The end of the school year can be an emotional time for college seniors about to embark on the next chapter of their life. But another population goes through a similar experience: retiring faculty.
When Mark Morris came to Miami University as a graduate student in 1995, he planned to move away after graduating. Then Miami offered him a full-time research position in the political science department, and he planned to stay for a few years and leave.
Then he fell in love with his job, so he stayed.
“Opportunities come up and you take them,” said Morris, now an associate clinical professor of political science. “That’s just kind of how it goes. You don’t really plan them.”
This year is Morris’ last at Miami. Through his more than 20 years here, he said his favorite part has been the students.
“Miami attracts a really high caliber student,” Morris said. “I’ve been really fortunate to work with a lot of really bright, talented people.”
While keeping up with students’ ever-evolving technologies and learning styles isn’t easy, Morris has enjoyed the challenge.
The disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic served as the ultimate challenge in staying with the times — and also helped Morris decide it was time to retire.
“The tides are changing, the university is changing,” Morris said. “It sounds cliche, but you just know when the time is right.”
Although Morris doesn’t have any concrete plans for his retirement, he’s looking forward to traveling, cycling and spending more time with his children and granddaughter.
“I feel like a senior in college,” Morris said. “I don’t know what next year is gonna look like, I don’t know exactly what my finances are gonna look like … I’m just doing it at the end of my career instead of the beginning.”
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Kay Edwards, a professor of music education, came to Miami in 2001 after teaching at various colleges, elementary schools and secondary schools for 17 years. Having grown up in Cincinnati, coming to Oxford “felt like coming back home,” she said
Edwards is especially pleased with her book on Native American music in the elementary classroom, which will come out this summer.
“It’s kind of a pinnacle achievement for me,” Edwards said. “It’s been a long, 12-year project.”
Although she’s enjoyed her academic work, Edwards said her favorite memories are the unexpected moments that happen when she takes her students into schools to teach children.
She remembers when she was teaching a group of four-year-olds, one of whom was autistic.
“I started singing a song, and one little boy in the group, [who] was the boy with autism, immediately covers his ears and yells ‘No, stop singing!’” Edwards said. “I said ‘Sometimes, music just makes us feel a lot better, if we’re having a bad day. Just try it and see if it’s not too loud.’”
The students then began a movement activity, and Edwards asked the boy if the music was making him feel better. He said yes. She asked him if it was still too loud. “I guess not,” he said.
Although she is retiring from Miami, Edwards said she’s not retiring from the music education profession. She will stay involved through workshops and conference presentations, as well as service projects for school districts.
Edwards said there are many things she’ll miss about teaching, watching the growth of her students will be missed the most.
“[I’ll miss] seeing them go on to be very successful public school teachers,” Edwards said.
“I’ll be staying in touch with them, but just being a part of that growth as they hone their skills and become their own teacher.”
Shelly Jarrett Bromberg
Shelly Jarrett Bromberg, an associate professor of Spanish and director of Liberal Education, has worked at Miami for over 20 years. She said she’s loved every minute of it, especially working with students.
“I taught my last class last semester,” Jarrett Bromberg said. “They brought me flowers and candy on the last day. I was glad to be able to get back to teaching face to face one more time.”
Jarrett Bromberg said it’s hard saying goodbye, but her experience working with faculty as director of Liberal Education has assured her it's the right decision.
“I’m going to be turning 65, and it’s time to make room for my younger colleagues,” Jarret Bromberg said. “We have so many bright, passionate, younger faculty … who knows what direction they will take the department and the university.”
Jarret Bromberg said she’ll miss her students, but she’s looking forward to retirement.
“I think I’m going to spend as much time as I can with my husband, who I adore, and maybe the cats because they’re here, and do some research I’ve been wanting to do that isn’t directly related to my main area,” Jarret Bromberg said. “And swim 50 minutes every day.”
John Bailer, professor and department chair of statistics, hates routine. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed in over 30 years: his love for Miami.
Bailer graduated from Miami in 1982. After receiving his doctoral degree from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, he returned in 1988 as a faculty member.
“I like the diversity and unpredictability of the kinds of tasks and opportunities that emerge in an environment like this,” Bailer said. “Why have I done this this long? Because it’s not the same thing year after year.”
From research and writing, to working with students, to co-creating a podcast, Bailer hasn’t had a boring day in his career.
Much like his time at Miami, Bailer plans to avoid rigid schedules in retirement.
“I’m open to everything and agreeing to nothing,” Bailer said. “Rosemary [Pennington] and I have a book coming out later this year on statistics behind the headlines, and I’m pretty excited about that.”
Bailer said he’ll miss the community at Miami the most, as well as the unpredictable environment of academia.
“It’s going to be a pretty dramatic change from what’s familiar,” Bailer said.
He motioned around his office, where dozens of volumes – several with his name on them – were piled onto shelves, and mounds of paper cluttered his desk.
“If chaos is the norm, what happens when you remove it?” Bailer asked. “I’ll probably miss some of that chaos.”
Retirement comes with many emotions – sadness, excitement, nostalgia – but what Bailer feels the most, as he looks back on his career at Miami, is gratitude.
“I’ve been blessed to do what I do,” Bailer said. “I feel very fortunate and blessed for my time here.”