Travel, documentaries and skating: Professors have lives, too

To quote one of the most influential movies of the past decade, Mean Girls: “Oh, I love seeing teachers outside of school. It’s like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs.”

Setting the record straight, professors on campus do have lives outside of lecturing, and no, that does not just consist of updating grades on Compass or reading hundreds of essays.

For Dr. Matthew Dye, assistant professor in Speech and Hearing Science, his free time outside of the classroom is all about taking advantage of opportunities to travel.

“It’s one of the perks of being a professor, that you get to travel a lot,” he said. “You get these conferences all over the world, so you have this kind of international network of friends and colleagues.”

When Dye was a graduate student, he would spend weeks sleeping on people’s couches in Greece and Finland and all over the world. His job was to travel and collect data from different universities. Now, it’s harder for Dye to find the time to travel while being a professor.

“Things change as you get older,” he said. “When you get a tenure track professor’s job, you are teaching classes, so I don’t go out to schools to collect data anymore.”

Another major change has impacted Dye’s ability to travel all over the world.

“I also have a young baby now,” he said. “He’s 16 months old, so I can’t just get up and go.”

Dye is originally from England, and after moving to the U.S. in 2002, he still misses the ease of travel.

“I used to be able to hop on a plane for fifty bucks and fly for two hours and I’m there,” he said. “Now it’s a lot more expensive and a lot further to go, so I don’t get to see those friends quite as much as I used to.”

When Dye does get the chance to travel, he has an itinerary that looks different than most tourists.

“It all comes down to meeting people wherever you go,” he said. “Seeing the sights is okay, you can go to see the Eiffel Tower, you can go and look at Mount Rushmore, but it’s not much fun unless you’ve got somebody to share those experiences with.”

Traveling to different countries without the stereotypical tourist itinerary creates a more fulfilling experience for Dye.

“Those are the things that I like, getting to know the country and getting to know the culture through the people you meet, rather than strapping on a backpack or camera and pounding the streets,” he said. “I like to meet people and get to know them that way.”

For Jay Rosenstein, associate professor in journalism, his hobby outside of the classroom keeps him a little closer to home. Rosenstein has just completed his fourth nationally distributed documentary, “The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today,” all the while being a dad to his two daughters.

“Just balancing those two things alone is really quite challenging,” he said. “I basically do two things outside of the classroom: I’m either working on my films, or I’m with my kids. That’s it. That’s my whole life.”

Rosenstein’s love of making documentaries is something that is always on his mind.

“When I’m driving in my car, I’m script writing in my head. Sometimes I pull over and pull out a pen and a piece of paper and jot down some lines,” he said. “Sometimes when I’m putting my kids to sleep I’m working on script changes. It sort of never leaves your mind.”

Rosenstein became interested in documentaries back in 1990 when he took a class by a former department of journalism professor.

“It was very inspirational and kind of opened my eyes to the possibility of the way documentaries can be used to really affect social change, and that’s what really drew me to them,” he said.

While Rosenstein spends this next year distributing and promoting his newest documentary, he has decided he will not be taking on any new filming projects.

“I really felt that I needed to carve out more of my time for my children, and I’m trying to shift the balance back towards them because when I’m making a film, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I have to do,” he said.

Kathryn Clancy, assistant professor in anthropology, can relate to Rosenstein on the balancing act of having kids and teaching, as she has a 3 1/2 year old daughter.

“We spend a lot of time together,” she said. “Every moment that I’m not doing my job is time with her. I work pretty hard to keep those separate.”

When Clancy is not spending time with her daughter or teaching classes, she competes on her roller derby team. She finds this activity compliments her job nicely.

“I go there and I skate and I hit people and I don’t talk about my day,” she said. “It’s wonderful to have an outlet for my competitiveness and my athleticism, which was so important to me in college.”

Clancy also finds a way to integrate her passion for teaching with a hobby: blogging.

“I think that to be a really innovative and successful academic you have to have an impact,” she said. “I’m a science blogger for Scientific American, and that’s been a wonderful experience. I really enjoy writing about my topic, reproductive biology and women’s health, with a little sprinkling of evolutionary medicine.”

This blog has given Clancy a chance to interact with other colleagues in her field. Her blog also keeps her busy, writing at least two thousand words once a week.

So when professors don’t respond to emails as soon as they are sent or don’t have that term paper graded by the next class period, it may just be because they actually have lives outside of school too.