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Sandy Madar, Professor of Biology
After a recent advising meeting, a student told Professor Sandy Madar, “You’re the first person that makes me feel good about the fact that I’m sorting my path out.”
That sentence, in a nutshell, is what “First at Hiram” means to her. Hiram College is a place where students can sort out their ideas as they figure out where they want to go in life. Students are put first as they are encouraged to discover new things, and supported as they try them for the first time.
“There should be no apology about walking through the door and saying, ‘I want to do “A,”’ and (then) taking some classes and having some experiences, doing some volunteer work … and recognizing the fact that it’s not ‘A,’” said Professor Madar, who also serves as director of Strategic Academic Initiatives.
The conversation she had with this student is typical; often times, students start college with one idea, and by the time they graduate, they’ve discovered something entirely new that they want to do with life. At a small and tight-knit college like Hiram, students are able to discover their true passions faster than they would at large institutions because they are able to reach across disciplines in a unique way.
And unlike those large institutions where professors sometimes spend more time doing research than teaching, Professor Madar said at Hiram, teaching is interwoven in everything they do. Professors depend on student assistants for their research, so it becomes a two-way street that benefits both sides.
“It’s part of our ethos, really,” she said. “We recognize the value of those partnerships. There’s not enough hours in the day for us to do (research) without students.”
Because of those experiences, the students become equipped with both knowledge and an interdisciplinary way of thinking.
“One of the things that you can only do in a small setting is to say (to students), ‘Now you’ve got some content, and because you know a little bit, you’re dangerous enough to have your own ideas that are based on your own life experiences,’” Professor Madar said. “And you can’t really tease that out of students in a large setting, but you can definitely tease it out when you’re working with them in small groups and one on one.”