Philosophy: Hot Major at Two-Year College ; Passionate Professors in New Jersey Turn Its School's Philosophy Department into Success Story

By Teresa Mendez writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 31, 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Philosophy: Hot Major at Two-Year College ; Passionate Professors in New Jersey Turn Its School's Philosophy Department into Success Story


Teresa Mendez writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


As summer slowly melts into fall, students here at Bergen Community College are registering for classes. School won't begin for another two weeks. But on the third floor of the serpentine structure that houses most of the college, George Cronk, head of Bergen's philosophy and religion department, is joined in his office by two colleagues.

This triumvirate - Professor Cronk, Michael Redmond, and Peter Dlugos - represents the past, present, and future of philosophy and religion at Bergen.

Theirs is an unusual program. It thrives at a two-year community college in an era when students are increasingly practical-minded and career-oriented, perhaps for good reason. Philosophy majors can expect to make a dismal 21 percent below the mean annual earnings of concentrators in other fields, according to the "College Majors Handbook."

But over the past three decades, Cronk and his cohorts have built a department practically from scratch, discovering along the way how to make abstract, ephemeral topics enticing. It's a testament to what love of a discipline, scrappy management, and respect for students with a wide range of backgrounds and abilities can do.

Cronk is fond of saying that no other two-year college east of the Mississippi has a program to rival Bergen's. In fact, an informal survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education recently found that Bergen's program boasts triple the enrollment of similar-size two and four-year institutions across the country.

Its success also speaks to a broader search for the type of meaning at the core of philosophical and religious inquiry - even at a school where more than half of the 14,000 students attend part time and many enroll in vocational-training programs.

"The thinking is obviously pretty deep, but even in the really deep stuff - Descartes, Plato - when you break it down, it can apply to everyday life," says Mark Verile, a psychology major who's taken Introduction to Philosophy and Religions of the World with Cronk.

In 1972, when Cronk arrived on this 167-acre campus with its lush golf course, philosophy and religion were obscured within another department. He was its only full-time professor. Now, eight faculty members teach more than 2,000 students each semester. The department offers 50 sections of 14 courses and has attracted 30 majors.

In 1981, Mr. Redmond was hired as the department's second full- time teacher. Mr. Dlugos joined the staff in 1996. During an interview with this reporter, the three delineate their love of philosophy - how they discovered the field, why they can't imagine life without it. It's a contagious ardor.

"I'm grateful that you were the one who introduced me to philosophy," writes Jennifer Anderson, who took "Eastern Philosophy" and "Basic Logic," in an e-mail to Dlugos. "The passion and enthusiasm you have for what you know and teach is obvious.... It made me want to question things, pushed me to learn how to question things, and helped me to realize that while it may be likely I won't ever have any completely indisputable answers, the questioning is what will keep my mind turned on."

Even when there were just two of them, Cronk and Redmond tried to connect with students. In the '80s, professors were required to volunteer one or two hours at arena-style registration in the school gym. Cronk and Redmond worked the floor, putting in 12-hour days, answering questions about requirements. "We made a science of it," says Redmond. They also enhanced their tiny program's visibility.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Philosophy: Hot Major at Two-Year College ; Passionate Professors in New Jersey Turn Its School's Philosophy Department into Success Story
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?