Teacher friends bridge interdepartmental divisions – The Williams Record

I remember when I was young, believing with all my heart that my teachers lived under their classroom desks. As we came home every night, my classmates and I couldn’t imagine the teachers living outside the walls of my elementary school. Most of us grow up with this belief long before adolescence, but the feeling that teachers, and later teachers, exist primarily in the classroom persists into adulthood.

Associate Professor of Biology Matt Carter also remembers subscribing to this belief. “I felt like that as a college student,” he said. “Like, I always thought it was really cool when I saw two teachers that I didn’t know knew each other – because they were on different floors or something – having lunch.”

Now, as a teacher himself, Carter has said he can confirm that this is in fact not true. Teachers too, he said, have social lives, hobbies and, believe it or not, friends. For many college faculty members, friendships with colleagues come naturally, in shared office hallways or weekly department meetings. There are, however, other duos whose relationships overcome divisions between departments. To get the real scoop on our fellow teachers, the Save sat down with three pairs: Carter and associate professor of mathematics Julie Blackwood, assistant professor of biology Cynthia Holland and assistant professor of psychology Shivon Robinson, and professor of history Tom Kohut and president and associate professor of religion Jeffrey Israel.

Professors Shivon Robinson (left) and Cynthia Holland (right) are best friends. (Taryn McLaughlin /Williams’ record)

Cynthia Holland (biology) & Shivon Robinson (psychology)

Holland and Robinson first met during the orientation of new teachers ahead of the start of the 2019 fall semester. Robinson was starting his first semester of teaching at the College, while Holland was due to start this spring. In January, after Holland moved to Williamstown, the duo met again at a science school lunch and quickly became friends.

“I think it was just nice to have another young female teacher [member]”said Robinson.” Being a young faculty [member] in a small isolated community it was nice to have someone in your peer group with whom you can hang out, chat [with] academically – but also outside of work.

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed the campus in March 2020, Holland and Robinson had been living in Williamstown for just a few months. Away from family and many of their friends, the duo, along with their respective husbands, leaned on each other for support.

“During the initial stages of quarantine, we had a little pod,” said Robinson. “It was very helpful to me.”

Their favorite quarantine activities? Cook dinner, play board games and grab take out at the local Mexican restaurant Coyote Flaco. When COVID made it difficult to get home for the holidays last winter, they even celebrated Christmas Eve together.

Over the past summer, the four friends traveled to Tanglewood in Lenox to attend an outdoor concert. To make the most of the long summer break on the college calendar, they also went on vacation to Cape Cod. “It was a fun time,” said Holland, explaining that they mostly spent their time relaxing on the beach.

Although the couple’s academic interests differ, the two women expressed how much they appreciated having someone else who understands the experience of moving to a remote college town and navigating the world of education. undergraduate. While it may be difficult for partners of faculty members who do not have the college’s integrated social network to find community, Robinson said their husbands have also become close friends. “My husband is very happy to be friends with yours,” she told Holland with a laugh.

“Same,” Holland replied.

Despite their close friendship, the couple still meet students who know them both but are shocked to see them together. “I think it’s sometimes hard for students to realize that there is a lot of interaction going on across college,” said Robinson. “And I think that’s what makes it such a cool interdisciplinary place, as opposed to a big research university, where I would never interact with a plant biologist.”

Professors Julie Blackwood (left) and Matt Carter (right) take a graduation break to color. (Photo courtesy of Matt Carter.)

Julie blackwood (mathematics) & Matt Carter (biology)

Like Robinson and Holland, Blackwood and Carter started at college the same year and connected at events held for new faculty members. “And then I unfortunately realized I loved you,” Blackwood told Carter, recounting their first interactions.

“And I support it,” Carter joked in response.

Despite their sarcasm, the two have become close friends in the eight years since they met. Their daughters, who are roughly the same age, have been friends since birth. Blackwood and Carter were the only two Divs. The III faculty members were appointed in 2019 and have said they have relied on each other for professional and personal support over the years.

