Shannon Dahlquist transferred from a university in Wisconsin to Central Michigan University, but she didn’t expect her father to follow her.
“He was called by one of the CMU representatives from the (business) department,” the Grand Rapids junior said. “It was a totally separate thing. It kind of works out that we both ended up here.”
Shannon spends most of her time in the Education and Human Services building, while her father Steven Dahlquist spends his time on the north end of campus in Smith and Grawn halls.
“The best part is that I get to see her a couple times a week if we want to,” said Steven, a marketing professor. “I live in Grand Rapids. It’s nice that we can get a cup of coffee or go get dinner.”
Steven said the best part of the experience for him is having Shannon help him learn new techniques for teaching his classes.
“She’s in the education department,” he said. “We’re always talking about teaching methods and classroom methods. I use that in making my classrooms more effective.”
Depending on how many courses the faculty teaches or if the staff is full-time, they can receive up to 12 free credit hours per semester. Most fixed-term faculty members enjoy nine hours and pass the benefits on to their children.
With nearly free tuition, advice on how the university works and who the best professors are, students who have faculty members for parents often benefit.
“A big benefit is having someone on campus that has food,” said Alec Burch, a junior and history major from Mount Pleasant. “If I’m on campus and I’m hungry, I can just drop by her office.”
Alec believes his mother, Julia Burch, director of MTH 005/105 and graduate teaching assistant supervisor, gives him an edge other than food, over his peers. He said she knows which teachers to work with and where to go when there are issues with registration.
However, Alec has come across problems in the past when he’s heard classmates talk about the math department along with his mother in particular.
“I’ve had a lot of acquaintances that have had her as a teacher,” Alec said. “I’ve heard people rip her a new one before they knew she was my mom. I’ve also heard of people who love her, which is cool.”
Julia said she enjoys having Alec on campus. She said the best part is when he visits her office every few weeks.
A local crew
Most CMU students who have parents on campus have graduated from Mount Pleasant High School.
Logan Echelberger, a sophomore from Mount Pleasant, said he feels his dad, Matt Echelberger, an English and creative writing professor, helped him reach goals with advice about professors.
“He knows professors and the reviews they get,” Logan said. “He knows me, so he can tell who’s going to be a good match.”
Logan said CMU wasn’t his first choice, but he came here because of the tuition benefit faculty and their children receive.
“I still take out loans,” Logan said. “If I take more than 12 credits, I still have to pay. I still would have to pay for room and board, too. This is a little bit of a different experience than people who come from out of town.”
Conflict of interest
Some students are concerned about peers taking their parents’ classes.
Julia said she would never let Alec into one of her classes because of the conflict of interest.
“There are other classes and other teachers,” Julia said. ”His scholastic achievements deserve merit on their own, without any appearance of nepotism attached.”
Logan said he wouldn’t take one of his dad’s classes because of the conflict of interest, but he said it would be interesting to see how his dad would grade him if he did.
“It’d be weird. I can’t see him as a teacher,” Logan said. “He’s a smart and intelligent guy but seeing all the different sides of him, you have to remember that, oh, he’s a professor.”
He thinks his father would grade him harder than other students. Logan said he would be caught quickly if he didn’t put forth his best effort.
Shannon and Steven are not in the same department or even on the same end of campus, but Steven said he has had Shannon’s friends in class. He said it takes some effort not to make the classroom experience strange.
“When you’re a professor, you have to think about having your son or daughter’s friends in class,” Steven said. “There’s potential stress. You have to make sure that it doesn’t make the relationship in the classroom weird.”
Note: Katherine Ranzenberger is the daughter of Mark Ranzenberger, a fixed-term faculty member in the Journalism and Broadcast and Cinematic Arts departments, and stepdaughter of Karen Ranzenberger, the program administrator and online undergraduate course coordinator for the Central Michigan University Global Campus. She has never taken a class from either parent and plans to avoid it at all costs.