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Bard College at Simon's Rock and the United States Military Academy at West Point. They may seem worlds apart, but if you ask retired Colonel and visiting science faculty member Patty Dooley she'll tell you just how closely they compare. "There is not an enormous contrast," she explains. "The differences are structural and cosmetic. Beyond that, there is so much similarity in the places and criteria where it really counts." For instance, "The coin of the realm here is the student. I've taught both students at Simon's Rock and cadets at West Point, and their enthusiasm and academic prowess is on par. And I'm comparing these students to the best and the brightest."

Dooley expands the comparison. The class size: Small, no more than 15-20 students per class. The courage to commit to something early: Cadets commit four years of their life to serve their country at age 18; Simon's Rock students commit to college at 16 or 17 years old. The activism: Students are aware and engaged with the world beyond Simon's Rock, as are her former cadets. Expectations: On both campuses, she teaches a prepared and well-read class. "I expect that my students have read the material because I don't pontificate, I don't lecture, and I don't spoon feed information—I ask questions. It's more important for me to know what they're thinking. Every time I engage with a student, I'm evaluating, I'm asking, 'Do they get this?'"

Perhaps the differences between institutions and students are difficult to uncover, but after 30 years teaching and serving in the military, the transition for Professor Dooley must have been slightly more...rocky? "Not really," she says. Well, maybe just one part. Approaching her 30-year mandatory retirement, she actively pursued two paths she'd most desire—working at a small, undergraduate college in the "middle of nowhere," or continuing to compete for PUSMA (Professor, USMA) status leading to retirement as a brigadier general. It was only weeks before classes began at Simon's Rock that she learned her status at West Point would not be known until much later than she'd have to make a decision. Last year, she arrived on campus in July to begin what she humorously calls her "30-year deferred decision to teach at an undergraduate college in the country." For someone who has been known the last three decades as Colonel Dooley, she says there's something comforting about teaching students who are on a first name basis with their professors. "I got my identity back and it feels good...As I said in a retirement speech at West Point, 'I live in the country and have fallen face first into really good smelling slop, and I am one happy pig!'"

More:

  • Retired Colonel and Bard College at Simon's Rock visiting faculty member Patricia Dooley's biography.
  • In 2006, Colonel Dooley deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Her mission was to serve as an advisor and mentor to the head of the Basic Science Department in order to establish a laboratory program and chemistry demonstrations to accompany the one-semester general chemistry course taught to first-year cadets at NMAA. In a country reviving itself after 27 years of occupation, civil war, and governance by the Taliban, and still combating an insurgency, the lack of textbooks, chemicals, reliable utilities, analytical instruments, functioning laboratory space, and instructor experience with experimental procedures demanded a creative response to these challenges. Read excerpts from her blog during that mission. 
  • About science at Simon's Rock.