Often times, Blackwood and Carter can be spotted on midday walks around campus, occasionally stopping at what Blackwood called “the good coffee” in Hollander Hall. “Sometimes for fun we start the old engines and hop over to Hollander for coffee that isn’t brewed by the coffee maker here in the science center,” Carter said. “It’s easily 1,000 times better.”

While both teach in Div. III and are interested in the natural sciences (Carter teaches biology and Blackwood does research in the mathematics of ecology), their academic interests are quite disparate. Yet they often end up teaching the same students and say they like to see surprised faces when they name each other in class.

“I use Julie for street credibility,” Carter said with a laugh. “I’m going to be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m going to have lunch with Professor Blackwood.’ And it buys me a little credit on the street.

Their friendship, however, was not without its fair share of healthy competition. Three times, Blackwood and Carter have faced each other in the faculty committee election. Blackwood has won twice; Carter won once. This time, he said, he took it upon himself to campaign against Blackwood, making negative Blackwood campaign posters and hanging them only in his office. “A private and personal smear campaign aimed at an audience of Julie,” he said.

Most recently, the two clashed in an election to the faculty’s steering committee. “In the most recent one, we voted for each other, I think,” Blackwood said. “At least I voted for you.”

“Oh, did you do it?” Carter replied with a smile. “I did too. That’s what we have in common: we both voted for me.

At some point in their conversation with the Save, Carter and Blackwood asked if any of the other faculty friends interviewed had said anything more interesting than them. “We have to outdo them in terms of having fun as friends,” Carter joked.

They then dismissed some potential friendship activities that they would hypothetically do together, in the hopes that they might outsmart the other pairs. “We’re going to go on Jeff Bezos’ rocket,” Carter said.

“They didn’t report ours,” Blackwood replied. “The one they talked about was actually the second [mission]. “

In fact, the two share fun memories much closer to home and have been there for each other for some of life’s greatest moments – from tenure announcements to their children’s milestones. “I tried teaching her daughter to pee in nature, and she pissed on herself,” Blackwood said. “It didn’t go well, but she was very proud of herself and didn’t seem to notice that she was soaked.”

Tom Kohut (story) & Jeffrey Israel (religion)

Kohut and Israel credit the dean of the faculty for their nearly decade-long friendship. When Israel arrived at the College in 2013, Kohut was appointed to be its primary mentor. The instincts of Denise Buell, then dean of the faculty, to pair them up, they said, were perfect, and the pair connected immediately.

“We got matched like on one of these dating sites,” Israel joked.

“The Dean of the Faculty Dating Site!” Kohut replied, laughing.

Joking aside, Kohut said there are some strange similarities between the duo’s bios. “We have an incredible amount of things in common, actually, even though I’m a lot older than Jeff,” Kohut said. “We both went to Oberlin. Our partners have both been to Oberlin. I grew up at the University of Chicago, going through their entire education system to Oberlin; Jeff graduated from Chicago. We both [lived] in Cincinnati.

Although the two professors work in different departments, their academic interests also overlap a lot. Kohut primarily studies 20th century German history, with a specific focus on the Holocaust and its aftermath. Israel focuses on American Jewish culture and thought. Both also share a fascination with psychoanalytic theory as well as a deep investment in Judaism. “Two overly thoughtful Jewish guys who went to Oberlin,” Israel joked. “How could he not [work]? “

Although the pandemic has reduced their ability to see each other in person, the couple and their families have grown very close over the years. “What we were doing, and what we will do again, is have our families come together,” Israel said. “And also Tom and I would go out sometimes just for the evening and have a few drinks and linger and talk about everything until the end of the night.”

Kohut said that, for him, the couple’s connection is emblematic of the intellectual environment the college fosters. “We experience the liberal arts, just like students, because we interact with so many people in so many different fields,” he said. “And I like that aspect.”

Source link

About Mark A. Tomlin

Check Also

Celebrating our RIT College of Science retirees for 2021-2022 | college of science

Congratulations to our 2021-2022 College of Science retirees! As faculty or staff, our retirees have …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.