Q&A for Visiting Positions to Start Fall 2018

These are some of the questions we've received about the position, along with our answers. (The answers are mostly from Professor Samuel Rebelsky.) We have posted them with the expectation that they will also be useful to others. Feel free to send additional questions to CSSearch@grinnell.edu.

Will you consider candidates who do not have a Ph.D.?

Yes! Candidates who are knowledgeable in the computing discipline and show evidence of promise for effective teaching are welcome to apply. Our department has had tremendously positive experiences in the past with visiting faculty that did not hold a Ph.D.

Will you consider candidates who do not have a CS degree?

Yes! We think broadly about the discipline of computing. In addition to CS, our faculty hold PhD.s in mathematics, philosophy, and evolutionary biology. While it is important that candidates be sufficiently knowledgeable about the discipline to teach a variety of courses in our curriculum, we welcome candidates that possess a degree outside computing (related fields preferred) as well as relevant computing knowledge and experience.

What courses will the new hire teach?

Grinnell's normal teaching load is five courses over two semesters. Given our long history as a smaller department, several regular faculty have taught many courses in the curriculum. Therefore, we will do our best to allow visitors to teach the courses in our curriculum they feel best-suited to teach. We are a collegial department and try to work out schedules that balance interests and workload each year. For the several courses in which multiple sections are offered, we can pair visiting faculty with an experienced faculty member teaching another section of that course. Depending on staffing and enrollments, there may also be an opportunity for visitors to offer an elective course for the major in the area of their interest.

How many students are there in CS courses?

We cap our introductory courses at 32 and 28, our mid-level courses at 24, and our upper-level courses at 20. Current demand means that most courses enroll to capacity. We currently graduate around 50 CS majors each year.

What are Grinnell College students like?

Hmmm ... that's an interesting question. By and large, we find Grinnell students a joy to teach. Most of them are taking classes because they want to learn, not because they have to or because they need to check off a box in order to graduate. Almost all of them have multipale interests. We see CS majors doing improv, playing in ensembles and bands, competing on the athletic fields, and more.

Is there financial support for faculty scholarship?

Visiting faculty members receive an annual budget of $2,000 to cover attendance at a professional meeting (e.g., registration, travel, lodging, and meals) and up to $500 for other research expenses. Stipends for summer research students are covered out of a separate budget, as are supplies for those students and a stipend for supervising those students. Other resources are also available on a case-by-case basis.

Is there interdisciplinary work at Grinnell that could involve computer science?

In general, yes. Faculty in many disciplines use computing as part of their work. Some likely collaborations would like be with our biology faculty who are interested in bioinformatics, our computational chemists, English faculty working in the digital humanities, faculty working on the cross-disciplinary data science program, and some of our arts faculty. But others are certainly possible. In the end, it depends on two faculty finding common interests.

What do Grinnell students do after graduation?

Our computer science majors generally go on to do the typical variety of things that CS majors do. Some end up at well-known companies (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook). Some end up at startups. A few go on to graduate school immediately after college. Some end up in the financial industry. Some head off to volunteer opportunities (e.g., Teach for America or Lutheran Volunteer Corps.) Over the longer term, some bring their general thinking skills to other areas. We count physicians, professional comedians, fundraisers, and helicopter pilots among our CS alumni.

Why so many visiting positions?

Two faculty members will be on leave during the next two years, so two of the positions constitute leave replacements. The third represents a needed expansion in teaching capacity to meet demand.

Do you expect to hire any tenure-track positions soon?

We plan to apply for tenure-track expansions in the coming year. The governing body of the College decides how available tenure-track lines are allocated.

What is it like living in Grinnell, Iowa?

I should probably let the younger faculty respond to this. Grinnell is a small town, with about 8500 residents (plus about 1600 Grinnell College students). It's affordable. Many faculty live within walking distance of the College. (I think all but one of the CS faculty are within a five-block radius of the College; the other lives about a mile away.) Some faculty choose to live in Iowa City or Des Moines, each of which is about an hour away. Our schools are decent, and the community provides a lot of interesting extracurricular activities. Several faculty in the department all note that we find this a great place to raise our children.