Day in the Life of a CSS Professor

A Comparison Amongst the Six Schools

Heidi Voigt

The College of Saint Scholastica is composed of six schools in which students in the undergraduate and graduate program are placed by major. These six schools, Arts and Letters, Education, Business and Technology, Science, Nursing, and Health Sciences all have professors dedicated to bettering their students. There are differences between the schools in the typical duties of professors.

Sarah Brokke Erickson, an art professor from the school of Arts and Letters, said that each of her three class sections, Art Theory, Beginning Painting, and Honors Dignitas require an hour of prep and an hour of grading each day. In her roles as mural director, professor, and artist, Brokke Erickson receives around 40 emails daily with the majority of them requiring answers.

Brokke Erickson said the Benedictine values are apparent in her profession as she acts as the director of the Mural Initiative Program, “In which we collaboratively create murals with our community as a connection to our Benedictine values. This means I routinely have a portion of my day devoted to whatever stage we are working on-which can include grant writing, meeting with community members, teaching students.”

This week Brokke Erickson will be teaching and painting at Lincoln Park Middle School.

Education professor Rachel Payne juggles more classes than most. As education classes are often split into a learning component and a field experience component, Payne covers six classes a semester. The grading and these preparations of these classes adds to 50 hours of weekly work. Payne receives approximately 50 emails of which 35 need a response or action. In addition, she connects with the Benedictine value of community by entering classrooms. Currently, Payne is teaching computer coding to students in grades three to five at Lowell Elementary.

As a message to students on her job as a professor at CSS, Payne said, “My students inspire me with their intelligence, work ethic, commitment to excellence and sense of humor.”

Unlike Brokke Erickson, who accepts students on a walk-in basis, or Payne, who schedules appointments, Dr. Saban Alwan of the school of Business and Technology requires students to schedule time during his office hours. Alwan, who deals with his 30 daily emails immediately upon arriving to work, spoke on the logistics of running a class.

“Being prepared for every lecture is very important to me,” Alwan said.

When he is not correcting his three hours of classwork and students research projects, Alwan conducts research to insure his class is given the most recent information. Any additional time is spent working on his own publications.

In the school of Sciences, professor Daniel Westholm meets with his students through a series of impromptu meetings created by his open door policy. Westholm said the main components of his job include responding to nearly 40 emails, for class or lab and grading, meeting with student researchers, meeting with classroom students, attending and preparing for meetings, and writing letters of recommendation, which he considers one of the most important aspects of his job. Like most of the professors, Westholm has a full schedule of three class both fall and spring semester.

As for working at CSS, Westholm said, “I am honored to teach at an institution with such respectful and engaged students. Working with students from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, keeps my job fresh and exciting. Watching students’ academic growth during their time here is incredibly satisfying. I love my job and feel very fortunate to work at CSS.”

Any free time spent at work is absorbed by Westholm’s research on bacteriophage genomics and diversity which he conducts with the help of research students.

While Professor Gina Diaz in the School of Nursing spends the majority of her time working with her students in class or clinical sessions, she has her share of emails to answer. Diaz responds to 50 emails daily which come from her senior Nursing Theory students, clinical students, and the nursing department. Outside of this, Diaz spends one night each week in pre-departure meetings for the Philippines Capstone trip. Students wishing to meet with Diaz will see her during her weekly office hours which she works in around her various meetings and classes.

Dr. Constance Gunderson, a professor in the graduate program of the Health Sciences, sees teaching as her calling, and spends the majority of her time outside class meeting with students and sitting on committees. She also teaches three to four classes a semester. In between her work on research projects and revision of class materials to provide cutting edge research, Gunderson receives over 100 emails daily all of which are answered within a day. Gunderson, who is an alumna of CSS, said that she returned to the college because of the guiding forces of the Benedictine values.

“I would like the students to know that you all give me so much hope for this world. As you grow and go out into the community to change the world, I want you to know that I really believe in all of you, and I will give my absolute best to help you do that,” Gunderson said.

While professors of the different schools spend their days differently, they all share one thing: dedication to proving the best education possible to their students. Whether this comes in the form of research or community involvement, the professors at CSS strive to prepare their students for the world beyond college.