Dual Degrees of Love: Faculty Couples Spotlight

The Albion College logo sports pink and red coloring with a cupid flying through the letter “O.” On Albion College’s campus, there are a variety of faculty and staff couples (Illustration by Killian Altayeb).

When it comes to faculty and staff couples, Albion College boasts a rich tapestry of pairings, each with distinct love stories that go beyond academic pursuits. 

Two of these couples, who discovered love before joining Albion, manage both their personal and professional lives as a team on campus. These pairings serve as a reminder of maintaining a commitment to both a partner and a career simultaneously.

Karen Erlandson and Cliff Harris, communications and chemistry professors

Professors Karen Erlandson and Cliff Harris pose in front of the Triton Pool in front of the Cranbrook Art Museum (Photo courtesy of Karen Erlandson).

Having crossed paths at a faculty retreat, Chemistry Professor Cliff Harris had already been employed at the college for several years when Communications Professor Karen Erlandson joined the faculty.

As the only current faculty couple not both employed in the same department, Erlandson said she thinks it makes for a very different experience compared to others.

“We’re in totally separate buildings, and we’re in different parts of campus,” Erlandson said. “I think it’s nice because we both understand each other’s job, and we have a lot of similar colleagues, so we have a lot of shared experiences.”

Erlandson also acknowledged the rarity of both obtaining a doctorate and securing tenure-track positions at the same institution. 

“I also think we got lucky because the number of people that get a Ph.D. is small. The number of people that get tenure track jobs is even smaller. For two people to be able to get a perfect job and get tenure in the same place is pretty unusual,” Erlandson said.

Further acknowledging the differences between their roles on campus, Erlandson said that they’ve both made efforts over the years to understand each other’s subjects. For Erlandson, that’s meant sitting in on the odd chemistry lecture; for Harris, it’s meant refreshing his communication skills. 

Erlandson said that she’s grateful that working for Albion College allowed her and her husband to meet.

“I think it’s a joy having him here in the same place to work with me. I like him a lot, and I know I sound so cheesy, but it’s true,” Erlandson said.

Carrie Menold and Mick McRivette, geology professors

Professors Carrie Menold and Mick McRivette pose in Yosemite National Park. Both professors work in the geology department at Albion College (Photo courtesy of Carrie Menold).

Geology Professors Carrie Menold and Mick McRivette met in 2003 when McRivette gained admission to UCLA. While neither of them had received their doctorates, Menold was three years ahead in her academic pursuits. 

Despite their differences, they solidified their compatibility during a research trip.

“We did our research in Tibet, in China and he was my field assistant that summer. It was three months in the middle of nowhere, and we were still together by the end of it,” Menold said.

Both are now employed in Albion College’s geology department. Menold said their shared graduate school experience primed them for working in close proximity. 

“From the very beginning of our relationship, we’ve always worked together. His specialty is different than mine, but being in the same department means collaborating in the same environment,” Menold said.

Despite sharing a workspace on many occasions, the couple has made an effort to maintain a clear distinction between their home and work lives, attributing their success to establishing boundaries.

“I think once you’re at home, you have to draw a few invisible boundaries, right? I think you have to sort of just be mindful of what’s going on,” Menold said.

Both professors make an effort to prioritize their family when home, even with the ever-present tasks of grading and teaching. Amid these circumstances though, they share a mutual understanding of what it’s like being a professor.

The couple acknowledged Albion College’s positive environment as a contributing factor to their success and the success of other couples.

“You find more couples at liberal arts colleges because they seem more open to the idea that you can get some benefit by working with your spouse,” Menold said. “There are some nice things, I think, that happen, like living in town and our son being able to know our students.” 

In reflecting on their journey, Menold said, “sometimes you just need to embrace love and not worry about whether it’s like what you imagined. Sometimes you just find your person. It is not exactly what you imagined, but it’s just as good as you hoped.”

Killian Altayeb has a major in the chemistry department. 

About Killian Altayeb 24 Articles
Killian Altayeb is from Novi, Michigan and is a second-year student at Albion College. They are a Biochemistry Major with a journalistic interest in all things public health. Contact Killian via email at NA12@albion.edu.

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