Professors share their reasons for choosing UNO


Anjanae Crump, Editor-in-Chief

  Each year, young adults everywhere are faced with the task of deciding which college to attend, and many end up at UNO. However, UNO is a destination not only for students, but also for the professors who teach them — and they have their own reasons for choosing the university as well.

  “For me, the community of scholars and professors was what made this decision easy,” said education professor Abram Himelstein.

  Himelstein earned his MFA at UNO. After working as a writer and starting the Neighborhood Story Project, he was happy for the chance to return to UNO and work as a professor. Cynthia Ybos, also a professor in the College of Education, says her career had a similar beginning.

  “Actually, UNO chose me,” she said. After attaining her master’s degree from UNO, she filled a teaching assistant spot, unaware that assisting actually meant teaching. “[It] scared the living daylights out of me, but I did it anyway and really enjoyed it,” Ybos added. She was eventually asked to work full-time as an instructor.

  For English professor Patricia Roger the decision to teach at UNO “wasn’t a choice in the usual sense of the word.” Originally from New Mexico City, Roger finished her Ph.D. at Tulane University. With three children attending UNO, she decided it was better to stay in New Orleans.

  Although it’s difficult to find a job teaching in the humanities at the college level, Roger said, she applied to UNO and got the job.

  History professor Connie Atkinson, who started at UNO doing research with the Midlo Center and is now its co-director, shared similar sentiments about the lack of availability of collegiate work.

  “It’s not like other jobs, there has to be a vacancy in your topic … [and] there may not be a vacancy in your topic anywhere but in two universities in the whole country,” said Atkinson.

  “New Orleans is quite an attraction for people above and beyond our resources … Almost everyone in the country has heard of New Orleans … so, I think a lot of young scholars apply for jobs at UNO who wouldn’t ordinarily apply.”

  Though landing the job may not have been easy, Himelstein, Ybos, Roger and Atkinson are happy with their jobs here for various reasons. They said some of their favorite parts of UNO are the students and their colleagues.

  “My favorite part of working here is the students — but the faculty is a close second. My colleagues have helped the programs adapt to the times, so that we can continue to give our students a top-flight education,” said Himelstein.

  “I think that the faculty, at least those that I know, are dedicated to giving the students the best possible education that they can and … are really dedicated to UNO and trying to make sure that it survives and grows and gets stronger and better,” Roger said. “So, I think that’s great.

  “Many of our students face immense life challenges, but they have a good attitude and are willing to give you the best they can offer,” Ybos said. “They truly want to learn and are usually appreciative of whatever you give them. It makes my job so much easier and enjoyable.”

  However, there is still room for improvement in various areas at UNO.

  Ybos wishes there was more flexibility in class scheduling in order to better accommodate students, such as 75-minute classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Roger said she’d like more dependable and convenient technology, such as laptops in classrooms. Atkinson said she’d like more signage to help people navigate the campus, a cleaner environment and senior common rooms to make connecting with other faculty members easier.

  “While I would say that I do overall enjoy being part of the UNO community, there have been some difficult times and not everyone at various levels have been supportive,” said Ybos.

  “UNO for the last few years has not been a fun place for faculty,” Atkinson said. “We’ve been deluged with different, sometimes contradictory, ways of recording what we do every day and it gives faculty the impression that administration might not think we work hard enough. And most of us work 60 hours a week.”

  Roger said she thinks UNO is doing the best that it can with the resources it has. However, professors haven’t received a raise in over a decade, since right after Hurricane Katrina.

  “When you’re not getting a raise or any financial awards for your job, you really would like to know that the people you work for appreciate what you’re doing,” Atkinson said, “And that hasn’t always been the case.”

  Despite these grievances, the professors share a sense of pride and hope that helps keep UNO alive.

  “I really like the current direction of the university,” Himelstein said. “I believe that we are beginning to experience tailwinds from our state government, which will go a long way toward allowing UNO to grow, thrive and serve the New Orleans region.”

  “I hope it continues,” said Ybos.