With the third week of classes beginning for Eastern Oregon University, the cohort of new professors at the university are attempting to find their footing.
Jessica Hamm, assistant professor in the Division of Physical Activity and Health, and Tim Harrison, senior lecturer in the computer science program, are two new professors at EOU this year. They have taken very different paths to the university, but both are eager to integrate themselves into campus life and take advantage of what La Grande has to offer.
Jessica Hamm, originally from Buffalo, New York, was first introduced to the state of Oregon when she attended Oregon State University. She said she went on trips to the Wallowa Mountains and Anthony Lake while at OSU and enjoyed her experience.
“It was so beautiful,” Hamm said.
Hamm is the newest full-time assistant professor in the Division of Physical Activity and Health in EOU’s College of Science, Technology, Math and Health Sciences. This semester she is teaching motor development, personal skills for healthy living and health/fitness for life. She said her specialty is in adapted physical activity for individuals with disabilities.
After Hamm received a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Manhattan College and a master’s degree from San Francisco State University in kinesi o logy, she moved to Oregon in 2012. At OSU, she earned a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in kinesiology in 2016. Following her graduation from OSU, Hamm became an assistant professor at Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Georgia. She said she was drawn to EOU because of its location and the size of the university.
Hamm said she plans to be at EOU for the foreseeable future.
“I definitely like it here. It seems like a great fit for talking about health promotion and combining that with our focus on physical activity from the department,” she said. “I think there are a lot of opportunities to engage students with outdoor health opportunities.”
In addition to teaching, Hamm said she hopes to help students get involved in the La Grande community.
“I’m currently looking at trying to connect with community organizations and see what the need is in the community for health promotion,” Hamm said. “My passion is working with individuals with disabilities, so (I am) trying to work with a community organization to help them out and also provide an opportunity for students to get some experience.”
When she’s not working at EOU, Hamm likes to backcountry ski, hike and bike around town.
When Tim Harrison received a master’s degree in computer science in 1978, degrees in the field were not nearly as common as they are today.
“I taught as an adjunct professor at two different universities in (what was called) ‘graduate computer science,’ which today would be what a freshman took,” Harrison said, pointing out students coming into graduate programs in computer science often had an undergraduate degree in another field.
After teaching as an adjunct at North Texas and Texas Woman’s College in the early 1980s, Harrison spent almost 30 years working as a professional computer scientist. He called himself a “generalist” who didn’t specialize in any specific part of computer science. In his professional career, Harrison worked for a range of companies from large outfits such as Texas Instruments to much smaller ones such as Complete Data Solutions.
Harrison left the computer science field after the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s and then worked for a couple of years as a U.S. stock options trader, but stopped that endeavor after the stock market crashed in 2008.
In 2009, he began teaching mathematics and computer science at high schools and middle schools in Southern California. Now, Harrison has his first full-time teaching job at a university.
“I was applying for anything that I was qualified for,” Harrison said.
See more in Monday's edition of The Observer.