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2012 Winter Issue 8 (March 2, 2012)

Carleton profs have ‘chemistry’

March 2, 2012

Carleton College has long been known for its extraordinary faculty members, so perhaps it should come as no surprise to find that many of those same professors have found extraordinary spouses among the faculty here. The high number of professor couples at Carleton speaks to the unique community that the College has garnered over the years.

Many of the married professors now at Carleton met their spouses while still in school. Professor of German Roger Paas met Professor of Economics Martha Paas in graduate school at Bryn Mawr, and Roger Paas admitted that their move to Northfield was “the first time we’d been to Minnesota. We had to look at a map.”

Meanwhile, chemistry professors Joe Chihade and Daniela Kohen met in New York City when they were both in different graduate schools.

“A mutual friend introduced us and then left for a three-week vacation,” Chihade said. “By the time he was back, we were a couple.”

Professors of History Victoria Morse and Bill North met in graduate school at UC-Berkeley and began going out in February. This posed a problem, an “early crisis” as North called it, when Morse announced that she would be leaving for Italy for a year starting that September. Surprising their general acquaintances, North followed Morse to Italy.

All three couples agree that they were lucky to get jobs together at Carleton. Although Martha Paas arrived at Carleton as a faculty wife, working on her Economics PhD, Carleton offered her a teaching job. As she now quips, “the rest is history.”
Chihade and Kohen similarly acknowledged the difficulty of finding a job together: “It’s very hard to find two appropriate academic positions in the same place, especially if you are interested in teaching at a place like Carleton. For us to get jobs not only in the same place, but ‘dream jobs’ in the same place, was fantastic.

“I always joke that I shouldn’t buy lottery tickets, since I’ve already won once,” Chihade added.

As two medieval historians, Morse and North did not expect to find work together. Morse said “it was very much on our minds that one would have to rethink their career.”

Luckily, over the course of a three-minute conversation, both Morse and North were offered half-time tenure track positions at Carleton, which they both accepted immediately. Thus began their “reputation for being tough negotiators,” joked North.
Besides the sheer luck of getting jobs at Carleton, all three couples stressed the benefits of working alongside one’s spouse.
Although Martha and Roger Pass are in different fields, “we collaborate through research,” Martha said. “For example, I have a book coming out, and Roger did the introductions.”

Chihade mentioned the convenience of working alongside his wife, including “being able to pop into each other’s offices to receive wise advice about work-related things from someone who I trust very much.”

North seconded this simplicity of communication, since he “can now just yell through the wall.”

Not only does working alongside prevent “us fighting over our shared book collection,” Morse explained, “but working next door to each other allows an intuitive understanding of each other’s job along with the stresses, obligations and structures.”
Morse also noted that working together “simplifies home life, as Carleton has always been really family-friendly. Our daughter loves Carleton and Carleton students.”

This aspect, the students of Carleton, is the overwhelming reason why these three couples have stayed at Carleton over the years. Martha and Roger Paas see the community of Carleton encapsulated in the students’ treatment of their cat, Toff.
“Students were really sweet to him, and when he died it was extraordinary the outpouring of love from the students,” Roger said. “It’s nice to be in a place where something like that can happen. Certain humanity comes across through the Carleton students who can take work seriously but not themselves too seriously.”

The students of Carleton are the essence of the college community, and, as Chihade said, “at this point, it’s just home.”

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