After 22 years as a dean, provost and VP, Mark Hammond returns to the classroom to end his career doing what he loves — teaching
After 22 years at the administrative level in higher education, Dr. Mark Hammond is returning to his first love — teaching. It’s a decision that “didn’t come lightly, or hastily,” but his two decades in leadership roles — first as dean of Campbell University’s College of Arts & Sciences in 2001 and then as provost and vice president for academic affairs beginning in 2013 — have left him “fulfilled,” he says.
During his time as chief academic office, every academic program he oversaw at Campbell received its initial accreditation or its reaccreditation — including a “sterling” decennial review for the University by SACSCOC.
“I have started dozens of programs and a School of Engineering, and for over 20 years, I’ve enjoyed the responsibility of and the friendships established through our unique partnership with TAR UC in Malaysia,” says Hammond, who first joined Campbell as an assistant professor of biological sciences in 1992.
“I have interviewed hundreds of faculty candidates, doing my very best to perpetuate the incredibly worthwhile mission of Campbell, to educate our students and graduates to have lives of purpose and meaning. Yet, I again feel the call to teach as a primary responsibility — to share more directly once again the knowledge, mentoring and development required of our students as they transform into successful members of our society.”
Currently on sabbatical, Hammond will join the faculty of the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine next year, but he’s already with the School as a lecturer. He sat down with Campbell Magazine over the summer to talk about his experience as provost and his excitement to return to the classroom.
One of the biggest achievements during your time as provost was the launch of a School of Engineering in 2016. You have an extensive science background and seem to have a passion for engineering. Why was starting this program so important to you?
Mark Hammond: I was the dean for the College of Arts & Sciences for 12 years before I became provost, and as dean, I had a great working relationship with the former provost, my predecessor, Dr. Dwaine Greene. He was a tremendous mentor, and this was around the time of the “expansion phase” under [former President] Dr. Jerry Wallace, who was very aggressive in new program planning and development.
So Dr. Greene asked me and all the deans on numerous occasions to come up with some program ideas and some things to consider and ponder, which is how our eventual Doctor of Physical Therapy and Physician Assistant programs came to be. We also did an early feasibility study on engineering, which was a program we’d talked about for a couple of years. We knew that it had potential for us, but we weren’t quite ready for it just then.
When I was named provost [in 2013], Dr. Wallace asked what I thought about revisiting the idea. I said, ‘Yes, sir. We should absolutely do it.” And we did.
We knew that we had a good culture and a good foundation upon which to build for engineering, and it fit into the expansion of our academic portfolio as a program that would attract students who would not otherwise be attracted and want to come to Campbell. And we found a dean [Dr. Jenna Carpenter] who had a vision for a small, intimate school that valued diversity and delivered a hands-on curriculum.
Tell us about your work in the Human Genome Project in Los Alamos, N.M., and how you go from that to a faculty position at Campbell University in the mid 1990s.
Hammond: The lab in Los Alamos was created, of course, for the Manhattan Project, which resulted in the nuclear weapons Fat Man and Little Boy, but they continued to use the lab after that for national defense, nuclear research and also life sciences. Originally, they studied the effects of radiation on living organisms. I went there to work on the Human Genome Project as a postdoctoral fellowship when it started, and there we worked to develop high-speed DNA sequencing techniques.
I enjoyed the work, but my heart was for teaching. So I was applying for jobs everywhere, and in 1992, I got an invitation to come to this little Baptist School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. I thought, “Where in the world is that?” I had a research colleague who was a sports fan who’d heard of Campbell because they played Duke in the NCAA Tournament in men’s basketball that year. I loved the South, but I wasn’t a Baptist — I’m a man of faith, but not a Baptist — and I also was a Yankee from Ohio, so I wasn’t sure I was going to fit in.
But if you’re invited for an interview, and you think you might like it … you go. So I did. I loved the faith-based element of the school, but I had questions. I was coming to teach microbiology and genetics and molecular biology. For me, the question really was whether I would be allowed to teach the elements and principles of evolution. And to my great pleasure, in my interviews with Jerry Wallace, who was provost at the time, and with biology department chair Steve Everhart, they told me yes — I can teach evolution, and I can share my faith. They offered me the job before I got back on the plane. I accepted, but it was a leap of faith, both literally and figuratively.
You’re returning to the classroom after 22 years away. What are your thoughts as you transition back to what brought you to higher education in the first place?
Hammond: I came here to teach. As for my administrative opportunities and the doors that it opened, I’ve embraced it, I’ve worked hard, and I feel very, very fulfilled. With the exception of one thing, which is the teaching, I miss teaching. I miss doing what I came here to do.
And so all of the programs had been through at least one round of accreditation, if not two — really, 10 years is the maximum amount of time you can spend in this job. We did the big SACSCOC accreditation, and we did the initial accreditation or reaccreditation for every program at this University. We’ve hired hundreds of faculty, and then we navigated through COVID.
I’ve watched my kids come through this school and grow and flourish, because of their Campbell education. The thing I feel the void in is teaching and that direct student interaction. To see that light bulb come on in a student — that’s always been my motivating force. I can’t wait to get back to that.
Final thoughts as you reflect on this past decade as provost?
Hammond: What I want to share most is my admiration and appreciation for those who helped me develop and grow here at Campbell. Those are my mentors, some of which are here, some of which are not. But Steve Everhart, who was the department chair that hired me and taught me how to become a department chair.
The late Walter Barge, who was dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, was a great role model of what it meant to be a dean and run complex units in a professional, yet personal manner. And my successor, Dwaine Green, was my role model for what it is to be a spectacular provost and a good human being. Dr. Wallace is an extraordinary man and a role model for me. After interviewing with him all those years ago, I never thought I’d be on the other side of the table. And President Creed — I had the honor of serving on the search committee to choose the fifth president. And he is everything that a University president should be.
And my greatest moments of warmth and satisfaction are when I look at what my former students are doing. That’s been the driving force for my return to the faculty. It’s just the most rewarding thing to see how we impact lives and help these students be successful.