Reflections on a 45-year tenure at Arcadia University

By Daniel Brumbach | October 14, 2016
In her 45 years of service to Arcadia University, Dr. Barbara Nodine served in many positions, including professor of Psychology, chair of the Psychology department, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. Dr. Nodine was named Professor Emerita in June.

Being a college professor and administrator consumes much of one’s life, and the line between one’s personal life and work life is permeable. Looking back on my long career as a teacher and administrator, I have been reflecting on how my experiences existed in changing social times and at a university that grew with those times.

I became a full-time faculty member at Beaver College in 1970. Over this time, I have taught thousands of students in various health and science courses. I recently met an alum from my earliest years of teaching, who remembered a principle from an introductory psychology course that had influenced his thinking and work as a physician: “Positive reinforcement is a very effective method for changing behavior.”

Advising is an equally important aspect of being a faculty member in higher education, and I would venture to say that I have mentored approximately 500 students. During our meetings, we discussed their plans for graduate work, changing majors, integrating an art major with  psychology, and the overarching struggle to find life lessons in their field of study. Some students needed only a signature and a quick check of their registration form, while others enjoyed more substantive interaction.

My connection to students in that personal way was important. In my first decades at Beaver College, I was grateful to the students who worked at the Child Care Center on campus, where my children attended (my adult children still can recall some of these students). For a time, I was the only younger female faculty member with children. A senior faculty member even scowled at me for bringing my preschooler along to run a photocopying errand.

This is a wonderful contrast to later memories of students who brought their children to Arcadia so that they would not miss class. An alumna once told me that she entered a doctoral program in psychology because, to her, I showed that she did not have to choose between family life and an academic career.

As a fairly new faculty member, I was in awe as Beaver College discussed the controversial decision to shift from a woman’s college to a co-educational institution. While in a faculty meeting, I saw a sign lowered from the floor above the Rose Room that read, “Hell no, we won’t go.” The women living in the Castle had decorated that sign with bras. The sign caused quite a stir before it was quickly retrieved back. (Oh, for a cell phone at that moment.) Where are you now, women from that period, protesting so vividly?

Another dominant reflection for me involves the collegiality of the faculty. I was married to a college professor at another university, so I knew that interdisciplinary conversations were a special characteristic of Beaver College. As the university grew, the close-knit nature of Arcadia’s faculty fostered a climate that made the birth of “Writing Across the Curriculum” possible.

This area of my scholarship, and the resulting curriculum changes, are enduring signs of a productive career intertwined with university growth and change. That same collegial atmosphere has spawned University Seminars in which faculty from two disparate disciplines create novel syllabi for students who are interested in multiple subjects.

As Dr. John Hoffman moves from his specialty in biology to the provost’s position, I believe that the traditions of faculty collegiality and looking back at our heritage will continue to carry us forward as we prepare future generations of students for success after graduation.