Before they were professors…
Picturing a professor as anything other than a professor might be like seeing a fish out of water. Believe it or not, professors have not always lived within the realms of academia.
At the University of San Diego, it is not unusual for students to have a close relationship with their professors. This is one of the many advantages of USD’s intimate environment. Students have come to recognize professors as sources of knowledge. Let us take this opportunity to recognize our educators for all that they are.
USD is home to many professors who bring unique credentials into the classroom.
One of these professors is Jerome Hall. Before coming to USD, Hall spent his days hanging out in a wetsuit and exploring the world’s oceans. First, he served as an underwater archaeologist for the island of Puerto Rico. He then went on to serve as President of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University.
Hall has always been interested in archaeology. After taking a class in Nautical Archaeology at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, he volunteered his services for a two-week excavation on the Yorktown Shipwreck Project in Virginia. His professor at the time, Peter Throckmorton, a well-known underwater explorer and photojournalist, asked Hall to go with him to the Caribbean for the summer instead.
“I agreed,” Hall said. “The rest, as they say, is history.”
Traveling under the surface of the world’s oceans has left Hall with a vault of stories.
“Sometimes, I just think back and think about how unbelievable my life has been. Nobody should be this lucky,” Hall said. “I’ve dived on many shipwrecks around the world and met some amazing people, some of them notable celebrities and world leaders.”
Hall’s profession wasn’t all glitz and glam. Within the first three hours of his archaeology career, he was flown to the Dominican Republic and picked up by an old Swedish sailor, Henry Lundberg. Lundberg was supposed to drive him to the site to start his first project. Instead, Lundberg detoured to a ratty bar.
“There, he got in a fight with the bartender, and I, being young, naïve, and well-intentioned, tried to break it up,” Hall said. “Well, I got stabbed.”
It is safe to say he didn’t make it to the site that night and spent the night receiving make-shift medical attention.
“The old, Swedish sailor just looked at me and said, ‘Welcome to archaeology, kid,’” Hall said.
Hall isn’t the only professor with an impressive resume though. Most of us may know Dennis Clausen as a longstanding professor in the English department.
Reflecting back on his past career made Clausen evaluate where he stands today.
“I like to think of myself as an oldie, but a goodie,” Clausen said. “Well, hopefully a goodie.”
Beyond his teaching, Clausen is a man with an unexpected past. After high school, Clausen was recruited to play basketball at University of Minnesota, an NCAA Division III school.
Growing up in Minnesota, playing basketball was no easy feat to come by.
“We had no open court in my hometown where we could play during the winter months, so my brother and I improvised,” Clausen said. “We would dress up in just about every piece of clothing we owned to keep warm, heat up the basketball on the furnace grate to inflate the air, and then walk the three or four blocks to one of our neighbor’s home who had a hoop attached to his garage.”
As an athlete, he enjoyed receiving special recognition from the town and the rest of campus.
“Being a basketball player and doing very well in that particular sport at the college level, they put you up on a pedestal,” Clausen said.
Out of college, Clausen had two career options to choose from, neither of which was to become a professor.
“One of the possibilities for me was to become a basketball coach, believe it or not,” Clausen said. “And the other possibility was to go to law school and become a lawyer.”
Clausen mulled over the decision to become a basketball coach, but ultimately chose to pursue his love for literature. It wasn’t an easy choice for Clausen. The chance of continuing his basketball career lingered because of his long relationship with the sport.
“My consideration to become a basketball coach was out of the sheer love of the game,” Clausen said.
Abby Berk, a business professor, attended Stanford for her undergraduate degree, earned her master’s degree at Northwestern University, and obtained her Ph.D., from USD. She then spent years working in several industries trying to uncover the perfect job.
“While I learned something from each of them, my most interesting job was with an e-commerce start-up, ProFlowers.com,” Berk said.
Berk began as an analyst and moved her way up to managing the online marketing, all the while the firm made a name for itself. Proflowers.com went from a small start-up to going public to eventually becoming acquired by a large conglomerate. Its new success didn’t come without its own implications.
“Despite all my education, I was not very well prepared to be successful in the workplace,” Berk said. “But it was an exciting ride.”
Communication studies professor Leeva Chung came from a background different from the previous two. Chung spent six years on her undergraduate degree, two years on her master’s, and five years on her Ph.D.
“It’s all school,” Chung said. “Had I had a career? No. Did I have a life during? Yes.”
Before committing herself to a profession in academia, Chung held a total of 30 part-time jobs.
“I worked at Planned Parenthood as a pregnancy test counselor, I sold men’s suits, I sold eel skin and gold-dipped leaves in Tennessee, I worked at a radio station as a DJ and in the news, and I worked in a hotel as a telephone operator,” Chung said.
Some of those jobs were harder than others, such as the one in Tennessee.
“I flew out there on my own money,” Chung said. “It was $800 to fly out there, and I borrowed $400 from my sister. Because the person who hired me knew I had to work to pay that off, he only paid me $2 per hour for 14 hour days.”
Holding various side jobs throughout her lifetime has allowed Chung to bring a different standpoint to the classroom.
“It gives me a unique opportunity to invite conversation in my class because of my different skill set in the workforce, granted most of them were part-time,” Chung said. “It’s a different world that most people don’t expect a professor to speak about in a class.”
Teachers won’t always tell you about their careers prior to teaching. These are only the stories of a few professors out of the many on staff at USD. Often, their experiences and knowledge go beyond lecturing in a classroom.
By Taryn Beaufort, Asst. Opinion Editor