Mollie Blackburn and Mindi Rhoades, Ohio State faculty members and together 20 years, first met as high school English teachers in Athens, GA. They moved to Columbus, OH, in 2001 when Mollie joined the College of Education and Human Ecology (EHE).
They not only work at the same institution, but also in the same department. At EHE’s Department of Teaching and Learning, Mollie researches and teaches topics in adolescent literature and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. Mindi joined the department faculty in 2008. Her teaching and research focus on integrated arts-based learning.
Their close professional proximity comes with unique challenges and opportunities. Some of the benefits are smaller in scale, such as sharing transportation costs and securing a “built-in backup” if one cannot attend a departmental meeting. Other benefits are more impactful, including the support they receive from the department.
“The university is very good at scheduling our teaching responsibilities around our child care needs,” Mollie said. Mindi and Mollie have two children (12- and seven-year olds) and the Department of Teaching and Learning works to avoid overlapping their evening schedules.
Both of their children were born at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, which creates another strong family connection to campus. “I remember being able to see Ohio Stadium from the delivery room!” Mollie said.
The challenges of working in the same university department include maintaining a level of separation both in the office and at home.
Mollie and Mindi work to demonstrate their unique professional identities. “We are careful about separating things at work so our individual scholarly contributions are recognized,” Mollie said.
“That might be less important if we worked in different departments,” Mindi added.
They are also highly aware of their workplace interactions, including departmental meetings. For example, Mollie and Mindi said they do not sit too close together at meetings to avoid appearing as an automatic alliance on important department decisions.
This sense of separation extends to their home in the Clintonville neighborhood. Only this time, the separation is to remove work conversation from their home life.
“It’s important to keep a level of separation between work and home when you both work in the same department,” Mollie said.
At the end of the day, both Mollie and Mindi appreciate the opportunity to work together. “There’s something great about having a shared understanding of each other’s jobs and our workplace’s values,” Mollie said.