Laura Levine: Keeping professor Pollack at GW

This weekend I had what I would describe as an absolutely perfect Sunday. One of my favorite professors brought about fifteen students to the Hillwood Museum in Northwest D.C. for an afternoon of exploring a gorgeous old Gatsby-style mansion and estate and then high tea in the garden’s café. This trip was one of many wonderful field trips organized by my favorite art history professor, Rachel Pollack.

When Professor Pollack looked at the schedule for next fall and asked why neither her name nor any of her classes were on the list, she was told that the department is looking to change the format of the survey courses to have tenured faculty teach them.

Students were surprised at this, because Professor Pollack’s classes are always full and widely recommended among art history students. With no solid answer, students acted to ensure her return in the fall.

The students of the art history department did everything in their power to keep Professor Pollack’s career from being terminated. From writing letters to the art history department chair to filling out petitions, we did not take this possibility lightly, as it would have been a great loss to the department and the University as a whole.

Fortunately, the art history department decided to keep Professor Pollack on staff, much to the relief of her students.

Professor Pollack, a fourth-year adjunct to the art history department, is currently getting her Ph.D. from University of Maryland and has been a faculty in residence for three years. “I have become a better teacher from living on campus and getting to know the students,” says Pollack. Adored by her students, Rachel Pollack goes above and beyond, from hosting movie nights in her home in JBKO to organizing wonderful field trips to museums and galleries all over D.C.

From a personal standpoint, I can attest to the fact that Professor Pollack is truly an incredible teacher. Her survey of western art class was the first course that I took within the department, and it automatically sparked my interest in the subject, leading me to choose art history as my major.

Professor Pollack’s stellar reputation is what draws students who have never taken a class on art history to the department, creating high enrollment and many potential art history majors and minors, much like myself. Professor Pollack makes learning about prehistoric wall paintings in the Lascaux Cave in France interesting and exciting, which is important when learning about material that could easily be seen as dull.

“Art is something that everyone should love,” says Professor Pollack, and it is undoubtedly something that she allows her students to do. Even if her students never take another course on the subject, they learn a lot and are inspired by her energy and enthusiasm.

Professor Pollack’s extremely high enrollment and positive evaluations, as well as her students’ fighting for her position, reflect how important this teacher is to the art history department and how valued she is by her students.

I was thrilled to learn that the art history department decided to rehire this remarkable teacher. I am elated to know that Professor Pollack will be back next year, and I look forward to taking more classes with her in the future.

The writer is a sophomore majoring in art history.

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