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Honors Director Takes Sabbatical

Photo by Paola Guzman
Assistant News Editor

While Director of the Honors College Joan Digby goes on sabbatical in the fall semester, Nicholas Ramer, associate professor of chemistry, who once was an honors student at C.W. Post himself, will take over as acting director of the Honors College.

Digby, who has been teaching at Post since 1969, will take one semester off. “I can’t really afford to be gone for a year,” she said. She will return in the spring to recruit a new freshman honors class.

For the last 10 to 12 years, Digby has worked with her husband printing and publishing poetry on their private press, New Feral Press. “A small press, sometimes also called a private press, is a publishing business that only makes books limited in the number of pages and the print run,” Digby explained. “We make only 100 copies of every book we print, and they can be from 6 pages to about 100 pages…Small presses are often not-for-profit, while big presses are certainly for profit companies.”

They’ve published many books of poetry, and Digby has taken an interest in how small presses have moved from letterpress printing to digital printing. “A printing press is the mechanical object that makes the books; hand presses called ‘letter presses’ require the type to be set letter by letter. There are still some of those. Then there are “off set presses,” which are most of the commercial presses. We simply use our computer to make digitally produced books,” Digby said about the printing process.

Her sabbatical project will be to study this change and the impact it has had on small presses that do limited editions.

Digby will do most of her research at Poets House, a poetry library in Manhattan. She will also interview owners of small presses. She does not have any plans to travel. Her research will either become articles, a monograph or a book. According to Digby, with sabbatical projects, research must be published and available to others, usually through an academic journal.

For Digby, having time to herself during the sabbatical also means she can write, photograph and publish. She will also spend time thinking about possible changes to the Honors College. A sabbatical “gives you time to rest but to recharge,” she said.

Due to a large incoming freshman class of Honors students, Digby has had to nd new ways to accommodate the class size this fall, including more courses and networking with different professors and departments so students in different majors can get a more challenging experience through Honors. This freshman class of 123 students will be the largest group of honors students in the last seven to eight years, Ramer said. Digby is not worried about her absence from the Honors College this semester. “Tracy [Christy] and I have been a team for 20 years,” she said. “Tracy can be helpful to any student who has a question. Leaving Tracy and Nick Ramer in charge of Honors [College] puts me completely at rest,” she added. Digby also lives 10 minutes away from campus and will be on campus every day to feed the cats residing on campus, which she has done for many years. If students want to meet with her, she is open to talking while she feeds the cats or walks her horse, which she keeps in the stables on campus.

This is not Ramer’s first time taking over the Honors College. He filled in for Digby during the spring semester of 2002, when she took a previous sabbatical. Ramer has a special tie with the college as he was an Honors student himself, graduating in 1994.

Ramer has been a professor in the chemistry department since 2000. He has also been assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from 2006 to 2009, the associate dean from 2009 to 2015 and the acting dean in 2016.

Compared to his other administrative roles, Ramer believes working in the Honors College gives him the opportunity to become more directly involved with students. “I like that kind of direct connection to the students without the layers. When you’re dean, there are layers beneath you and you don’t really get to see the outcome of your decisions,” he said.

Although Ramer will not teach an honors course this semester, he has taught honors courses before. From 2002 to 2004, he taught a chemistry honors course. In the fall, Ramer will continue to teach Basic Organic Chemistry, a course for nutrition majors.

Ramer is grateful to be on the other side of the desk and see students using the Honors College as a springboard for what they want to do. “I am coming in to keep everything together,” he said. “I am not changing anything or making any major decisions. Dr. Digby has it well underhand and she does not need me to do anything. The program runs perfectly well as it is. All I’m going to do is make sure it stays on track and basically don’t break it. If it’s not broken don’t fix it, right?”


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