Bethel University’s communications professor Jessica Samens is also a full time student | Photo submitted by Miranda Weippert

Making sacrifices

Learning to prioritize life while being a professor and a student.

By Miranda Weippert | Royal Report

It’s Thursday morning and Bethel University’s communication professor, Jessica Samens stumbled through her house to make it out the door by 4:30 a.m. She needed to get to the downtown city bus, which transported her to the Greyhound Bus Station. After sitting on the Greyhound bus for 10 hours she finally arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hurrying off, she headed to Milwaukee’s city bus to get to school on time. The clock struck 10 p.m. when Samens found herself sitting back in the Greyhound station waiting for her midnight bus to head back home. This time the ride was only six hours. She arrived back in St. Paul, Minnesota around 6:30 a.m. Friday and instead of heading home, she headed to Bethel to get to the communication class she had to teach in just one hour.

“The reason I took the bus instead of driving myself was because of the cost. And because it kept me sane,” Samens said laughing. “At first, I thought I was going to be able to get work done on the bus, but that never happened. The Wi-Fi was crappy, I never had an open seat to spread my stuff out next to me and I was usually too tired to get anything done anyway. Instead, I would read a magazine or sleep.”

“She’s a great teacher with a great sense of humor.” — Peggy Kendall, communication professor

Samens is a full time student in Milwaukee and a full time professor in St. Paul. She’s taught communication studies at Bethel for seven years now and knew if she wanted to continue teaching, her next and final step would be obtaining her doctorate.

“Getting your doctorate can be a lonely and long process,” communication professor Peggy Kendall said. “I try to encourage her and let her know she isn’t alone as much as possible without coming off as a nag. She’s a great teacher with a great sense of humor. She never complains and is always willing to take on whatever.”

Samens chose University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for a few reasons. One, it was the only university that offered the health communication program she wanted to take — two, she wanted to study under their professors even if it meant getting out of her comfort zone and three, her grandpa pushed her to be the best she could be.

“I’ve met people from all different walks of life.” — Jessica Samens, communication professor

Her interest in health communication began when her grandpa underwent colon cancer. She knew communication in the medical field moved fast and studying how people disclose their health status to family or friends and the boundaries within it intrigued her. Although she knew it would be tough taking a 24-hour road trip once a week, she didn’t think it would take as big of an effect on her body as it did. And giving up her social life proved to be more challenging than she initially thought.

“I’ve met people from all different walks of life,” Samens said. “I never made any friends on my long bus rides. Then again, I never tried to make friends. The bus was used for many drug transportations and sometimes people even got drunk on the road. Many of the people that took the bus were taking it because it was their only affordable means of transportation.”

One particular night Samens can’t forget involves her sitting uncomfortably on the Greyhound bus seat holding an 18-month-old girl. She remained in her seat holding a complete stranger in the middle of a Thursday night for seven hours. The child’s mom — who sat beside her– held her 3–4 month newborn in her arms.

“This little girl was sleeping on the bus floor,” Samens said. “I couldn’t let her sleep on the disgusting, dirty bus floor — so I offered to hold her and let her sleep on my lap.”

“I think being a student while being a professor has made her even more understanding towards her own students.” — Kasey Lindberg, student

Dedicating more than 100 hours a week to her students and her own classes while only spending about 10 hours toward her social life. The commitment she

“Professor Samens really cares for us and wants us to succeed,” junior Kasey Lindberg said. “I think being a student while being a professor has made her even more understanding towards her own students. She has the student perspective as well as the professor perspective.”

Samens plans to complete her doctorate in less than four years, which means she is working harder than ever. This was her first out of five semesters that she was able to take all of her classes online instead of traveling.

“Thankfully I’m not traveling this spring semester,” Samens said. “My body is much happier and loves me for it.”