The Lesley community’s time away from campus has been one of great institutional change. Since students and staff departed in March to social-distance and defend themselves against the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve acquired a new Vice President of Finance, Chief Marketing Officer, and interim Chief HR Officer, according to the @justiceforlesleyworkers Instagram account. We’ve also lost some familiar faces on campus: Lilu Barbosa has left his role as Chief Diversity Officer for a similar position at Harvard University, and Margaret Everett is preparing to vacate her position as Provost.
Another faculty member leaving Lesley University is Dr. Christine Evans, the long-serving Chair of the Humanities Division. She recounted her Lesley career and shared some aspirations for the future in a sit-down with the Lesley Public Post.
LPP: For those who are unfamiliar, can you provide an overview of your duties as Chair of the Humanities Division?
Dr. Evans: The chair of the Humanities Division oversees the four Humanities majors of Creative Writing, English, History and Spanish and all of the courses offered within those areas. [They] also supervise/serve as mentor to 13 core faculty and approximately 25 adjunct faculty.
LPP: Was your decision to retire early an easy one to make? In other words, did you feel that the time to move on from Lesley had come, or did you wrestle with the idea of leaving?
Dr. Evans: I have been a faculty member at Lesley for 32 years, and Chair of the Humanities Division for 22. I am by far the most “incumbent” of all the chairs. It is not easy to leave a position I found very rewarding and faculty whom I admire and enjoy working with. But Humanities has a very deep bench of talented, dedicated, capable faculty who will be able to maintain and enhance the strengths Humanities is known for.
LPP: Did the potential for budget cuts in the fall due to COVID-19 cause you to rethink your retirement date?
Dr. Evans: I was planning to retire in May 2021, and had announced my intention to the Humanities faculty and administration this spring. The incentive plan to retire early, as well as the fact we would be working online for the foreseeable future, convinced me it might be better to leave in June 2020. Given the fact that my faculty already knew my intentions, and had had the chance to discuss who might take my place when I left, I felt my decision to leave a year earlier than planned would not be a shock and would not leave a vacuum in the leadership role.
LPP: When you look back on your time at Lesley, what will you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Dr. Evans: No achievement is one person’s alone. Any accomplishment is the work of a group. In my years as Chair of the Humanities Division we have created the majors at our core – English, History, Creative Writing and Spanish. We have hired a group of faculty that is the pride of our college – dedicated and successful classroom teachers, active and respected scholars and artists, engaged citizens of our academic community.
LPP: Do you have any regrets? Or do you feel generally satisfied with how your Lesley career has played out?
Dr. Evans: I have found my career as an academic very rewarding: I have been able to pursue research in areas that enlightened and engaged me, to travel widely to deepen that research, to create networks of academic friendships across the globe (most recently I was invited to give papers in France and Israel), to teach courses that challenged me and challenged my students. The intersection between my research interests and my teaching creates the most enjoyable classes for me and my students, as we are both breaking a path together.
LPP: Is there anything you would like to see the Humanities Division accomplish in the future?
Dr. Evans: To build upon our foundations and strengthen, enrich them. To recruit more students for our Spanish Major; to search for a faculty member who can bring an expertise in African-American Studies.
LPP: What’s the most important lesson you’ll take away from your Lesley career?
Dr. Evans: That I can look back on it with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
LPP: Now that you’re stepping away from academia, what do you look forward to doing in retirement?
Dr. Evans: I hope to continue many of my present pursuits: travel; continue learning (book groups; Italian conversation classes; Spanish classes); keep to a regular exercise routine (hard to do during the academic year!). I would like to find ways to contribute more to my national community (volunteering during the presidential campaign) and local community (joining city-wide political planning groups).
LPP: Any words of encouragement you’d like to pass on to current and future Humanities students?
Dr. Evans: To our students: As the German writer Goethe understated, “It’s good to know something.” Take the opportunity given to you during your college years to become a knowledgeable, informed person, with enough knowledge of history, of political systems, of mathematics, etc. to be able to weigh claims being made, arguments being posited, information being shared. To adapt a line from the poet William Blake, “If I do not have my own knowledge, I am enslaved to someone else’s.”
Prepare for a lifetime of learning – you will live long lives, so you’ll need to fill those lives with enjoyable, enriching experiences. Take a music class so you’ll be able to be an even more discerning listener with the vocabulary to share your response to a particular piece. Take a language class so you can travel and partake in another culture in the original language rather than in English translation. Take a drama class. Take a creative writing class.