10/18/06 — MOC professors 'pool' to conserve resources

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MOC professors 'pool' to conserve resources

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 18, 2006 1:51 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Fluctuating gas prices over the last year prompted a group of Mount Olive College professors to carpool to save money and gas.

And what they ended up with looks a lot like family.

With a daily commute of 210 miles round-trip from Raleigh to Mount Olive, the group has grown from four to seven educators since the carpool began in the fall of 2005.

The group represents a span of ages, representing each of the decades from 20s to 60s. Their backgrounds are equally as diverse, coming from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New York, Ohio, Illinois and Bangladesh. And they teach a variety of subjects -- English, math, science and recreation and leisure studies.

"We have had many interesting conversations," said Dr. Ryan Pietropaolo, assistant professor of math, who quipped that the group's slogan is, "What's said in the carpool stays in the carpool."

The college has been very accommodating of the group so that they have similar schedules. There is also a daily e-mail sent out to confirm the place and time carpoolers meet each morning and afternoon.

Of course, there are situations when a professor might need to stay late and drive separately, but for the most part the group travels together.

Pietropaola said several have mentioned that they didn't know how they managed before the carpool was formed.

"It kind of spoils you," he said. "Even the idea of riding down alone multiple times a week is enough to cause stress.

"I think I can speak for the group when I say that we all look forward to the 'family' we have created.

"We get daily updates about spouses, kids, grandkids, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc."

Put simply, the situation was prompted a strong sense of community, Pietropaolo said.

"Because of this, the drive often feels more like 15 minutes instead of an hour," he said.

Others in the group include Dr. David Rigsbee, language and literature professor; Dr. Peter Marbais and Dr. Angela Mullis, assistant professors of English; Dr. Kazi Rahman, chemistry professor; Dr. Jake Brown, professor of science education; and Dr. Jill Mills, associate professor of recreation and leisure studies.

Although each might have a slightly different perspective on the college, when they all come together, it seems to work, Pietropaolo said.

The professors use the commute to brainstorm ideas for their classrooms, often garnering feedback and suggestions from their colleagues. Others use it as an opportunity to grade papers.

The daily drive also allows veterans to serve as mentors for their younger counterparts, and for the more seasoned professors to get a fresh perspective from those newer to education.

While the advantages are numerous, Pietropaolo said there are some downsides. One car's air conditioning unit dumps water into the back seat floorboard, another always has some dog hair in it; one vehicle has a car seat that is difficult to remove; and another has no leg room.

"I think that you really get to know a person when you ride in their car a few times," he joked.

In the year since the carpool began, the group estimates it has collectively saved 47,760 miles and about $5,472 in gas money. Pietropaolo said that is reason enough to continue.