Campus News

Bethel considers candidate to replace biology professor Dr. Steve Galat

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The search for a new biology professor to replace Steve Galat, M.D., retiring assistant professor of biology, will bring candidate Melissa Cordes, Ph.D., to campus on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. Cordes is currently the top candidate for the position and, if chosen, would begin teaching at during the fall of 2015. Cordes’s qualifications include experience in cadaver work and organismal biology. She is interested in researching how hormones affect the behavior of starlings and, according to Kroa, has strengths in many areas that will benefit the department. Dean of Arts and Sciences Janna McLean, Ph.D., said that Cordes has a “passion for an institution like Bethel” and that she “wants to work with undergraduates.” Galat is a trained surgeon with many years of experience, and his greatest contribution to the school is his work with the cadaver program, according to department chair Beth Kroa, Ph.D. He currently oversees the cadaver program with the help of Assistant Professor of Biology Vicki DeBolt, D.O., and student intern Michelle Harper. The cadaver program is focused on the study of anatomy and physiology and primarily serves biology, exercise science and nursing students. According to Galat, the work involved in running a cadaver program is completed in two phases. The initial phase involved work and inspection prior to Bethel receiving approval from the Anatomical Education Board of the State of Indiana and was completed six years ago. The board originates from the Indiana University Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology School of Medicine and initially inspected Bethel’s facilities, determined areas for improvement and completed a final inspection prior to approving Bethel to receive a cadaver. The board requires that any school in Indiana to have a cadaver program must have a place to adequately store the cadaver as well as restricted viewing and access. In addition, special requirements exist for the handling of the cadaver. These requirements can be found here. Following that initial phase, no further inspection from the board is required. All that is necessary is that appropriate cadaver preparations be made each year. Galat said these preparations involve “cleaning and sterilizing existing material” and “ordering new supply.” The cadaver is used for two consecutive semesters for the “Anatomy and Physiology” course and requires approximately 120-180 hours of work during the fall semester and 80-100 hours during the spring semester. This work is currently done by Galat and Harper but in the future will be completed by DeBolt with the help of a student intern. Janna McLean, Ph.D., and Kroa both said that, despite Galat’s experience in surgical medicine as a medical doctor, the department’s top candidate has a Ph.D. and will not assume Galat’s role as the head of the cadaver program. Instead, DeBolt will succeed Galat as the primary overseer of the cadaver program. “I’m grateful that we’re going to be able to continue having the cadaver program,” said DeBolt. “I’m honored, excited… (and it's) a bit daunting." DeBolt said she expects that the dissection of the cadaver alone will take her 200 hours, in addition to any time she spends completing necessary paperwork and selecting one or two student interns from the applicant pool. "It’s truly an awesome responsibility," she said. "It’s challenging and meaningful, this body a human left. So I’ll do the best I can.” DeBolt explained that there are different skill sets that persons possessing Ph.D.s, M.D.s and D.O.s typically bring to the table. “M.D.s and D.O.s have clinical experience that is useful in training clinicians,” she said. “Ph.D.s have more academic experience, like in teaching, structuring lectures and research techniques.” All three degrees require that a person have had some teaching experience along the way. M.D.s and D.O.s teach patients and students and possess the clinical experience necessary to provide a well-rounded learning experience for students in a cadaver program. “It (Bethel’s cadaver program) primarily serves nursing majors and kinesiology majors, both of which are clinical professions,” said DeBolt, “and so that’s the strength of having a clinician teach them because of the experiences. But the Ph.D. has more experience in classroom management and research techniques.” McLean said the department is fortunate to have DeBolt, a D.O. with clinical experience who has worked as a medical doctor and has great expertise in anatomy and physiology. “This gives us the opportunity to reimagine the department,” explained McLean. Both Kroa and McLean emphasized the importance of the cadaver program and Bethel’s commitment to keep the program running even after Galat retires. The new professor will likely also assist DeBolt with the cadaver program. According to Kroa, the department is seeking a candidate with strengths in vertebrate physiology, environmental science, zoology and botany, a desire to teach in a Christian institution and a “clear commitment to Christ.” She said the search is very strategic in an effort to meet the needs of the students the department serves but did not wish to comment further on what those needs are. The process began following Galat’s desire to retire. The department posted an ad and began obtaining applications. Applications consisted of a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae (an extremely detailed resume) and a statement of faith. Faculty members from the department narrowed the applicant pool by examining candidates’ statements of faith to ensure they aligned with the core beliefs of Christianity. Candidates did not need to attend a Missionary Church to be considered. Department faculty members then interviewed six applicants by phone on Dec. 15, 2014, during the week following final examinations. They reconvened at the start of the spring semester and narrowed the applicant pool further by making recommendations. Kroa said that, by that point, the department was mostly in agreement as to who the top candidate would be. Cordes was then interviewed by phone a second time, this time by Vice President of Academic Services Barb Bellefeuille, Ed.D., and McLean before an on-campus invitation was extended. The final phase of the interview process will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. On that day, Cordes will visit the campus, meet every faculty member in the department as well as a representative from the nursing department as well as with Bellefeuille, McLean and Gregg Chenoweth, Ph.D. Cordes will also give a teaching demonstration in the General Biology I class, held at 8 a.m. Following her demonstration, students will be asked to evaluate Cordes on the basis of her teaching skills. Cordes will also have lunch in the Dining Commons, where any student may meet her, ask questions and give an evaluation. All Bethel faculty members will also have an hour during which they may meet Cordes and ask her any question(s) they wish. Faculty members and students alike are then asked to complete anonymous evaluations, which do not solely determine but do influence the decision on whether or not a job offer will be extended. Kroa said a decision will be made soon after Cordes’s visit and that Cordes will likely receive either an offer or a non-offer by Monday, Feb. 9. If she is chosen for the position, she will be expected to attend a new faculty orientation prior to the start of the new school year as well as the standard faculty retreat, which is attended by all faculty members. Cordes would also be assigned a faculty mentor outside of the Department of Biology and Chemistry. “We want them to be safe to ask questions,” said Kroa. Because a new professor is assigned a faculty mentor outside of his or her department, he or she may ask questions without concern about how those questions may affect his or her evaluations. All new professors receive a faculty mentor and undergo a probationary period, typically seven years, before they are considered for tenure. Cordes completed her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in December 2014 and currently serves as a visiting assistant professor of biology at Beloit College in Madison, Wis.
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