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Hendrix College Awards Odyssey Professorships to Three Faculty Members

Odyssey Professorships part of a competitive process to fund specific, term-limited projects

CONWAY, Arkansas (November 15, 2023) – The Hendrix College Office of Engaged Learning announced recently that Odyssey Professorships have been awarded to three members of the Hendrix College faculty. The terms for these awards will begin on June 1, 2024.

“The Odyssey Professorships demonstrate Hendrix’s commitment to investing in the professional development of our faculty and in providing engaged learning for students. As a result of this year’s projects, students will be immersed in local and global issues related to the environment and global governance,” said Associate Provost for Engaged Learning and Professor of Politics Dr. Kiril Kolev. “They will participate in, and benefit from, a reimagined curriculum that is sensitive to student needs and provides a greater emphasis on links across the disciplines. They all illustrate the unique ability of the liberal arts to engage and inspire us in and out of the classroom.”

Odyssey Professorships are an extension of the Hendrix Odyssey Program, the College’s nationally recognized engaged learning initiative for students. Individual faculty members or small groups of faculty members may apply on a competitive basis for the professorships, which carry an endowment to support faculty projects that create new engaged learning opportunities, such as undergraduate research, for students. Faculty proposals are recommended by the Committee on Faculty and approved by the President. Odyssey Professorships are usually held for a period of two to three years.

The newly awarded professorships are:

Introductory Biology Reimagined: Engaging Students Where and How it Matters!

Dr. Laura MacDonald ’09, Department of Biology, recipient of the Charles S. and Lucile Esmon Shivley Professorship (2024-2027)

Through this Odyssey Professorship, entry into biology will be reimagined to meet today’s students’ needs, talents, and interests. Faculty nationwide have been responding to recent shifts in education driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, artificial intelligence, social-political context, and national calls to reform biology education to be more inclusive and authentic to problems scientists address today. The result has been an explosion in the availability of new materials, curricula, and pedagogy. However, the impact of those materials at the introductory level is debatable, as instructors wrestle with how to balance content with teaching practices that foster meaning for students with a limited blueprint for how those goals might be accomplished. Through this professorship, a new model for introductory biology education will be developed that centers on providing students with approaches to evaluate the validity of now widely available scientific content and data, consider when and how it should be applied to socially relevant problems, and approach scientific knowledge with an understanding of how it relates to social context and history.

For the Birds: Avian Conservation through Research, Service, and Education

Dr. Maureen McClung ’01, Department of Biology, recipient of the Judy and Randy Wilbourn Professorship (2024-2027)

Birds have long captured humankind’s attention with their colorful plumage, enchanting songs, and impressive feats of migration. Unfortunately, like many other species, bird numbers have plummeted in the last couple of centuries because of human-caused threats to biodiversity. In this professorship, McClung and students will engage with this issue through bird banding research, science-based service projects, and course-based experiences. Projects include banding birds at Stone Prairie Wildlife Management Area and the Hendrix Creek Preserve, surveying campus buildings for window strikes with an aim to reduce hazards, developing a natural history teaching collection of avian specimens, surveying Lake Conway for changes in bird populations during the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission renovation project, and launching an advanced Field Ornithology course that includes a spring break field trip to Costa Rica. Ultimately, this professorship will generate data for conservation science, recommendations for actionable change, and bring awareness to new generations of Hendrix students and the broader community about the joy of birds and how we can protect them.

Global Engagement

Dr. Daniel Edquist-Whelan, Department of Politics, recipient of the Charles Prentiss Hough Professorship (2024-2025)

First, in conjunction with coursework, the largest component of this professorship will support approximately 22 students to attend the 2024 American Model United Nations (AMUN) Conference in Chicago. Second is an Odyssey grant mechanism for value-added projects carried out by Hendrix students who study abroad, to pursue global awareness and engagement activities to prepare them for successful applications to the Fulbright Student Program. Third, the Professorship will allow Edquist-Whelan to finalize a book on human rights and development, including support for a student research assistant.

About Hendrix College
Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges and celebrated among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges for academic quality, engaged learning opportunities and career preparation, vibrant campus life, and value. The Hendrix College Warriors compete in 21 NCAA Division III sports. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. Learn more at

“… Through engagement that links the classroom with the world, and a commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living, the Hendrix community inspires students to lead lives of accomplishment, integrity, service, and joy.” —Hendrix College Statement of Purpose