Interview with Dr. Matthew Adamson the Director of Academic and Student Affairs of McDaniel College Budapest


By ‘Muhammad Sani

I spent a few minutes talking to the Director of Academic and Student Affairs of McDaniel College Budapest and he shared with me some thoughts as well as some information about his life. It was nice to spend time with the director and to hear about his past. 20140306_145621The conversation went like this:

Question: We the students of McDaniel College would like to know your history…

Answer: I am from Virginia, United State of America. For those who don’t know the geography of America very well, Virginia is on the East Coast, next to Washington, D.C. I attended James Madison University as an Undergraduate and pursued my Ph.D. at Indiana University. Indiana is in the eastern Midwest.

As an undergraduate I was a double major in history and French, and as a graduate student I studied history and philosophy of science. Also, it is worth nothing that as an undergraduate I completed a semester abroad, on the island of Martinique, in the Lesser Antilles. There is a small university there (the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane), and it attracts students from all over the Caribbean—Guadeloupe, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Jamaica. For the first time in my life, I met people from different countries and cultures. It was a wonderful experience.

Question: Was McDaniel College the first institute you worked at as Director of Academic and Student Affairs? How does it compare to your previous college?

Answer: When I was in Indiana University I was only teaching, teaching History of Science. And I was hired here at McDaniel initially to do the same, just to teach. So, when I was asked to assume the position of Director of Academic and Student Affairs at the end of 2008, I was surprised. However, I had already been involved in a couple of activities outside of the normal classroom routine, including the creation of the McDaniel Prize research paper competition, and the invitation of several guest speakers to the campus. So, that made the transition to student affairs a bit easier.

McDaniel College Budapest and Indiana University are quite different. Indiana is a classic Midwestern land grant university. It’s huge, with some 40,000 students, most of whom come from Indiana. Obviously, here we have an institution which is orders of magnitude smaller. However, the student body of McDaniel College Budapest is more diverse. I have taught courses in which every student comes from a different country. I can’t imagine that happening at Indiana.

Question: Can you please share with us your best and worst experiences since your appointment as director?

Answer: Sure.  Let’s start with a positive one.  In general, the best experiences I’ve had always involve seeing students exchanging ideas, learning about one another, recognizing the different circumstances that they’ve grown up in. Sometimes this happens in the classroom, sometimes outside of it. I think McDaniel College Budapest happens to provide students with a fantastic opportunity to form relationships with students from other countries and other walks of life. One alum once told me that this was the most significant thing he took away from his years at the College: it was utterly second nature, and in that sense natural and easy, to meet people from other parts of the world. It is quite beautiful if you think of it that we have the chance to hear from others what they consider to be important, what concerns them.

The worst experience is simple to describe. When professors receive an assignment which is not original—which is plagiarized—this is always bad, and a little sad. Students who submit plagiarized work might do so for different reasons. Perhaps they are too lazy to write something original, because that can take time. Or perhaps they lack confidence. All I can say is that, for the professor, it is always a disappointment to receive something copied from another source, and if it is a matter of lack of confidence, then students should know that they have nothing to fear: your professors will always, absolutely always, prefer original work to something plagiarized, and if there are flaws in that original work, so be it. That’s why we’re here, to uncover those flaws and make improvements.

Question: We would like to know among the student you teach in McDaniel who is your best student, and why is that person the best?

Answer:  I cannot give a precise answer to that question—I do not wish to name any single student, past or present, as the best I’ve taught. However, in general, the best students are first of all sincere, they are sincerely trying hard, putting  a lot of energy into their work. They are open minded, and they have a sense of initiative: if they are interested in something they go beyond what is offered to them in a class and learn about it on their own. These are students from whom professors can learn—I can remember students who taught me things I didn’t know. In fact, given the unique background of more or less all of our students—where they’re from, what schools they went to, what they’re interested in outside of course work—you stand to learn something new from virtually anybody here, if you just listen.

Question: What would be your message to students of McDaniel College?

Answer: That you use your time at this campus to look for opportunities in and outside your classes to grow in whatever way you can, intellectually or spiritually, and to cultivate close, meaningful relationships with others–always examine what goes on around you. I remember that during my study abroad semester in Martinique I kept a journal in which I wrote about these things. From time to time I still refer to it—it was a time of this sort of growth.

Question: Personally, how are things going for you this semester?

Answer: This semester I am teaching History of Modern Science. This is something I really enjoy. So far, I can say that the students in my course are very active, very willing to discuss the issues that arise each class. I hope this continues: it is always gratifying to watch as students get caught up in the same subject you yourself have been studying for years. In the case of a course like history of science, what matters is imagination: can you imagine for yourself the scientific and moral problems the various scientists we study were facing? Or how they felt when the discovered something new, something that, as far as they knew, no one else in the world had yet realized?  Come to think of it, this sense of imagination is helpful in more or less any course,  isn’t it?

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