As the end of the school year quickly approaches, it starts getting harder to remember every task and assignment we have to complete to finish strong. And, as we’re crossing off things on our to-do lists, it’s easy to forget that professors are also human.
In this spring fever they struggle just as much as us.
We students may think it’s easy (and slightly pleasurable) for professors to hand out dozens of assignments and lecture for long periods of time. In reality, professors want a better future for their students and have our best interests in mind. They spend hours behind-the-scenes planning, scheduling—and of course the dreaded grading.
Upon graduating in 1971 from Union College with a secondary education degree, Kathy Bollinger, professor of education, moved around Southern California and Washington., After teaching in various schools and academies she found herself back in Nebraska, working at College View Academy for 23 years.
Teaching has always run through her blood, and eventually, she realized her calling to Union College. In 2002, she began her teaching experience at Union as an associate professor of education.
“I remember setting my siblings and stuffed animals in a row and teaching, she says. “We turned one of our old chicken coops on the farm into a little school house. For as long as I can remember, I was always teaching.”
Bollinger’s background to teaching isn’t the only crazy story some of our professors share. For instance, some of the most interesting ways professors have found their calling and passion for teaching have been in career fields completely different from being in the classroom.
Before making the move to Lincoln, professor of religion Dr. Benjamin Holdsworth spent 13 years in healthcare, doing everything from marketing to business development in Florida’s Adventist Health System. One day he decided on a career change.
He explains, “After much prayer and guidance I determined I needed to do at least three years of pastoral ministry. I pastored and worked on my masters at the same time, then got my PhD at the University of Durham in England shortly before I officially started teaching here about 8 years ago.”
Despite leaving the school setting for a while to focus on healthcare, Dr. Holdsworth soon found himself in Union College’s religion department, teaching Christian ethics, New Testament Greek, and other similar courses which he has now been teaching for eight years. “The desire and calling to teach was what led me to change career paths,” he summarizes.
Ever-evolving careers seems to be the norm with our favorite professors. For instance, Dr. Corraine McNeil originally wanted to become a medical physician, but eventually found her love for insects and teaching—in the most unusual way.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to teach, but I always knew I wanted to become a teacher. My mother was a teacher and while growing up I went to classes with her,” the associate professor of biology shares. “My mother is my biggest role model, and she had a had the biggest impact on me.”
Coming from a Jamaican household, Dr. McNeil explains there was always the pressure to go to medical school, and she was happy to explore the idea. “My game plan was to become a doctor,” she states. “I would make lots of money; I loved biology and the medical stuff, so it seemed fitting for me.”
But, things don’t always go as planned. During her second year of college at the University of Florida, McNeil had the opportunity to participate in a summer research project which focused on sea slugs. As bizarre as that might sound, that summer, Dr. McNeil finally realized that teaching and science were her true passions.
You might be like me and can’t help but wonder why such brilliant minds came to the Midwest. Dr. Mark Robison, professor of English and chair of humanities, explains his the strange move.
“I grew up on the West Coast. West Coast people tend to have the idea that the Midwest is boring,” Dr. Robison elaborates. “It took some time to get settled into the landscape, but I learned to love it here. Lincoln is a great community and has a high quality of day-to-day living.”
A a simple conversation opened the option for Dr. Robison leave the Pacific Northwest to fill a teaching position at Union. “I didn’t set out to do what I’m doing now, but everything ended up working out,” explains Dr. Robison. “It wasn’t until my first teaching job that I found out I really enjoy being in the classroom and interacting with students.”
Each professor’s journey is different. These are just a few stories behind how are professors got to Union and what they do. The main reason they teach? Us! Their love for students and desire to help shape our future is what keeps them going.
Take some time and get to know some professors that are normally out of your division; they want to get to know you, and their story could maybe even inspire you.
Caroline Guchu is a sophomore studying communication.