CNCC educator wins top faculty honor

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Mary Karen Solomon knows more than just the "little bit about a lot" that cynics may accuse liberal arts scholars of knowing.

Solomon, department chair of the joint humanities and social science programs at Colorado Northwestern Community Col--lege's Craig campus, teaches a broad range of subjects in the humanities -- literature, philosophy, history and music. She's even been called upon to teach calculus.

Those classroom talents brought her special recognition last month.

The State Board for Commu--nity Colleges and Occu--pational Education and the Colo--rado Community College System named Solomon the Craig campus faculty member of the year.

It's an award she's hardly had time to contemplate.

"I was surprised because it has been a hard year at the college," she said.

Now the only full-time humanities-specific teacher at the Craig campus, Solomon has seen her department, which she describes as "already stretched," shrink from eight teachers to three in the past couple of years.

In the face of the cutbacks, Solomon has gone above and beyond her normal duties by "usually teaching six classes a semester. Teachers are only required to do five."

Solomon also has had to put more energy into her music history and appreciation courses with the termination of the music and theater departments at the Rangely campus.

"One time, we even needed someone to teach calculus at the last minute. I had no idea Mary Karen knew calculus, but she stepped right in and taught it for a whole semester," said Gene Bilodeau, dean of CNCC's Craig campus.

Solomon has bachelor's degrees in math and English, and a master's degree in Russian literature.

As an original member of the CNCC faculty for the Craig campus when it opened in 1990, Solomon's favorite course is the humanities survey, in which she, "covers the world of art, literature and philosophy."

"I really care about my students," Solomon said.

This month, she'll be imparting what Bilodeau calls "an outstanding breadth of knowledge" for the benefit of a group of 12 community members and students during a brief historical tour of the Czech Republic.

Solomon hopes that the community college, soon to be under the wing of recently named President John Boyd, "can grow to hire more staff."

For the time being, Solomon said she will keep challenging students with her signature panel discussions of Dostoyevsky excerpts that "tackle the big questions."

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