Mosaic / March 6, 2019

Knox professors share their passion projects

Professor Tim Kasser speaks about his love for nature and dedication to his farm animals. Kasser owns a 10 acre plot of land in Galesburg. (Rafael Cho/ TKS)

Professor of psychology Tim Kasser is known for his work on Known for his work on happiness and materialism. Kasser himself however, is more appreciative of nature rather than material. Outside of Knox, he plays the piano and sings on a daily basis and is also a member of a staff-only weekly jam group. Kasser spends every morning outside, in his 10 acres of land with two goats, a donkey, chicken and cats.

“It’s 6 a.m., I’m doing my chores, and people don’t believe it, but I actually like it,” Kasser said.

As a vegetarian, Kasser likes to growing his own vegetables. Gardening is important part of his life as contact with nature and animals remains essential to him, but he also shared that a lot of what he does outside of class has shaped his research and teaching, especially his readings.

“Reading keeps me intellectually alive on other topics, and also implicitly helps me understand people and informs how I feel about people,” Kasser said.

In fact, he uses contemporary fiction or classics as resources on a daily basis and often alternates between fiction and non-fiction.

“One thing I have learned at Knox is that the way that you make something really change the college is making it a part of the institutional structure of the college,” Kasser said.

His love for sustainability made him a professor-activist. An important part of what he does at Knox besides teaching is working with the Knox Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (KACSRI), which he started with students four or five years ago and is very passionate about. He also consulted for the World Wildlife Fund and is in touch with the Global Action Plan and the ART (Arctic in Rapid Transition) Group.

He published five books and finished a children’s book about a month ago, but doesn’t have current plans for another similar project after teaching at Knox and 33 years of being a psychologist:

“I have a couple of commitments that I will continue to fulfill with regard to projects that are underway, but I have been saying no to things for the last year and a half so that I have that for to five month period free of obligation, and my goal is to spend that time figuring out what I want to do next,” Kasser said.

Associate Professor of English Chad Simpson’s tries to incorporate nature into his projects as much as possible

“I like to go out in the water, get some sun; oh, now I have an idea. And I try not to think about things. Zoning out is how you do it,” Simpson said.

Simpson is an award winning fiction writer. According to Simpson, nature often inspires him in his writing. He uses his experience of the outdoors in the imagery he adds to his work. He loves kayaking, fishing and canoing.

“This is what I’d actually love to do right now instead of getting blown around in wind and snow,” Simpson said.

He also has a cabin at a lake, a place he’s been going to since he was little, which he now shares with his siblings. Simpson likes to travel and would love to go back to Europe which he visited during his undergraduate studies, and is also considering learning a new language or learning more about economics. He’s currently working on a crime novel, “Forgottonia,” that takes place in the summer of 2008 (before the election of former President Barack Obama) and that is inspired by a crime that took place near Galesburg years ago.

“I like to be odd and I like to find wonder,” Simpson said.

He revealed that he didn’t know much about the crime until he found himself writing around a thousand words a day and finishing entire chapters of it. For parts of his writing process, he likes to get closer to the river. Being familiar to the local geography allows him to drive around and let what stands out to him inspire his notes. He shares that working on his own projects helps him teach as it usually becomes a way he helps students solve problems they encounter in smaller pieces.

He hopes to take a short break from working on his current novel during his vacation to the Yellowstone National Park in Montana this summer:

“I want to finish my draft, go on this vacation, forget about it and come back to look over what I’ve done one more time,” Simpson said.

Ali Saadi El Hassani

Tags:  chad simpson professors tim kasser

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