Fall 2012—I found myself transitioning from self employment to a postdoctoral research position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Gainesville, Fla., as my wife, Corraine, finished her doctoral studies at the University of Florida.
Corraine knew she wanted to teach. Even at four years old, she practiced teaching her stuffed animals, and now she hoped to impart her love of biology to students at a small liberal arts college. One Friday evening as I perused some Adventist magazines, I noticed an ad for a biology teaching position at Union College. She turned in her application by Sunday night, had a video interview within a couple days, and an offer by the time we landed in Gainesville from an on-site interview. That is the whirlwind that brought me to Lincoln, Neb.
When we arrived in Nebraska for the on-site interview, Keith Riese, Union’s engineering professor, picked us up at the Omaha airport—some 60 miles from campus. On the drive to Lincoln, he discovered I had a Ph.D. in electrical engineering. I could see the wheels turning in his head as he discussed who might teach engineering at Union when he retired.
This topic came up again the next day at a potluck lunch, but I assured the questioners that we were in town for Corraine’s interview, not mine. I had also pursued a Ph.D. so I could eventually teach engineering at an
Adventist school—but not yet. Keith assured me he planned to stick around another three or four years, which fit my plans well since I had lined up an interesting postdoctoral research position studying drone technology at the University of Nebraska.
We were only a few months into our new jobs that school year when Keith announced his plans to retire at the end of the school year. He decided to retire earlier than planned so his successor could set up the lab and classrooms as they saw fit in the new Krueger Center.
This job was last open 33 years ago, so I felt I had to apply. And that is how I came to teach engineering and computer science at Union. As I have gotten to know other college employees, I have heard many similar stories of unusual—and even miraculous paths leading to Union.
Teaching at Union has been a pleasure. My students have worked on many different projects including printing 3D clock towers, animating plastic figures, mass manufacturing paper airplanes, designing new IT systems for Union, and programming autonomous quadcopters that react to QR codes they read. I find that I get to know my students better than I did at my previous teaching positions. The nature of our school allows me to spend more time with students, and I see many of them in multiple classes across multiple years, too.
I also enjoy getting to know them outside the classroom, either around campus or at church. I enjoy watching them mature and then leave college to be profitable members of society.
Four years ago I would not have predicted I would be teaching at Union College, but I have no doubt Union is where God wants us to be.
By Dr. Seth McNeill, assistant professor of engineering and computer science