Many faculty members juggle teaching responsibilities with other careers
Professors from the learning environment, many Wellesley professors juggle their teaching careers with other pursuits, from editing academic journals to scientific research to performing music with a band or ensemble. This career diversity is one of the things that makes the professors at Wellesley such wonderful educators. They are able to enrich their teaching with the experiences and work that they do outside of the college. By accepting the challenges that come with having dual careers, these professors are renewing their commitment to teaching.
Professor Sally Sommers Smith began her teaching and research career at Harvard Medical School and has taught biology classes at both Wellesley and Boston University for many years.
“When I began teaching, I knew that the classroom was a natural fit,” Sommers Smith said. She also discussed how invigorating and inspiring she finds her job because of the inquisitive and challenging minds of her students.
“The students are willing to see things in new ways, and they never accept ideas at face value,” she said.
Professor Flavia Laviosa has taught Italian language and culture classes at Wellesley for 23 years, often with the addition of film courses in the cinema and media studies department. Her current film class focuses on European women filmmakers and social, political and human rights issues in the world today.
“This passion is both personal and professional,” Laviosa says, and she brings that passion to her teaching as well.
Professor Cercie Miller is the jazz and world music program coordinator at Wellesley, and she has taught here since the early 1990s. Beginning by teaching jazz saxophone, she has expanded into other areas of music education such as jazz theory and jazz history. With her involvement, the jazz music program has expanded both academically and musically.
“I am very proud of what we have grown,” she said. “Students have the ability to major and minor in jazz and non-Western music at Wellesley, which is something that is very exciting.”
In addition to their illustrious teaching careers, these well-known and loved professors all wear other hats. Professor Sommers Smith has conducted extensive research on a wide range of topics. She has looked at cell birth and cell death in human heart and lung cells and the effects of long-term beta blocker use on these processes. Beta blockers are often prescribed after a person suffers a heart attack, and many survivors take them for the rest of their lives.
After extensive work on this topic, Professor Sommers Smith has cut back on her scientific research.
“To throw a wrench in the works, I am now researching traditional music,” she said, a passion that is rooted in her own experience playing the fiddle. Her research has always included students and is another way that she has broadened her sphere of impact as a teacher.
Likewise, Laviosa has expanded her own sphere by becoming the founding editor of the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies. The journal includes articles written by a diverse group of authors who critique Italian films, films from other countries that are directed by native Italians, or films that pay homage to the classic Italian film.
“I want the journal to provide a new platform of discussion for Italian films that is not confined by the borders of the country. It is essentially about the world in Italian cinema, and Italian cinema in the world,” Laviosa says.
Professor Cercie Miller has taught at Berklee College as well as Wellesley for the past four years, and she also plays music with several ensembles.
“I have been an active performer essentially forever. It’s a never-ending job, and it is constantly challenging and rewarding,” she said.
Each professor has found that the key to having two careers, both a teaching one and one involving other interests, is balance.
“You have to find what makes the balance work,” Sommers Smith said.
This means knowing where to draw the line and cut back. It also means knowing how to divide up time and be organized. Most importantly, it means finding the intersections between the two careers that can bring them closer so they can enrich each other.
“I think the two are totally symbiotic,” Miller said, describing her performance and teaching careers.
These are true liberal arts professors: well rounded, exploratory and ground breaking.
Photo courtesy of Wellesley College