Q&A for Tenure Track Position to Start Fall 2017

These are some of the questions we've received about the position, along with our answers. (The answers are mostly from Samuel Rebelsky, department chair.) 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.

Is this a new position or a replacement position?

This is a new position, intended primarily to support growth in the major and to permit some more breadth of offerings.

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

We will certainly consider candidates who are on track to the Ph.D., but have not yet completed their disseration. College policy requires that tenure-track faculty have completed their Ph.D. (or other terminal degree) by the time of their third-year review.

What courses will the new hire teach?

Grinnell's normal teaching load is five courses over two semesters. We try to make sure that faculty in their first year teach two sections of either CSC 151, Functional Problem Solving, the first course in our introductory sequence, or CSC 161, Imperative Problem Solving, the second course in our introductory sequence. In each semester, we'll pair you with an experienced faculty member who will be teaching another section of that course. Other than that, we will do our best to allow you to teach the courses in our curriculum that you would prefer to teach. As time goes on, we will encourage you to expand into other courses; we're a collegial department and try to work out schedules that balance interests and workload each year. It looks like we'll have room in our schedule for a new course in year two, and the new hire will have the opportunity to design that course to meet their scholarly interests. Finally, as the advertisement notes, every few years each faculty member teaches tutorial, a seminar-style class for first-year students.

How many students are there in CS courses?

We cap our introductory courses at 32 and our mid-level and upper-level courses at 24. Historically, we tended to have 12-18 in our upper-level courses, but current demand means that most courses are at capacity.

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 multiple 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?

Each faculty member gets a base annual budget of $5,000 to cover supplies, travel, and assistants. An additional $5,000 is available through a competitive process. Summer research students are covered out of a separate budget, as are supplies for those students. New faculty get reasonably generous startup packages. In computer science, each faculty member has their own research lab. 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, 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 the "big three" (Google, Microsoft, Amazon). 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 at 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 graduates.

Will you consider candidates in (fill in the discipline)?

If that discipline is reasonably considered with the scope of computer science (and yes, as our ad suggests, we consider a variety of areas within the scope of computer science) and the candidate is qualified to teach a variety of courses in the undergraduate computer science curriculum, then yes, we would consider that candidate.

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. The older faculty in the department all note that we found this a great place to raise our children.