Short answer

Extra credit

When you were in the College, what influential teachers did you have outside the classroom? And what did you learn?

Here’s what we heard from the alumni profiled in “Inside Information,” as well as the general alumni population.


One of the things that I learned was just the vastness, the richness, and the diversity of Chicago. I had the good fortune of working two summers as a CTA bus driver, and there was no better way to get to know Chicago.—Kinsey Wilson, AB’79


I would say my rowing coach. He was a senior when I was a sophomore. We used to have erg sprints. He used to have us run carrying the ergs [ergometers, indoor rowing machines] around campus in the middle of winter—running to Cobb, setting down the erg, rowing 500, picking up the erg, running to Eckhart. We did these crazy things—we’d go and row at the Chicago River in the middle of a rainstorm with a wooden boat using one hand on plastic oars. You just had to endure. The lesson there was life is going to throw you these lemons, so you better make a better, saltier version of that lemonade.—Shaun So, AB’03


A colleague at the humanities center, where I worked my senior year. It was at the Reg then. I learned that life is really always as fun as a children’s song.

That colleague is [Grammy-nominated musician] Justin Roberts [AM’99], and the song, written by him, is “Great Big Sun.”—Elatia Abate, AB’99, MBA’08

Sample lyrics: “Early in the morning when you go to school / You mind your manners don’t forget the rules / You raise your hand and you play in the sand / And say yes I, yes I, yes I, yes I can / And you say oh my gosh we’re all just great big suns / And you say oh my gosh it’s a great big sun.”—Ed.


One thing I learned at the College is how to let off steam in a healthy way. Some friends of mine in college played folk music with me, and we performed sometimes. I played a few instruments, but primarily the fiddle and banjo. Another thing I learned is that a sense of humor can get you through a lot.—John Haugland, AB’82, MPP’90


My father taught me to juggle around the time I went off to college. I remember practicing while walking around the circular corridor on my floor of Pierce Tower.

Later I met Joe Buhler—a pro-level juggler, a mathematician from Reed College at the time, and eventually one coauthor on “Juggling Drops and Descents,” a paper on the math behind the art form. He was a great teacher, and my juggling took a great leap forward. I still practice a bit and juggle with Joe whenever we’re together. —David Eisenbud, SB’66, SM’67, PhD’70


I was a work-study student at the D’Angelo Law Library throughout College. I worked during the academic year and every summer. The librarians were always so supportive and made all the student workers feel like they were part of the staff.

After graduation, I struggled to figure out what I should do after being stuck in a rather uninspiring job as an executive assistant. So I applied for a job at the library at the Chicago Historical Society based on my job experience and history degree. I loved it and ended up getting my MA in library and information science, eventually returning to UChicago at Regenstein Library. I now work with some of the librarians who supervised me.

There is so much pressure sometimes for students to find “the” internship to shape their future, but a lot can be learned from traditional campus jobs. University staff (housing staff, advisers, etc.) play really important roles for students on campus. My former resident heads are also very high on my list.—Rebecca Starkey, AB’95


Thanks to my exposure to the Socratic method in more than one course in the College, I learned how to adapt it for good use in this, my final career, as an expert witness.

In the course of a lawsuit, I am called upon by retaining attorneys to develop questions that they may pose to certain opposing witnesses at depositions. Knowing in advance what the correct, necessary, and truthful answers must be, I prepare sequences of questions that, when so answered, lead to final and crushing “therefore” type queries.

It’s not pretty, but my retaining attorneys get the admissions that they want. I, of course, get money.—Larry Lowenthal, AB’64


(Photography courtesy the CTA, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)