Susanne Bushman, Arts Editor
Looking into the faculty offices at Grinnell, it can start to look like Noah’s ark, with professors going through life two by two. Grinnell College faculty and staff include many married partners, some of whom came here as a couple, some of whom met on campus.
This was especially true for Cori Jakubiak, Education, and Joseph Neisser, Philosophy.
The College played matchmaker most directly for Jakubiak and Neisser who met when Jakubiak started a temporary position in the Education department. With Education and Philosophy both housed in Steiner Hall, the two often crossed paths at work and began dating at the end of Jakubiak’s first year on campus.
“I think part of it was that we sort of resisted dating each other because we were in the same building and that seemed weird,” Jakubiak said.
Now, the two enjoy working in what Niesser jokingly called the “his and hers wings of the upstairs of Stiener.” Niesser proposed following Jakubiak’s application for a full time position at Grinnell.
“Within a very short term, I had a life at Grinnell and a husband,” Jakubiak said. “When I came here on a two-year term position, I didn’t expect to stay.”
Emma Kelty-Stephen’s alumni status helped to bring her together with her husband, Damian Kelty-Stephen, both Psychology. The two met in a graduate program at the University of Connecticut and on one of her first days in the program, Emma wore a Grinnell t-shirt, thinking it might attract the attention of people associated with the college. Luckily for her, Damian Kelty-Stephen had been admitted to Grinnell in high school and her shirt prompted him to spark up a conversation.
“We got accepted into the same class,” Damian Kelty-Stephen said.
The couple is thankful that they met when they did, however, believing that they are better suited for each other now than if they had met as undergrads.
“We decided that we would not have liked each other—not when we were 18,” Emma Kelty-Stephen said.
Eric Ohrn ’07, Economics, and Elizabeth Hoel, SHACS Staff Nurse, met while advancing their careers in Michigan, despite both being from the Twin Cities area. Hoel’s sister introduced the two and Ohrn quickly discovered that he had further connections to her family—it turns out that Ohrn’s undergrad advisor was Hoel’s uncle.
“[Her uncle] had said something to me when I asked him for a recommendation for grad school. He said, ‘Oh, yeah. My nieces are going to be out there in Michigan.’ I didn’t think anything of it. You think you’re going to a 180,000-person town, you’re not going to meet anyone. But I did,” Orhn said.
For professors, having someone else who has the same job and works for the same college gives them an intimate level of understanding about the good and bad parts of their job.
“As a female academic who married late in life, I’m glad to be with someone who understands the labor of academics,” Jakubiak said. “… The work of writing and being a scholar is something that’s difficult on the dating scene.”
“It’s nice being in different departments because I get to learn a lot about what she does intellectually and about her teaching,” Neisser said.
For Ohrn and Hoel, the biggest perk of working for the same institution is having the same schedule.
“A lot of the other Grinnell staff have to work year round,” Hoel said. “I, fortunately, am on the same academic calendar as he is.”
“Time off is nice, but the fact that we have it together is the best part,” Ohrn said.
For the Kelty-Stephens, who are expecting a baby girl in February, working in the same department allows Damian to share in the attention normally directed more heavily towards expectant mothers.
“I’ve heard from friends that the dad … doesn’t really get as much attention or people don’t know,” Emma Kelty-Stephen said. “Here everyone knows [Damian] and makes that connection.”
No matter if they work together or apart on totally different ends of campus, spouses at Grinnell seem to love working in the same community.