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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Masters become students

Professors enroll in Lafayette classes
Professor+Laurie+Caslake+has+reignited+her+old+passion+for+flute-playing.
Photo by Patrick Hansell for The Lafayette
Professor Laurie Caslake has reignited her old passion for flute-playing.

A classroom is a likely place for a professor to be. But typically not as a student.

However, at Lafayette, faculty members have the opportunity to take audited classes each semester at no cost. From weekly music classes to language courses, many faculty members are taking the opportunity to retry old passions and explore new interests.

Biology professor Laurie Caslake, for example, took weekly flute lessons for several years through the music department.

“I played the flute in my elementary school days,” Caslake said. “When I got here, I didn’t do anything for a number of years, but then at some point, I decided I needed an outlet and decided to take music lessons again.”

For the past two semesters, Caslake has been auditing French courses in preparation for future travel experiences.

“I remember all of the stress and time it takes to learn something,” Caslake said. “I’m going through all of the things that students do, trying to learn something which I haven’t had to do in a really long time. So it’s good to sort of be on the other side of the desk and learn again and be wrong and be willing to be wrong on things.”

Caslake is an “exceptional student,” according to assistant professor of French Mathieu Perrot.

“She was always making sure that she was giving room to the students for them to express themselves,” Perrot said. “Especially at the beginning of the semester, she really wanted the students to feel comfortable in the classroom because it is a little intimidating for students, so she was making room and always waiting for the students to participate first.”

In Perrot’s experience, having a professor take his class has positively impacted his undergraduate students.

“It creates a very interesting opportunity in the classroom precisely because students can see that we always keep learning, it doesn’t stop,” Perrot said.

Having Caslake in his class has inspired Perrot to consider exploring language and biology classes in unfamiliar departments and topics.

“I would be very curious to know more about anything related to mushrooms and moths,” Perrot said. “If there’s a class that I could take, I would really like to do that.”

Geology professor David Sunderlin had a similar experience when he took weekly guitar lessons from music professor Tom Kozic in the fall of 2019 and spring of 2020. He hadn’t played since college.

Guitar playing has once more become a passion for geology professor David Sunderlin. (Photo by Patrick Hansell)

“I think in addition to the obvious sort of takeaway of improving my skills in guitar playing, I took away the excited feeling of learning by being a student in a class and challenging myself in ways that were difficult at times,” Sunderlin said. “When I was tasked with learning something that was very hard, it helped me recall what it was like to be a student and that recollection brought a smile to my face.”

To Alexis Fisher, a piano instructor in the music department, the experience of teaching professors and other faculty members is very joyful. Not only has Fisher instructed countless faculty members over her 38 years of teaching, but she has also taken English literature courses in the past on campus. Fisher said that it is very special for professors to have the opportunity to take lessons. 

According to Fisher, professors “bring a lot of expertise from their own professions to the piano and the lessons.”

“They ask questions, they don’t stop until they understand it completely,” Fisher said. “I learn a lot from them.”

For many faculty members, the free courses Lafayette offers allow them to learn from one another and expand from their main courses of study. Government and law professor Il Hyun Cho, who is taking piano classes for the first time with Fisher, believes the experience to be valuable.

“I am often humbled by the experience,” Cho said. “In my classes, I am a teacher, but at my piano lessons I am a student.”

Trebor Maitin ’24 contributed reporting.

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About the Contributors
Isabella Gaglione, Culture Editor
Isabella Gaglione (she/her) is a junior English and Film & Media Studies double major from Long Island, New York. The Lafayette's resident Taylor Swift Reporter. 
Patrick Hansell, Staff Photographer

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