Patriot faculty welcomes 15 new members

Lauren Cole, Staff Writer

On August 15, 2014, Francis Marion University (FMU) welcomed 15 new faculty members into its ranks.

The new faculty members were treated to a complimentary breakfast, a full day of orientation and a luncheon with current administration.  The orientation was designed to familiarize the new faculty with pre-existing policies, procedures and goals.  The orientation and presentations were led by Dr. Rebecca Flannagan, associate professor of English, Dr. Richard Chapman, provost of FMU, and Dr. Luther “Fred” Carter, president of FMU.

Carter began welcoming the new staff by describing what to focus on during the first year of teaching.

“The first year is focused on your teaching, connecting with the students and the beginnings of research projects,” Carter said.  “Do not get bogged down on joining every committee possible.  Focus on your teaching.”

Chapman followed Carter’s statements by briefly describing the history of FMU and some of the statistics surrounding the students enrolled.  The school was founded in 1970 as a way to provide educational opportunities to the Pee Dee region.  The students of FMU represent 36 different states, with 95 percent of the campus population being from South Carolina.  Students from all different backgrounds, economic statuses and ethnicities are encouraged to apply to FMU.  A large portion, 40%, of the student population is comprised of first generation college students.

“We educate South Carolinians for South Carolina with the intentions of them gaining employment in South Carolina,” Chapman said.  “We want the faculty to have high expectations because we strive to emphasize strong academic standards for our students.”

Dr. Jessica McCutcheon, assistant professor of Chemistry, is among the group of new faculty set to begin teaching at FMU in the fall of 2014. She is fresh out of graduate school and, interestingly enough, is an alumna of FMU.

“It will be different not sitting in one of these seats, but instead teaching,” McCutcheon said.  “I am looking forward to returning back to FMU and seeing familiar faces.  I now get to work with the same professors that I looked up to during my undergraduate career.”

Travis Ragsdale, chemistry lab manager, has been teaching at FMU for 41 years and over the years has seen many different sets of new faculty come through the doors of all FMU departments.

“I am excited about the new faculty,” Ragsdale said.  “They bring fresh energy, new ideas and different new points to the departments.  I am confident that as new members of the FMU faculty family, they are going to present their students with a quality education.”

New faculty also allows departments to tap into different specialties that might not otherwise be utilized.  McCutcheon received her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry.  Other than Dr. Kristofoland Varazo, associate professor of Chemistry, she is the only analytical chemist at FMU.

While the students at FMU are buzzing around, trying to calm first-day jitters, the new faculty members are trying to calm theirs as well.  They need not fear though because FMU is a family of faculty, staff, administration and students that work together towards a common goal of quality education and employment security.