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Two Academic Departments at Catawba College Merge

July 25, 2006

Category: Academics, Faculty, Politics

Beginning with the 2006-2007 academic year, two departments at Catawba College will merge into a single entity. The Departments of History and Classics and Political Science will become the Department of History and Politics. Dr. J. Michael Bitzer, an assistant professor of political science, has been tapped to serve for the next three years as the chair of this department.

The academic merger is occurring for several positive reasons, according to Dr. Barbara Hetrick, vice president and dean of the college. It will enhance the potential for an interdisciplinary, integrated and connected curriculum, and offer opportunities for both majors and non-majors to transcend disciplinary boundaries, both of which are goals of the College's strategic plan. Additionally, Hetrick says, the department plans to place a greater emphasis on global perspectives, international issues, and non-Western courses. Five colleagues in the department will have the opportunity to interact and collaborate to plan curricula, develop strategic plans, and conduct program review.

The merger will not result in any immediate changes to either major program, according to Bitzer. Those students majoring in history will continue in their course of study, and those who are majoring in political science will continue in their course of study in one of the four emphasis areas – pre-law, the American political experience, public administration, and international relations.

The new department chair, Bitzer, holds a Master of Arts degree in history from Clemson University and a Ph.D. in political science from the School of Public and International Affairs of the University of Georgia. His colleagues in the department include Dr. Gary Freeze, professor of history, Dr. Charlie McAllister, professor of history, Dr. Sanford Silverburg, professor of political science, and Dr. Bruce Griffith, professor of history. Griffith, who joined the College in 1964, begins phased retirement from the institution this fall.

Bitzer is hopeful the departmental merger will provide students with both an American and an international perspective in the study of history and politics. He notes that he and Freeze are Americanists, while Silverburg's specialty is the Middle East, and McAllister's is Europe.

For more information about the department, visit

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