Luther College announces grants of tenure and promotions

Luther College President Jenifer K. Ward and Dean of the College Kevin Kraus have announced promotions and grants of tenure for current faculty members.

At its Feb. 7-8 meeting in Decorah, the Luther Board of Regents approved tenure for Brittany Cord, accounting and management; Maren Johnson, Nordic studies; and Tommy Occhipinti, mathematics. The three were also promoted to associate professor.

The tenure process occurs in the sixth year of a faculty member’s service. The process involves student evaluations, department evaluation, evaluation by a faculty committee and approval by the dean, the president and the Board of Regents.

The Board of Regents also announced the promotion of Molly McNicoll, biology, to associate professor and Eric Baack, biology, and Britt Rhodes, social work, to full professors. The promotion to full professor involves student, department, faculty committee, dean and president review.

“These six are all fantastic teachers,” says Kraus. “They are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and caring faculty who challenge and support our students.”

Brittany Cord

Brittany Cord, economics, accounting and management, has taught at Luther since 2014. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Iowa and a master of business administration degree from Texas A&M University, Kingsville.

Cord currently teaches at all levels within the accounting major. Her research interests include writing cases for use in the accounting and management classrooms as well as in team-based learning pedagogy. In collaboration with fellow Luther colleagues Britt Rhodes and

Alexandra White, Cord created the summer Social Impact Fellowship. This fellowship connects Luther students within the social work and accounting/management disciplines with Decorah community organizations to help solve a problem or fill a need.

Maren Johnson

Maren Anderson Johnson has been a member of the Nordic studies program and modern languages, literatures and linguistics department since 2014. Johnson received her bachelor’s degree in Norwegian language and literature from Pacific Lutheran University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in Scandinavian language and literature from the University of Washington-Seattle.

Johnson teaches courses in Norwegian language as well as Nordic culture and literature, including seminars on Henrik Ibsen and Nordic television. She has also co-taught seminars with colleagues in environmental studies.

Her research focuses on the contemporary interpretation of Henrik Ibsen’s work, contemporary television in Norway and participatory pedagogy in the language classroom. In addition to her teaching and research, Johnson also serves as the inaugural director of the Richard L. and Judith A. Torgerson Center for Nordic Studies, an academic and program center with the mission of strengthening and enhancing Luther’s ties to Norway.

Tommy Occhipinti

Tommy Occhipinti has been a professor in the math department since 2015. Courses he regularly teaches include calculus, combinatorics and a mathematical reasoning and writing course.

Occhipinti earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and a doctoral degree in mathematics from the University of Arizona. He is hoping to continue a collaborative research project with students this summer on a conjecture popularized by Matt Parker about sequences of integers whose consecutive terms differ by squares. 

Molly McNicoll

Molly McNicoll is a professor in the biology department. She teaches biology, conservation and environmental studies courses and enjoys leading study abroad programs, most recently in Tanzania and Ecuador.

As the natural areas land manager for Luther, McNicoll conducts ecological restoration and research with students on Luther’s 700+ acres of woods, prairies and other native habitats. Her research and stewardship work has been funded at the national level by the American Association of University Women, the Monticello Fund and through partnerships with friends of the college.

McNicoll earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and her master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Eric Baack

Eric Baack has been a professor in the biology department since 2007. He teaches courses in biostatistics, evolutionary biology and the ecology of the American Southwest. Baack’s research examines plant ecology and evolution, including the origin of plant species and hybridization between crops and their wild relatives. As the Rulon Chair in Biology from 2016 to 2019 he studied microbial contaminants of recreational waters in Northeast Iowa.

Baack earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Carleton College, his master’s degree in teaching from Lewis and Clark College and a doctoral degree in population biology from the University of California, Davis.

Britt Rhodes

Britt Rhodes, social work, has been at Luther since 2006 and has served as the social work program director since 2016. Rhodes holds a bachelor’s degree from Luther College, a master’s of social work degree from Augsburg College and a doctoral degree in social work from the University of St. Thomas/St. Catherine University School of Social Work.

Rhodes teaches introduction to social work, social work field experience, research methods and social work practice courses. Her current research interests focus on adverse childhood experiences, trauma-informed care and contemplative practices in higher education. Rhodes most recent publication, “Trauma Informed Contemplative Pedagogy,” explores the role of contemplative practices to mediate trauma-related stress for beginning social workers.

Luther College is home to more than 1,900 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at luther.edu.

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From Left to right: Brittany Cord, Eric Baack, Molly McNicoll, Maren Johnson, Britt Rhodes, Tommy Occhipinti