Being Both an Alum and a Faculty Member

Laura Grube’08 knew she wanted to go to a small, liberal arts college, but she didn’t know she would end up teaching at her alma mater as an Assistant Professor of Economics.

Class Year: 2008
 Economics, minor in African studies.
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI

Major: Right after college, I received a Fulbright scholarship to work with a research center in Johannesburg, South Africa. I worked on three major policy areas: urban and rural land reform, community-based natural resource management, and traditional leadership (and political reform). I was using both my major and minor right after college.

How did you hear about Beloit? What made you excited to come here?
I was pretty sure I wanted to go to a small liberal arts college because I liked the type of community you find at residential liberal arts colleges. So I applied to Beloit, Knox, Grinnell, and Macalester (to name a few). I did visits and had a really great experience during my Beloit visit. We also had a family friend whose daughter was a student, Danielle Chojnacki (who majored in psychology at Beloit and is currently an attorney with the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office). Looking back on it, the culture of Beloit was a good fit for me. I went to a really competitive high school, and Beloit didn’t have that same intense feeling — it’s a community of people who value learning and support each others’ learning.

What kind of activities were you involved with on campus?
RA, Spanish club, Mortar Board, Senior Class Officer, ultimate frisbee, Belmark Associates, TA for Econ classes

What off-campus opportunities did you enjoy?
I studied abroad in Durban, South Africa, through the School for International Training (SIT). When I came to Beloit, I knew I wanted to study abroad. I wanted to go to a place and study a country that I wouldn’t be able to access as a tourist (or, access in the same way). The South Africa program involved multiple home stays, for example — you are with American students in class, but you aren’t living in dorms at a university. You’re a part of a community. I was able to see the everyday struggles of people — the challenge of transportation, the impact of illness, specifically HIV/AIDS, and how division of labor within the household took place. Economic development became a much more meaningful, and admittedly, more complex, process when you observe life at the household level. I know that if I had gone to South Africa as a tourist, I wouldn’t have had the same experience.

Where is your favorite space on campus?
The first floor of the library. It’s a place where you can study and also work on assignments with friends. If I were a student now, I think I’d also say the student seminar room in Campbell Hall.

What would your advice be to future Beloiters?
I think I’d encourage them to make the most of the community here, which to me is all of the people: meeting with faculty during their office hours, not being afraid to sit with new people at lunch, exploring the clubs and extracurriculars and making connections with folks there. One of my students in FYI, she’s from India, she went out for cross country and made wonderful friends. She’s absolutely fearless; she had never done competitive running, but decided to give it a try. And of course, I’d encourage them to go to the farmers’ market, or check out different restaurants downtown, so “get involved, be proactive.”

What has it been like to be on the other side of the mentor relationship? What do you enjoy most about teaching students at Beloit?
I think the mentoring relationship is something unique to small liberal arts colleges. And I know that when I was an undergrad here I absolutely had professors who really challenged me, who I knew cared about me, and that I looked up to. They were instrumental to my success. A lot of those faculty were in the Economics Department because that was my major, but some of them weren’t. There was a faculty member, John Rosenwald, in the English Department, who encouraged me to keep writing and to study abroad. I had Matt Tedesco (in Philosophy), and I loved his teaching style, and I learned a lot from him about bringing passion to what you do. After I graduated and entered the work world, I tried some things - being in South Africa again was a great experience and I learned a lot from working in business consulting for two years. I realized that I wanted to do something that I felt was more meaningful. And I knew a way to do that would be teaching at a place like Beloit.

As a mentor to students now, I spend a lot of my time helping students find internships and jobs and navigate that process. I organize our department alumni event, which is work I really enjoy because I like finding out what our alumni are doing now - they are impressive people doing important things! I like being able to talk with them and share stories about Beloit. Being able to link together generations of Beloiters — connecting current students with alumni — and helping those students imagine their future selves is incredibly rewarding.

What do you enjoy most about being able to represent and support the college both as an alumna and faculty member?
I enjoy hearing from folks on the alumni board about what their most memorable experiences were at the college, and learning about things the college did at different points in its history– how we might translate that to a new initiative today. One of the goals coming from the Beloit Forward Committee is to re-engage alumni and figure out how to leverage that resource, and so I feel like there’s an opportunity through alumni board to do work that is meaningful — that really reaches to that goal. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I hope we can bring energy to Beloiters Unite events, make sure homecoming and reunion are things that people really are inspired to come back for, and there are great opportunities to get alumni more involved in the academic and professional development of our current students.

What changes on campus and in town would you consider to be the most different and beneficial over your time here in Beloit?
CELEB is really impressive. I’ve hosted a student seminar over a weekend there. It’s a space where students can come together to collaborate on a project, unwind through a creative endeavor in the maker’s lab, and — as we did over a weekend seminar — offers conference space where students can practice professional skills. As a resident of Beloit, I would also have to say the restaurants, specifically Velvet Buffalo, are wonderful. The new YMCA is absolutely phenomenal. I have a 16 month old son,and the Y offers a play room where he can run around, ride a tricycle, and enjoy a swing when it’s really cold. The daycare and pool are amazing perks as well.

February 01, 2019
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