An Interview with Chris Smith

What will you be doing next fall (or when you start your new position)?  And how do you expect it will be different from your work here at Antioch?
I begin my new position in August.  I will be Assistant Professor of Psychology, Human Development, and Women’s Studies at University of Wisconsin, Green Bay.  Probably the biggest difference will be in class size.  For example, my intro to Psychology course will have 125 students. I’m going to a state school, and many of the students are first-generation college students.  I suspect they will have working technology, and if it doesn’t, they will actually have staff on hand to fix it.  I also expect that there will be soap in all the bathrooms.

What do you think you will miss the most about Antioch and what do you think you will miss the least?
I will certainly miss the students.  I love the fact that I can get to know my students because classes are small.  I love the fact that students are generally quite aware of world issues and that most people are politically liberal.  Students here tend to be intellectually curious for its own sake, which makes being a professor a wonderful experience. Antioch attracts a lot of great, funny, witty characters, and I mean that in the best sense.  I was talking in my Social Psychology class about how we sometimes cannot easily come up with reasons why we like or love something because it is so difficult to put into words.  This really is an amazing place and I will miss all the little things like knowing almost everyone on campus and being able to sit on committees with students.

What I won’t miss:  Having buildings full of insects.  Being the only person in my discipline.  Every one of my colleagues who has left has told me that they work less and get paid more.  That sounds quite appealing.  I will also not miss the tension and intolerance I sometimes see here.  I don’t like that people can feel afraid to express their opinions, and that too often we often don’t give people the opportunity to make mistakes. This isn’t all the time, but when it happens it makes me angry and embarrassed to be in a community that thinks it is ever acceptable to treat its members so poorly. I will also miss many of my colleagues.  I think we have some amazing faculty and I have made some wonderful friends here.  The staff here, too, is incredible.  So many dedicated people.

Obviously your decision was a difficult one, what kinds of things Went into making it?
It was VERY difficult.  The biggest factor is that I need to be employed and the way the hiring goes in psychology, I couldn’t wait until February to know the fate of my job.  Basically, in psychology, job ads come out in Fall 2007 for jobs that begin in 2008.  Interviews and job offers come in late fall and early winter.    I love Antioch, and if you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you I’m going to retire out of here in about 20 years.  But other people (who clearly do not have the best interests of the college at heart) were making very different decisions about the fate of Antioch.  I hate those people and what they have done to the lives of so many people who matter to me.

Why Wisconsin?
I love cheese and I love snow.  I certainly did not set out to get a job in Wisconsin.  It was one of the states on my list for consideration because it had a relatively reasonable cost of living, is not a blatantly red state, and, honestly, I like winter and I hate really hot, humid weather.   But the biggest reason is the school, UWGB.  It is easy to be dazzled by new classrooms and technology that is updated for the new millennium, but the place definitely has substance.  All my colleagues in Psychology (12 in all) are active researchers in their field, yet very committed to teaching.  It is a liberal arts school with a heavy emphasis on interdisciplinary. Plus, state schools are more secure.  They are unlikely to be closed for financial or other reasons. Also, my wife Julie needs to find a job (she is a Personality Psychologist) and we wanted to go to an area with job opportunities for her.

Overall, what was the reaction like by your associates at Antioch?
Honestly, the most common reaction is, good for you and I don’t blame you.

How has Antioch affected your work, what, if anything will you be taking with you to UWGB?
Antioch has really impacted my work because I teach very differently in a class with 20 than a class with 120.  But besides that, I really enjoy the intellectual stimulation I got here, and I love that students really challenge me. Antioch is so unique that no one leaves here unchanged.  I hope I can instill the love of learning and the playfulness we have here.

Are you still going to write on Pulse?
Ha-ha.  Probably even more this semester, because I’m leaving so I have less to worry about.  I especially will continue to rant about my personal pet peeve here, the number of students who smoke.

If not through Pulse then via The Record, is there anything you would like to say to Antioch?
I am the poster child for the love/hate relationship that many of us have for Antioch.  At its best, it has been the most enriching teaching experience of my life.  I really, really hope that the school stays open. It is devastating for me that I cannot be here for that if it happens. The world needs Antioch.  But I also know that Antioch will do just fine without me.  That doesn’t mean I think I won’t be missed.  It means that Antioch has a rich heritage and position in higher education that will survive, if only some people let it.  I also have a several more words I would like to say to people such as Toni Murdoch, but I think I’ll say those in person.