Campus curiosities: Uncovering the unexpected in faculty offices

The typical faculty office contains books, stacks of papers, a framed diploma and maybe even a coffeepot. But what unique pieces of their personalities do professors sprinkle among their bookshelves and computer desks? These FLC faculty members show off their treasured possessions – and reveal a bit of what else matters to them.

Ava Santos

Signs point to yes

When she started teaching, Ava Santos, associate professor of Psychology, decided to acquire a Magic 8 Ball. Then she realized how many varieties she could collect. Now she has a Freud ball, a sarcastic ball, and a love ball, among several others. “And I plan on using this one for my students,” she adds. “The Instant Excuse Ball.”

Betty Dorr

Can’t Skinner a cat

Professor of Psychology Betty Dorr inherited all kinds of stuff in her old Hesperus Hall office. Her favorites are these letters from famed psychologist B. F. Skinner. “The Psych Club invited him to come speak multiple times,” she says. “Once, they wrote him about neuroses in a cat. And Skinner politely tells our students, ‘That’s not what I do.’”

Brad Clark

Premier league

“Usually Russian nesting dolls have pictures of women in dresses,” says Brad Clark, associate professor of Political Science. “But these are the former premiers.” He picked up these matryoshka dolls as a kid while traveling with his parents. And he actually met one of the premiers while in grad school. “Gorbachev was a really nice guy,” he says.

Chuck Yoos

Computing hall of fame

Senior Lecturer of Management Chuck Yoos shows off his Computing Hall of Fame, which contains a slide rule, a calculator, and a TRS-80. “I paid ninety dollars for this calculator when I was going through Ph.D. school,” he recalls. “Now they give them away for opening a bank account.”

Don May

Sheepskin plaque

When FLC Engineers Without Borders first worked in Ecuador, the community of La Ciudad de Chimborazo presented them this sheepskin plaque. “It has special meaning because raising sheep is such a central part of their lives,” says Don May, professor of Engineering and co-director of the program. “They presented this to us for the project—this, and a rooster.”

Sarah Roberts-Cady and Dugald Owen

Fingers on the pulse

How do philosophers conduct complex debates while remaining civil? Sarah Roberts-Cady, Professor of Philosophy, and Associate Professor Dugald Owen duke it out with finger puppets. “Listen,” says Roberts-Cady. “Our students may not want to use puppets, but Dugald and I find it very useful to get our ideas out. Our deepest discussions are between our fingers.”

Ava Santos

Armed and glamorous

“I was a pitcher in college for fast-pitch softball,” says Associate Professor of History Ellen Paul. “I was the only senior on the team, so the rest of the women wanted to give me a new arm. They got this from the art department.” Just two problems: it’s a left arm, and they gave it sparkly fingernail polish.

Gary Gianniny

A solid find

“One of my students in a sedimentology class found these fossils,” says Professor of Geosciences Gary Gianniny. “She said the classic thing: ‘Is this something?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s something!’” This fragment turned out to be the trunk of a 300-million-year-old tree from a calamites forest, fossilized upright. “If you’ve seen horsetails,” he explains, “this is their granddaddy.”

Janneli Miller

Undercover reporting

Visiting Professor of Anthropology Janneli Miller points out a fun fact about her Tarahumara dolls: they have underwear. “You know why?” she asks. “The Tarahumara don’t wear underwear, but when they were selling them to missionaries, the Catholic padre said, ‘You have to put underwear on them.’ They didn’t even know what underwear was!”

Kenny Miller

Go get lost

Upon finishing his doctorate, Kenny Miller, associate professor of Chemistry, thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail with his brother. “He had never gone camping one day in his entire life,” Miller says. “It was fun to be back with my brother again after we’d been apart for ten years.”

Michael Dichio

Gallery track

Assistant Professor of Political Science Michael Dichio’s office is beginning to resemble one of Durango’s many art galleries. “This is only my second year, but I’ve been trying to make the space a bit more me,” he says. “I see pieces that strike me. I’m no connoisseur, but I think I’m starting to collect art now.”

Michael Valdez

Hail Michael

Michael Valdez, associate professor of Management, used to hold season tickets to the New York Jets. “When wide receiver Plaxico Burress scored his first touchdown after being in jail for shooting himself in the leg, that’s the ball,” Valdez says. “He just looked up and threw it to me.”

Natasha Tidwell


Natasha Tidwell, assistant professor of Psychology, takes her subject seriously – more so than the magazines on her wall. “I am interested in this intersection of the academic with pop culture, even though it often got the psychology wrong,” she says. “And it’s funny to me that magazines going around in the thirties said things like ‘Impotence!’”

Ava Santos

Big fanboy theory

When Professor Emeritus of Chemistry Ron Estler spotted mistakes on the white boards on The Big Bang Theory, he wrote the show’s science advisor a tongue-in-cheek letter. “Fifteen minutes later, I got his response,” he says. The two became friends, and the advisor invited Estler to tapings of the show. “It was a real neat experience that started with a single email,” he says.

Ryan Smith

Gnomeland security

Ryan Smith, assistant professor of Physics and Engineering, collects garden gnomes. “It started when I was a little kid, and now they proliferate my home, office, and life,” he says. “They migrate through, depending on who they are and what they need. These guys watch over the office while I’m gone.”

Ryan Haaland

Professor on ice

In graduate school at the University of Oxford, Professor of Physics and Engineering Ryan Haaland was captain of the ice hockey team. “Russia had just opened up,” he recalls. “So they invited us to play against all these semi-professional teams. Our interpreter was clearly KGB. It was wild.” Asked if Oxford won any games, he replies, “Of course not.”

Shere Byrd

Not a fan

The first thing you see entering Shere Byrd’s office is the framed Britney Spears photo on the top shelf.

“People ask me, ‘Are you a Britney Spears fan?’” says Byrd, professor of Biology. “And I’m like, ‘No…’”

“Besides, it isn’t really a signed Britney Spears picture,” she adds while cradling the picture with “<3 Britney” inscribed in black Sharpie.

Steven Meyers

Exception to the rules

Senior Lecturer of English Steven Meyers shows off the largest of his 31 slide rules. What’s an English lecturer doing with a slide rule, anyway? “At some point, the humanities and the sciences became separated,” he says. “I’m going to use this to build a bridge between the two cultures.”

Steve Stovall

Fast moves

“The thing I’m most proud of is my best marathon time,” says Steve Stovall, senior lecturer of Marketing, who has run thirteen marathons. Running also first caught his wife’s attention when she saw him on television during the New York City Marathon. “We were neighbors,” he laughs, “and she said that’s the first time she ever paid any attention to me!”

Dawn Mulhern

Alas, poor Yorick!

Associate Professor of Anthropology Dawn Mulhern uses a lot of bone casts for teaching. But her alien skull is just for her. “I have mixed feelings about it,” she admits. “It’s got these huge zygomatic arches, which is where the masseter muscle attaches for the jaw, but it’s got this puny jaw that couldn’t actually function. So, I have some issues.”

Michael Martin

The Skeleton Crew

Most friendships don’t last thirty years. But most friends aren’t paper skeletons. “He’s always been with me,” says Michael Martin, associate professor of History, of the companion he assembled three decades ago. “He sat in the passenger seat in the moving van whenever I moved. I think I’d be lost without him.”