by Clare Bender

This fall, the University of Northwestern – St. Paul is welcoming five new, full-time professors. These professors’ departments include Engineering, History, English and Literature, World Languages and Music. In this interview, there is an introduction with four of them.

Dr. Heather Peterson

Department: English and Literature Department Chair

Past Job: Dr. Peterson has previously been an English professor at UNW. Last year, Dr. Peterson was a professor at the University of Colorado Springs.

Family: Dr. Peterson and her husband, Tim, have two young daughters, ages five and six.

Hobbies: Dr. Peterson and her husband are in a gourmet dinner club with fellow English professor Dr. Keith Jones and his wife.

What is something you wish your students knew about you?

Dr. Peterson said, “I really am open to constructive feedback on my courses—I need it to make sure my courses challenge them but are still manageable in homework load.”

Dr. Carrie Francis

Department: Math and Engineering Department professor. Dr. Francis’ focus is on engineering.

Past Job: Before Dr. Francis became a Northwestern professor, she was working on her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Family: Dr. Francis’ parents, brother, and sister-in-law live in her hometown of Wilmington, IL. Dr. Francis’ parents own a hobby farm, where they raise sheep.

Hobbies: Dr. Francis’ hobbies include volleyball, home improvement projects, woodworking, sewing, and reading classics, such as the Anne of Green Gables’ series and The Chronicles of Narnia.

What was it about Northwestern that brought you here?

Dr. Francis said, “When I started learning more about Northwestern through the interview process, there were several things that made me want to come here. One is that the engineering program has been around for a while, but is going through a big transition over the next few years to a full bachelor’s degree in engineering. I’m excited to be part of that transition and growth. The fact that there are already people on campus thinking seriously about theology and science was encouraging since that’s what motivated me to teach in the first place. The other thing that really made an impression on me was that Northwestern is a community that understands that sincere Christians disagree on some things but can still love one another as brothers and sisters.”

Dr. Jonathan Loopstra

Department: History

Past Job: Dr. Loopstra was a tenured professor in Columbus, Ohio at an arts university.

What was it about Northwestern that brought you here?

Dr. Loopstra said, “As an alumnus of Northwestern, I have high respect for the way the school has been faithful to its mission over the years.  Northwestern students are encouraged “to grow intellectually and spiritually”, to quote the mission statement.  As professors, we can talk in the classroom about how we integrate our faith into our disciplines, which is increasingly rare in higher education.” 

If you were not a professor, what would you like to do?

Dr. Loopstra said, “I often joke with my wife that it would be fun to sell hot, roasted chestnuts on the side of the road on a chilly fall evening.  Of course, this is a European tradition.  When I taught in Southern Spain, I enjoyed watching how much happiness the chestnut (castaña) vendors would bring to boys, girls, and everyone taking in the evening stroll (paseo).  But is passing out little cones of chestnuts as rewarding as passing back final exams and seeing students succeed over the long term?”

Dr. Richard Joseph

Department: Music

Past Job: Anoka Ramsey Community College

Family: Dr. Joseph is married to Sarah Lynn, who is a Financial Advisor for Wells Fargo in Arden Hills. They have two boys, Ralston who is five years old and Greyson who is three years old.

Hobbies: Dr. Joseph enjoys sports, such as golf and softball, outdoor activities, such as hiking, and traveling.

What do you think makes Northwestern unique?

Dr. Joseph said, “There are a number of things that have stood out in my first few weeks: the professionalism in the way the University presents itself in academics and events, the genuine kindness, support and appreciation for the people in the organization, and the dedication to student’s spiritual growth and academic success.”

If you were not a professor, what would you like to do?

Dr. Joseph said, “I love big storms and am fascinated by their natural beauty and power! So I’ve always thought being a storm chaser would be an exhilarating job.”


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