By Innes Herdan, Editor
In hopes of closing the divide between departments at the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF), several professors have volunteered to be a part of a pilot program of switching their offices for a semester.
Though the UMF campus is rather small, there is an obvious separation of the various academic programs. Pete Hardy, an Associate Professor of Mathematics, has made the transition down Main Street from Brinkman Hall to Roberts Learning Center and has found his mind to be awakened from the office switch up. “John and I get the chance to see and talk to other colleagues on a day to day basis that we might not otherwise see except at faculty meetings,” said Hardy, “It also enables us to break out of our established daily routines which stimulates brain function, leading to all manner of insights.”
This change has allowed some of the professors to see the inner workings of a department they hadn’t been very familiar with. “Given the quality of UMF faculty I could probably say this no matter where I was put, but I was greatly impressed by my colleagues in Rehab and Education,” said Scott Erb, a Professor of Political Science who has temporarily moved offices from Roberts to the Education Builiding, “In the conversations I had, overheard, or student interaction I observed I can tell that these professors are as dedicated and hard working as my colleagues in Social Sciences and Business. Not that I doubted it, but it was nice to see first hand.”
With any transition, there can be some drawbacks that can be encountered. “I miss out on things in our division because I’m not located right there,” said Paul Gies, an Associate Professor of Mathematics who has temporarily switched offices from Brinkman Hall to the Education Building. ”Some of those problems, how I print documents, for example, could be fixed if I was going to stay here permanently. Other things are just annoying, I have to walk across campus every time I want an advisee’s folder.”
Despite the adversities Gies has had to overcome due to the transition, he still finds the to have been a positive experience. “I’ve enjoyed it, it’s literally given me a new point of view on things, and I’m very glad I did it,” said Gies.
With the semester coming to a close, the professors have begun to pack up their temporary offices and prepare to get back into their more normal academic groove. “Last week I started to transition back to my old office because I found that while I enjoyed the work space and chats with people on the floor, students that would stop by to talk in Roberts never made it to the third floor of the education center, said Erb. “I had fewer office hour visits or even advising visits than ever before. The people in the education center are very friendly and welcoming, but I felt a bit out of place.”
Some professors have also found a unique beauty that lies in the academic of UMF. “It also allowed me to see the different cultures in different divisions across campus. I also have had some wonderful discussions on some new interdisciplinary programs and discussions about teaching pedagogy,” said John Messier, an Associate Professor of Economics who has temporarily switched from Roberts to Brinkman, “It has been a positive experience for me and I would like to do it again in the future.”