Hultquist was chair of the UM Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Even the day that I spoke to him he had administrative training scheduled for later on a policy the University of Montevallo had implemented in the intervening years.
His office, however, retains much of the charm of a college professor’s office. The shelves are overfilled with books and sagging. A computer shoved into the corner where he sat answering emails, an aspect of being a a college professor many often forget, and as an administrator one that has become even more closely tied to Hultquist’s day to day.
Since 2012, BSS has grown to 20 faculty members and an administrative assistant, added the Environmental Studies Program and even more students. Unlike the new training, this change that Hultquist is excited about.
The position of chair is a unique one at Montevallo and other small universities where it isn’t feasible to have heads of each program, a change that started in the mid-1960s and gradually became more popular during the 1970s as universities began combining positions for cost savings and administrative feasibility.
At UM the department chair works as a facilitator for learning and growth of both students and faculty members. The chair serves as a public face for the department, often required to attend admissions and fundraising events several times throughout a year.
They also serve as the point person for their department, almost serving as a departmental liaison who sorts requests through to the different areas of study.
“And so, what the chair has to do is sort of be the umbrella over all of those disciplines and in some sense have a modest amount of knowledge about them,” said Hultquist.
The Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences averages between three and four professors per major. As chair Hultquist works collaboratively with each program to further their interests and goals for expansion, while at the same time having to make hard choices to prioritize overall growth.
Hultquist noted that the lens changes as you move from a teaching to an administrative role at the University.
“As a regular history professor my lens was really history,” he said. “You’re not thinking about yourself; you’re thinking about the department as a whole.
His focus as chair is to continue the work of Dr. Ruth Truss, who vacated the role to become the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Dr. Truss was the best dean we’ve ever had,” said Hultquist. “at least for now I’m just trying to continue down the path that she laid for us.”
Hultquist finds that he lives in short term plans, and tries to maximize how well he does in his current role instead of thinking too far in the future.
Because of this, Hultquist, like many students at universities across America, didn’t know what he wanted to do when he received his bachelor’s degree. And even while studying for that degree at the University of Cincinatti, he changed his major three times and wasn’t particularly sure what he was good at.
Like many, Hultquist finally settled on studying history because of a single professor, and it wasn’t until he was in a graduate program at Ohio State University, surrounded by his peers, that he realized he wanted to become a professor.
“I decided that I did well in history so I might as well get a master’s degree, and it was during the master’s degree that I was around other upwardly aspiring students … that I decided that I would like to do this as well,” noted Hultquist. He went on to add that it was not a clear-cut decision saying that, “it was hazy and not well defined at the time.”
“When I was young, I didn’t know what a professor did, I thought they taught classes, had tweed jackets and went home and took naps, well some professors do that,” remarked Hultquist. “There’s a lot of things behind the scenes and ten thousand emails and other things that professors do that aren’t what I thought they did when I was 22.”
Hultquist remarked that this is like most careers though, where the outside perspective varies drastically then when you start to do the job.
For now, Hultquist is focusing on relearning how to be chair and staying the course to continue BSS’s growth.