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Biology instructor reassigned to Firelands campus after nonrenewal of 40 faculty members’ contracts

Even Instructor Amy Wagner’s enthusiasm for her job and her students couldn’t secure her position at the University.

​“I would love to work here,” Wagner said. “I love my department. I love what I do. I love my students.”

Wagner, who has taught biology at the University for the past four years, will no longer be employed on the University’s main campus come fall 2014.

She was notified in November that her contract would not be renewed for the next academic year. On Friday, she was told that she has been reappointed to the Firelands campus.

Not only will Wagner miss her department, its members will miss her.

“Amy is thinking about what’s good for students and the department,” said Jeff Miner, chair of the biology department at the University. “She thinks about how we can improve our teaching and service.”

Wagner’s reappointment to Firelands is due to a recent discussion between the Faculty Association and the University about the cuts.

Wagner was one of 40 faculty members cut in November and the money from her salary will go to pay for other faculty salaries, according to an article printed in The BG News on Dec. 12, 2013.

The University made the cuts, not based on faculty merit, but for financial reasons, said Bill Balzer, vice president for Faculty Affairs and Strategic Initiatives.

“It’s very sad because to the provost’s office, I’m a person with a number of years,” Wagner said. “They don’t necessarily take into account how this will impact the department.”

The biology department has already hired adjunct instructors and is shuffling classes around to different faculty members to fill the hole Wagner will leave, Miner said.

Wagner was brought on four years ago to coordinate all the labs for biology and anatomy and physiology. She is in charge of all the labs and teaches most of the sections for those classes, something the department will have trouble doing without her.

Students seem to like the way Wagner teaches and interacts with them.

“I’ve seen her interact many times with groups of students and I think she’s good at developing very quickly an interpersonal relationship, even with [big classes],” Miner said. “She’s done a great job making kids feel wonderful and explaining things well to them.”

Sophomore Molly Scott, a biology major, had Wagner for Anatomy and Physiology this past semester. Scott has formed a relationship with Wagner beyond the classroom and said she plans to stay in touch with Wagner after she leaves.

“I would go to her office … and she would have a one on one conversation with me,” Scott said. “I felt like I was on the same level … She was really sweet.”

Scott also likes Wagner’s teaching style.

“She uses a lot of real life examples and that’s what sets her apart from most other classes, that helps me,” Scott said. “[One time she had us] stand up and run for a minute— things like that help us keep involved.”

Wagner teaches large lecture classes with 100 to 200 students in what Miner calls the “worst lecture halls on campus” in the Math Science Building.

“She does it with both a soft and tough hand. [You have to be] rigorous— in your guidelines and your decisions— otherwise you’ll have many people trying to figure out how to beat the system,” Miner said. “[You have to] pull kids 50 feet and above you in.”

Wagner pulled freshman Aeden Timbrook in with the way she teaches during a biology class a few weeks ago.

“Honestly, this is one of the classes that I don’t look at the clock in,” he said.

Timbrook said he likes how Wagner doesn’t use a PowerPoint in the class. Instead, she uses an overhead to write notes.

“I like the way she says what she’s writing and writes it with you,” Timbrook said.

Wagner became like family to the department, Miner said.

Ray Larsen, associate professor of Biology, is a colleague of Wagner’s, and described her as a “good colleague.”

“She’s very supportive. She’s very participatory,” he said. “She’s a nice person to work with. She’s a good person to go to [to ask for help].”

Wagner said she just likes teaching.

“I like being around students, they’re fun. I like the material matter I teach,” she said.

Wagner cares, Larsen said.

“I understand the desire to let go of instructors,” he said. “[But] it’s a whole lot better to be taught by an instructor that cares than a professor that’s phoning it in.”

Miner said he also recognizes that the University is cutting instructors to “move to a model that is similar to other universities.”

But “it’s unfortunate to students who take those courses because she’s an excellent teacher,” Miner said.

The decisions to cut were made based on a faculty member’s non-tenure track status, number of years working at the University and conversations had between deans of each college, department chairs and others who work closely with faculty members, Balzer said.

Julie Barnes, executive associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said she talked to all the department chairs about making cuts before recommending people to the Provost to be cut.

As far as Wagner being cut, Barnes said “It had a lot to do with the number of years she’s been at BG.”

The College of Arts and Sciences had to cut more than $1 million from its personnel budget, Barnes said.

Wagner, who lives in Perrysburg, will have an hour commute to work beginning in the fall. She said her family will probably see a little less of her once she begins to work at Firelands.

“I’m sad I’m not coming back here,” Wagner said. “I love it here … [but] I’m excited because of the new opportunities for me there.”

But, she’s happy that she has a job.

“It’s a big weight off my shoulders,” she said.

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