Every week, the Office of College Relations will profile one faculty member. Check back at the beginning of each week for the new profile.
This week, we feature Lisa Safford, professor of art history and faculty chair
I think college is a once in a life time opportunity, and you have this four-year window in which you get to investigate the world and your place in it, in depth in a way that you won’t be able to at any other time in your life. Hiram just does it better. I think we allow students to see the connections between lots of different ways of thinking and looking at the world.
It’s a place that, even though it is small and isolated, is really very connected to the world. We are so involved; we have tentacles spread throughout the globe in terms of travel abroad, in terms of connections with other institutions, in terms of just the way I think that we teach. Even though we are small and isolated, we really are engaged in a much longer scope of education, theory and knowledge.
I think it mirrors the way life happens. You learn and you experience things, and you engage in certain endeavors that involve a lengthier process, and the 12-week will accommodate that just as it would in a 15-week term. But I think the 3-week really allows us to push ourselves in ways that sometimes, again in work place or at home, or in various endeavors throughout your life, you are going to be pushed to do things quickly. Sometimes it just has to happen; your boss wants something by Monday or the baby you’re expecting is coming 12 days early.
I’ve been here 24 years. At one time, I was a junior faculty member; now I’m a senior faculty member. There are a lot of very new colleagues; more than half of our faculty has come here within the last five years. I’m kind of getting to know a lot of those who are new. For those who I have known for years and years, we have I think a very special bond. We’ve gone through a lot. … I think what is important about this group though is that we have all, somebody said, drunk the Kool-Aid. We all buy into what Hiram stands for. We all buy into the great significance of liberal arts as an educational direction. We all believe passionately about what it is we do, and that makes me have huge respect for my colleagues.
I found here a perfect home for me. A perfect professional home, of course; I don’t live on campus. The reason why it’s been a perfect professional home for me is that it has been very supportive of what it is that I want to do and has allowed me, on a fairly regular basis, to redefine myself, without any restrictions. Nobody says no you can’t do that. When I first came here, within a few years I started doing work in Asian studies. I have never studied Asian art except as an undergrad in one class, but someone encouraged me to teach a course in Japanese art. I began studying about Asia after I have been here about five years. I received about nine different grants to go to different places in Asia. I have been to China twice, to Japan about six times, Korea and India. I went on my own to Thailand. I became very interested in that area of study. I have taught it regularly, and I have taken students abroad to Japan three times. I don’t think at any other institution I would have been able to do that kind of thing. I really enjoy the fact that I am supported and I am encouraged to think outside the box, so to speak, beyond the boundaries of what might have limited me at other institutions. I am allowed to be very creative.