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 that UNL wished to recruit a faculty member specializing in building acoustics. I flew from Copenhagen to Omaha to interview in December 1999, then accepted the faculty posi- tion shortly thereafter. I convinced myself that if/when I did not get tenure, I would finally join a consulting firm, but I’m still at UNL 21 years later! I am incredibly satisfied that my career has followed this path. Shortly after achieving tenure, I realized that my research could have broader impact if I studied spaces that humans occupy more commonly, such as offices, schools, and restaurants, rather than performing arts facilities. In truth, I believe I would have been unhappy as a concert hall designer. I love working with students and exploring problems more deeply as an academic.
What is a typical day for you?
As an academic administrator, I am in a lot of meetings with university members and external partners on a wide range of topics every day, such as curriculum, student develop- ment, fundraising, and external relationships! I truly enjoy academic leadership. I love getting things done and helping to increase the impact of faculty, staff, and students. I still try to dedicate one day a week to my own research; I meet with research team members and make time to work in the lab or field. In the first half of 2021, I was on a faculty develop- ment leave (aka sabbatical) and enjoyed being completely immersed in research. I was reminded that it’s fun and excit- ing to gather new knowledge, analyze data, and disseminate results that impact the built environment! I typically get home around 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and spend the rest of the evening as well as weekends focused on family affairs.
How do you feel when experiments/projects do not work out the way you expected them to?
I feel frustrated when things go awry, but I take deep breaths and draw my focus away from stewing emotionally about it and focus instead on working to unknot and solve the problems we’re experiencing. I believe this is at the heart of being an engineer, an identity with which I strongly resonate. Engineers solve problems, leading to innovations that have a great impact on human well-being and society.
Do you feel like you have solved the work-life balance problem? Was it always this way?
I find that work-life balance or, more specifically, how we integrate our professional and personal lives is a very per- sonal matter. Each person will make decisions for their own life and come to their own “solution.” Here are some of the choices I have made with regard to work-life inte- gration. I have always felt deeply fulfilled and satisfied by
my professional work; I can never imagine giving it up. I married in my mid-30s and recall that, up until then, I was OK with the idea of never being married or having chil- dren. Now, though, I’ve been married for 16 years and have 2 amazing daughters, Violet and Florence. I have experi- enced a different deeply fulfilling joy in raising a family. I have deliberately tried to blur the lines between profes- sional and personal because I want to be a role model and acknowledge that both aspects of life are important. I’ve brought my children to many conferences; colleagues may recall that I brought two-month-old Violet to a 2007 Con- cert Hall Research Group Summer School and nursed her in the back of the room! I include my children in social activities with my research group. My daughters know the names of many of my colleagues and students and vice versa. Although I can’t be super active in school parent groups, my husband David Yuill (also a professor at UNL) and I both take time to attend children’s activities. Having academic jobs has allowed us to maintain flexible schedules.
The choices one makes certainly do affect how this work-life integration plays out. For our part, my spouse and I have tried to make ones strategically that result in this integration being easier for both of us, particularly because neither my husband nor I have extended family nearby. Some examples are: we chose to purchase a house close to the University so that we could go home or to the schools quickly; we chose to allocate more of our budget toward personal childcare in our home rather than in other material goods; and I have made career decisions that are fulfilling professionally but allow me to be active in my children’s lives at their different stages (much different when they were ages 3 and 5 from now when they are 11 and 13).
What makes you a good acoustician?
My love of music and all things related to sound; years of deliberate ear training to experience how sound behaves in buildings; a desire to always keep learning; and invest- ing in persistence, resilience, and leadership skills.
How do you handle rejection?
Initially, I often feel disappointed and emotionally angry and tangled; it’s natural human behavior. But I give myself the appropriate space, time, and distraction to separate and not get embroiled in those negative feelings until I can face the feedback more objectively rather than emotionally. Then I look for the constructive comments in the feedback and seek to become better by learning from those.
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