Melina Hale, PhD’98, the William Rainey Harper Professor in the Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, became the dean of the College on July 1. Hale, who previously served as a vice provost of the University, succeeds John W. Boyer, AM’69, PhD’75, the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of History. The Core spoke with Hale in late June, as she was preparing to step into her new position.
What was your first impression of UChicago when you came here as a graduate student?
How passionate everyone was about their research-that was both exciting and intimidating. And I loved how we were all appreciated for being our own quirky selves.
What were the first classes you taught?
I had the good fortune of being a teaching assistant for Lorna Straus [LAB’49, X’53, SM’60, PhD’62, now professor emerita of organismal biology and anatomy] and Jim Hopson [PhD’65, now professor emeritus of organismal biology and anatomy], both such great role models.
At the time, Lorna was the only woman faculty member in my department. She asked me to teach Multicellular Organisms with her but ended up leading a trip to Antarctica during the quarter, leaving me with the class for a while. Being thrown in the deep end was scary, but that happens over and over again in academia. I had to learn quickly and develop my own teaching style and approach. The students were so great and taught me a lot about how to teach that year. [Hale received the Wayne C. Booth Graduate Student Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 1994.]
In Jim’s course, Chordate Biology, my favorite memory is from when we were dissecting sharks. The night before an exam a student wrote a long-very long, and pretty good- “Ode to the Shark” on the chalkboard in the dissection room. Humanities in the anatomy lab is so UChicago. And I was impressed that the student had time for poetry before an exam.
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