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Committed to the Community: Termination of Employment Doesn’t Stop These Professors

Sara Wielenberg | Staff Writer | 4-14-2012

Photo by: Laura Talaska
As many students know, nearly twenty professors in the Humanities departments will no longer be teaching at Bemidji State due to the recalibration. Some professors took the proffered early retirement, while others had their positions eliminated. Two such professors are Dr. Carla Norris-Raynbird and Dr. Kyle Crocker.

These two professors are being pushed into leaving behind jobs that they enjoy. They make their feelings about leaving Bemidji State very clear. While their plans for the future are hopeful and positive, both still have some uncertainties to contend with.

For six years, Norris-Raynbird taught BSU classes in the field of Sociology. While Norris-Raynbird expresses understanding over the financial issues that contributed to her having to leave BSU, that understanding does not change her feelings about being nudged out of the university. Concerning leaving BSU, Norris-Raynbird says she feels “terrible—I am quite literally heart-broken that this has happened.”

Norris-Raynbird feels a connection to her students, Bemidji and BSU communities. She hopes to maintain these connections in some way. Norris-Raynbird says, “I invested a lot in BSU and with students here. I am very connected to the community and had hoped to stay permanently.”

Like many professors losing their positions, Norris-Raynbird is still uncertain about what exactly her future will hold apart from BSU. Her daughter is an international student who studies Nursing at Bemidji State and is planning to graduate next year. Norris-Raynbird’s two grandchildren also attend school in Bemidji.

Not only does Norris-Raynbird not want to leave the community she feels so connected to, but she also says, “Because of immigration requirements, I support both households, so leaving the area is not an option that is really doable.”

She says, “I am hopeful that a middle road can be found where I can be employed, continue to be of service to the community and continue to live in Bemidji.”

Crocker’s career at BSU extends over the last 27 years. His primary field is Art History, but he says he has often taught outside of that program in other Humanities courses. Art History is one of the programs that will no longer be available at Bemidji State. Crocker is one of the professors who accepted the option of early retirement.

He has mixed feelings about leaving his position here. While he is passionate about his work as a teacher, he does not like the way he sees the future of BSU in the hands of the current leadership, which he says is going in a “bad direction for future learners” by removing programs of study. He says, “I love what I do here and I don’t like to give that up….I would happily have gone longer if the institution had been what it was in the past.”

Next fall, Crocker will teach the last Art History class at BSU and after that semester, his employment at Bemidji State will be over. With 27 years of commitment to the education of BSU’s students, Crocker has considered the idea of opening an alternative university in Bemidji. This university would not offer degrees, but would be “learning for the joy of learning,” says Crocker.

The alternative university is one solution Crocker has to his problem of “reinventing” himself.

“I’m a teacher, so I have to find other ways to channel that drive,” says Crocker.
Since he enjoys many outdoor sports, he expects to find more time for those activities. “There are a lot of things I don’t have time to do that I will do,” he says.

There are many professors whose positions at BSU will cease. Drs. Norris-Raynbird and Crocker are two professors whose presence at BSU will be missed. However, these two show in their plans for the future a commitment to the community and learners of Bemidji that goes beyond their jobs at BSU.