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Candidates for the new director of Western’s Honors Program will showcase their goals and answer student questions in a series of open forums.

The speeches and Q&A sessions will take place at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7, through Friday, April 10, in SMATE 140, said Claire Tyler, president of the student honors board.

Biochemistry professor Spencer Anthony-Cahill, geology and science education professor Scott Linneman, English professor Dawn Dietrich and analytical materials and physical chemistry professor David Patrick are the candidates for the position. 

The department chair of the Honors Program coordinates which honors classes are taught each year, as well as acts as a mentor for honors students for their entire college career.

“I want someone who’s very open to hearing the voices of students in the program and who is willing to really build on the strengths of the program,” Tyler said. “I was happy with this group of candidates that we have, and I think they’re all dedicated to furthering the strengths of honors that we already have and building upon new ones.”

Learn more about each of the candidates, listed in order of their presentation date:

Spencer Anthony-Cahill

Spencer Anthony-Cahill is a professor in biochemistry at Western. He has been working at Western since 1977 and has taught honors chemistry and served on the honors board. He feels that Western needs to expand on the types of science classes that are offered in efforts to appeal to more students.

He earned his Ph.D in bioorganic chemistry from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Whitman College.

“To be honest, I was sort of a pyromaniac as a child, so getting a chemistry set and mixing stuff together and blowing stuff up was always fun, so that’s what initially got me into [chemistry],” Anthony-Cahill said.

Outside of Western, he enjoys mountain biking and playing electric bass with his cover band, The Legendary Chucklenuts. Anthony-Cahill will present Tuesday, April 7.

Scott Linneman

Scott Linneman is a professor of geology and science education at Western and has been working at the university for 15 years.

“What I can offer is my experience with the program, my devotion to the liberal experience, and I think I would be a good champion for the Honors Program both in terms of working with the students, the parents of those students, the faculty at Western and the administration,” Linneman said.

Linneman received his Ph.D in geology from the University of Wyoming. He received his secondary teaching certificate in Idaho where he previously taught at Lewis and Clark State College for 10 years. He is the father of two kids and loves spending time outdoors.

His favorite part about teaching at Western is attending commencements because he loves seeing how “crazy proud” the parents are of their kids. Linneman will present Wednesday, April 8.

Dawn Dietrich

Dawn Dietrich is an associate professor of English and the director of Western Reads, the reading program for incoming students.

“Western is the first job I received after graduate school and I have never left because I love it,” Dietrich said.

She has been teaching in the English department for 23 years. She was a first-generation college student and received her Ph.D in English literature and language from the University of Michigan.

Dietrich has had students whom she knew well that come back and talk to her about how well their life is going – one student in particular that struggled in her class and ended up becoming a vice principal of the middle school he got kicked out of. She was very pleased to find out about how great things were going for him and it made her year, she said.

Dietrich has two children, a golden retriever and two cats. She also enjoys the outdoors and serves on the board at the Pickford Film Center. Dietrich presents Thursday, April 9.

David Patrick

David Patrick is a professor of analytical materials and physical chemistry at Western. He earned his Ph.D at the University of Utah and his bachelor’s of science in Chemistry from University of California, Davis.

“The Honors Program at Western enjoys a national reputation for its depth, rigor and strong sense of community,” Patrick said in an email.

Patrick described that now is a time for the Honors Program to hold a more important role in recruitment, student diversity and enriching education for all students.

Patrick began working at Western in 1996 and has won several awards for his work. He will present Friday, April 10.

The Honors Program position will be filled at the end of this summer following the current director’s, George Mariz, retirement. He will help with the transition into the position, he said. He has been the director for more than 20 years and has worked at Western since 1970.

“Whoever [is hired] is going to inherit the best job on the planet,“ he said.


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