Pitzer’s dean of faculty to take year off to study liberal arts colleges abroad

NIgel sits on cobble wall that says pitzer college. he looks very happy and is wearing a brown suit.
Pitzer College’s dean of faculty, Nigel Boyle, will be leaving for the 2019-20 academic year to study liberal arts colleges abroad. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

Nigel Boyle, Pitzer College’s dean of faculty and vice president for academic affairs, will be leaving the school for the 2019-20 academic year to study liberal arts colleges as a Fulbright Global Scholar in Pakistan, Vietnam and Germany.

He’ll return to Pitzer for the 2021-22 academic year to his previous position as director of the Institute for Global-Local Action and Study, which he left four years ago to become the dean of faculty.

While abroad, Boyle will conduct research and teach at Habib University in Karachi, Pakistan, Fulbright University Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City and Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany, for eight weeks each.

“I’m interested in thinking again about what it means to be an experimental liberal arts college,” Boyle said.

This is the outgoing dean’s second Fulbright. He previously spent a year in Germany doing research and began his career at Pitzer in 1992 as a professor of political studies.

Since then, he’s come a long way, but still found time to teach two courses and help out with fellowship nominees last semester in addition to his responsibilities as dean.

Brooke Bordonaro PZ ’22, who took Boyle’s “History and Politics of World Soccer” course last semester, is excited for his Fulbright opportunity.

“He is such a great teacher and cares about his students so much,” she said. “No one is more deserving of [the research opportunity] than him.”

Boyle’s interest in this specific project came from negotiating study abroad agreements with global institutions and seeing their similarities to Pitzer. The school has exchange programs with both Habib University and Leuphana University.

Boyle will teach a short class at each institution and conduct research. He said he wanted the hands-on experience of teaching, as well as the ability to work with administration and faculty and interact with people at all levels of the schools.

“I’ve actually really loved being dean … but I do miss being a professor,” Boyle said.

“I’ve actually really loved being dean … but I do miss being a professor.” — Nigel Boyle, Pitzer College’s Dean of Faculty

The outgoing dean praised Habib as “the boldest experiment” among the schools he will visit.

“If you can make a liberal arts college committed to community engagement, affirmative action and a positive engagement with society, if you can make that work in … a country that has big development challenges, cultural challenges — if it can work there, it can work anywhere,” he said.

Boyle won’t be the first 5C administrator to visit Habib — Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe gave a speech at the school last year. Habib’s curriculum was inspired in part by HMC.

Reflecting on his four years as dean of faculty, Boyle said one of his most important accomplishments was hiring new professors.

“We’ve hired some incredibly good faculty,” he said, “and that’s a legacy. … These folks are going to be here for the next 30 years.”

He also said he’s “very proud” of the Pitzer Inside Out program that he spearheaded. The project sends students to attend classes inside prisons with inmates, and the school will soon offer bachelor’s degrees to inmates.

Boyle added that Pitzer’s and Scripps College’s plans to expand the joint Keck Science Department are “in a great place now,” despite Claremont McKenna College’s planned exit from the program.

He admitted that not everything during his tenure has gone smoothly, though.

Divisive issues such as the school’s study abroad program at the University of Haifa in Israel and campus climate issues have been some of the greatest challenges he’s faced.

“As someone who believes in Pitzer, it’s distressing sometimes when we turn on one another,” he said. “But … that’s inevitable, there’s a long history of this ever since I’ve been here. … Often there’s no solution [to difficult issues], you just need to survive and carry on.”

Allen Omoto, currently Claremont Graduate University’s associate provost and a psychology professor, will be replacing Boyle as dean.

Mita Banerjee, a psychology professor at Pitzer who’s worked closely with Boyle, said via email that she looks forward to him bringing ideas from the foreign schools back to Pitzer.

“After his year away exploring the global context for liberal arts colleges, it will be good to have him return … [to] these projects that help to revitalize teaching, learning and social justice praxis at Pitzer,” she said.

Linus Yamane, an economics professor at Pitzer who’s worked with Boyle since he arrived at Pitzer in 1992, said via email that Boyle “has done an amazing job bringing stability to the college over the last four years,” and that his “most important quality has been bringing people together.”

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