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Standout Faculty

Carleton’s reputation for academic excellence is driven by its faculty, which is ranked first in the nation for commitment to undergraduate teaching by U.S. News & World Report.

Carleton’s reputation for academic excellence is driven by its faculty, which is ranked first in the nation for commitment to undergraduate teaching by U.S. News & World Report.


Our professors are nationally respected scholars, scientists, and artists. They value curiosity, experimentation, teamwork, and collaboration. You’ll talk with them outside of class, mingle with them at campus events, and attend informal gatherings in their homes. They are invested in your success, taking a interest in your projects and goals, and inviting you to take part in their research. And most importantly, they’re as enthusiastic as you are about learning opportunities inside and outside of the classroom!

Read on to learn more about a few of the faculty members you will meet at Carleton.

Ask Questions

Chemistry professor Trish Ferrett reminds students of the “deep power of asking questions.”

“Stay curious,” she says. “Nurture your sense of wonder. Let questions naturally bubble up in your brain and write them down! Then take them to office hours and discuss them with your professor.” She encourages her students to keep a running list of “questions for Trish.”

Some students want to clarify something from class or ask for advice on how to tackle an assignment. But others ask broader questions that start with, “What if?” or “Why?” or “What’s the relationship between this and that?”

“Years ago an introductory chemistry student asked me, ‘What is the relationship between a molecule’s stability and its symmetry?’ ” Ferrett says. “This was a deeply profound question and one I had never directly considered. Students in my courses ask me questions like this all the time. And what we do next is always interesting, and it stretches all of us. We learn more, we learn deeper, and we connect up our learning so it sticks.”

Rediscover the World You Know

Studying music has evolved way past deconstructing symphonies. When you turn on the radio, you hear pieces of American culture — from oldies to current Top 40 hits. The American music program exposes you to the ways in which history, politics, literature, culture, religion, and social justice all affect popular music. You’ll also discover how music influences each of these areas.

“Rock, blues, folk, and film scores — music is exactly what we think students should be studying at a liberal arts college,” says music professor Andy Flory. “We take something they already like and know, and encourage them to think critically about it. Then they take that new way of thinking and apply it to their papers and research. The results are always interesting.”

Flory has taught classes on the history of rock, jazz criticism, and the origin and legacy of Motown. He even teaches a lab, where students perform, record, mix, and master their own music. “Offering these courses is our way of sending the message, ‘We are willing to put time and effort into music that is meaningful to you,’ ” says Flory.

Learn on the Cutting Edge

Many Carleton professors combine their roles as scholar and teacher by bringing their research into the classroom. This exposes students to fresh, new ideas, and allows them to see firsthand how ongoing scholarship works.

Economics professor Faress Bhuiyan introduces students to the relatively new field of happiness economics, started by economist Richard Easterlin. “Easterlin pointed out that although the income per capita of a number of European countries doubled over two decades following the end of World War II, the average level of self-reported life satisfaction hardly changed,” says Bhuiyan. “Known as the Easterlin Paradox, this observation sparked off a plethora of empirical analyses. Some find income to be an important factor in happiness, others find it to be unimportant, and others find evidence for a ‘satiation point’ after which further income does not add to life satisfaction.”

Bhuiyan’s own research leads him to postulate that how we spend our money could impact our happiness as much as the amount of money itself. “Money spent on traveling, experiential goods, and charitable causes improves life satisfaction. But money spent on consumption goods such as houses, cars, and jewelry does not seem to matter much,” he says. “With multiple Nobel laureates like Amartya Sen, Angus Deaton, and Daniel Kahneman working on understanding happiness and the nation of Bhutan declaring the maximization of Gross National Happiness as its main objective, it is only a matter of time before we know what makes you happy.”

Make Yourself at Home

Once per term, psychology professor Julia Strand plans a special outing for her research students. For example, she held a brunch — with a side of pumpkin carving — at her Northfield home during a recent fall term. “When we meet together in lab, our time is typically focused on getting work done,” she says, “so social events give us a chance to get to know each other in more casual circumstances. Plus, it’s fun!”

Students get a chance to learn about Strand’s interests outside of class when they visit her at home. For example, she made the paper sculptures that decorate her home by carving the pages of old books. And, by examining the original blueprints for Strand’s 1895 home that hang on her dining room wall, students can discover something about Northfield history. “It’s fun to see what’s changed since then,” Strand says. Obviously, the servant’s quarters and wood box have been repurposed since the home’s construction.

Strand served sweet potato enchiladas, chips and guacamole, and pastries — with a side of fresh apples and caramel — for the brunch. “Students always appreciate a home-cooked meal during term,” she says.