Chiron Studies program seeks new leadership

The Chiron Studies program at Portland State—which is run by a board of students and faculty members—is seeking to fill the position of Chiron coordinator for the 2010–11 academic year.

The Chiron Studies program at Portland State—which is run by a board of students and faculty members—is seeking to fill the position of Chiron coordinator for the 2010–11 academic year.
Ed Hallman, the ASPSU vice president and current coordinator for Chiron Studies, plans to step down after this term, and needs to find a new person to carry on his legacy.

“Essentially, the Chiron coordinator is the sole administrator of Chiron Studies,” Hallman said.  “It is a role with a good deal of responsibility, and you will need to be very self-motivated and organized, but you are guaranteed to learn a lot by getting some real hands-on professional development.”

A person filling this role is required to, among a long list of tasks, handle budgetary issues with the university, liaise with the administration and generally deal with the bureaucratic mess that accompanies any institutional undertaking, according to William Fischer, professor of German at PSU.

“Kind of by the nature of what the program is, it is self-defeating,” Fischer said. The program fills an important role by generating alternative, student-taught courses, which are often then ultimately integrated into the mainstream course selection as they grow in popularity—causing the program to constantly make itself obsolete in that regard.

For some students this may only be a further barrier to becoming involved with the program, despite its rewards.

Those rewards, according to Fischer, are only as plentiful as the people who are involved make them.

“[In general] the reward system in universities is not focused on good teaching, and professors are not taught how to teach,” he said.

The difference for students or external professionals who generate course proposals for the program is that they are volunteering their own expertise and knowledge in a field in which they have a strong desire to teach.

It can be difficult, however, for some of the new teachers to find a department and faculty member who will sign off on their course, for very similar reasons, according to Fischer.

He explained that sometimes departments have similar course offerings, and are hesitant to allow another course to be taught by someone who most likely doesn’t have a Ph.D., especially because the academic world does not adapt as quickly as courses such as these can.

Regardless, those who propose courses are often quite successful, largely because they help to fill a void that mainstream university classes do not fill.

In addition, Chiron courses have the ability to “open students’ minds, expose them to some new information, and help contribute to them getting the most out of their time at the university,” Hallman said.

“[Chiron Studies] provides incredible opportunities for students, expands and diversifies the curriculum at PSU, and, I think, really exemplifies all of the great things Portland State has to offer students,” he said.

PSU graduate Jay Johnston, who helped reinstate the program after it disbanded in 2006 due to a lack of leadership, said Chiron Studies benefits the community, students, university and instructors.

“The community benefits by being involved in education,” he said. “The students benefit because they are learning [in Chiron Studies class] things they wouldn’t be previously taught. The university benefits by having the curriculum expanded.  The instructors, I think, benefit the most, as they gain first hand pedagogical instruction and really learn the material.”

Next year, the program will be transitioning to the Student Affairs office.

“This transition is very exciting to me,” Hallman said. “While the details are yet to be determined, Student Affairs will certainly offer a lot of benefits to both the program and the incoming coordinator that were not part of the package this year.”

The possible benefits include direct administrative support, a home base for the director to use, direct access to room and appointment-scheduling personnel and software, according to Hallman.

Currently, the committee is running at absolute minimum, Fischer said, which may be due to the lack of a pipeline to encourage people to take initiative and get involved.

According to Fischer, some students believe that because they are students, they will not be held accountable. However, the university cannot have an unaccountable person running such a time-intensive program.

He also thinks that if the program were larger, it would be easier to run because the overhead would be small for each additional course.

“The program is really set to succeed next year, so it’s a huge opportunity for someone who wants to take it a long way,” Hallman said.

Other innovations to help expand and continue the revitalization of the Chiron Studies are necessary of the candidate who wishes to take over Hallman’s post.

“The most important traits that I’m hoping to find in a new coordinator are ambition, commitment, and problem solving skills, because those will be the biggest factors in determining where the program goes next year,” Hallman said.

The deadline for applications is Friday, May 14. Those interested in applying should send a cover letter, resume, three references and a letter of recommendation to [email protected] and [email protected]. For more information, visit for more information.