“I always count by (my son) Mac,” professor Jane Lothian Murray says when asked how long she has been teaching at the University of Winnipeg (U of W).
It’s been nearly 20 years since both the birth of her son and her arrival at the U of W, and Lothian Murray still teaches with a spirit that one who meets her could only describe as joyful.
“Originally, I started university with the intention of practising law,” Lothian Murray recalls. “I studied two years, wrote my LSAT and got in.”
Deciding against law school after extensive research into the profession, she soon turned her attention to criminology. She earned both of her degrees – a BA in criminology and a master’s degree in sociology – from the University of Manitoba (U of M).
“I’m a little bit of a different creature in academia,” Lothian Murray says.
As an instructor, her job is exclusively to teach and is not subject to the academic adage of “publish or perish.” This has allowed Lothian Murray time to spend further investigating topics of interest to her, including new areas of sociology, such as interpersonal violence, as well as environmental sociology, which she has been able to incorporate into her popular introductory sociology textbook Sociology in our Times.
Lothian Murray’s enthusiasm for the subjects she teaches is palpable, and last year she was honoured with the Clifford J. Robson Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence.
What’s your biggest pet peeve as a professor?: PowerPoint, because what’s happening increasingly is that it’s a disincentive to active learning. So I’m finding more and more that unless it’s on PowerPoint, (students) don’t write (information) down ... My other one is don’t send me an email asking me something that’s on the (course) outline. I will not be happy!
What was your worst grade in university?: I didn’t have very many. That sounds obnoxious … It was a B+.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?: I would create the cure for degenerative neurological disorders. I wish for that one a lot. There isn’t any degenerative brain disorder actually that I know of that’s treatable.
What is something you have learned from your students?: Optimism and passion for life.