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Professors trade UM blue for OSU scarlet, stronger economy

For much of the Ohio State community, the University of Michigan is that rival school up north, but for a few Buckeye professors, it is a place they once called home.

John Volakis, an electrical and computer engineering professor, worked at Michigan for 19 years before coming to OSU in 2003.

Though Volakis completed his master’s and doctorate degrees at OSU, he did not see himself leaving Ann Arbor to come back.

“I never thought I was going to leave Michigan, not in a million years,” Volakis said. “I was doing very well there, but when you are doing well is when you seem to get calls.”

The call was for a director position at the ElectroScience Laboratory at OSU and it presented a tough choice for Volakis.

“It was an extremely hard decision because you have to pick up everything and go,” Volakis said. “It was the hardest decision I ever made, and the hardest work.”

While Volakis has been at OSU for eight years, two professors recently made jumps to OSU from Michigan.

Jennifer Crocker, a professor of psychology, spent 15 years at Michigan before starting at OSU this summer.

She said it was not hard to leave Michigan.

“There are a lot of nice things about Michigan, and it is truly a great public university,” Crocker said. “But I lived there for 15 years and it can get old. It was time to make a change.”

Joining her this summer was mass communication professor Brad Bushman. He said he enjoyed the seven years he spent working at Michigan but the offer at OSU was too good to pass up.

“The economy has been abysmal in Michigan, and Ohio State was very smart in coming after us when their economy was struggling,” Bushman said. “I told Michigan if they matched the offer I would stay, but they couldn’t.”

OSU School of Communication director Carroll Glynn was responsible for hiring Bushman. She said being able to add someone with a research background, like Bushman, is not easy in this economy.

“It is always a competition because the school they are at wants to keep them, and you are trying to get them,” Glynn said. “The hope is there is a reason they want to come.”

Rick Fitzgerald, a university spokesman for Michigan, said the recruiting of faculty back and forth between the two schools is not unusual.

“Looking at the data, we have lost some faculty to Ohio State over the years, but we have also gained around the same amount from Ohio State,” Fitzgerald said. “It about evens itself out in the end.”

As for the rivalry between the two schools, each professor has a different take.

Bushman said it is hard to switch allegiances in just a few months.

Crocker said she finds the whole thing interesting.

“Funny thing is I was not much of a sports fan in Ann Arbor. I think I went to like two football games there,” Crocker said. “So to me it is not a big deal, but to everybody else it is.”

There is a little more to it for Volakis and the rivalry. Not only has he attended one school and worked at both, he also has one son who is a Michigan graduate and another in his third year at OSU.

“One son is definitely 100 percent blue and the other is 100 percent scarlet,” Volakis said.

Volakis and Crocker both had sons who stayed in Michigan for school, and Bushman has a daughter he said also liked it better there.

None of their transitions were without bumps, but, after all three lived in a place many at OSU consider enemy territory, Bushman summed up their feelings about their current home well.

“I liked it at Michigan and I will always have fond memories there,” Bushman said. “But I am here now and glad to be here.”

 

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