Alan Brokaw and Marika Seigel’s academic relationship crosses disciplinary boundaries and began long ago and close to home. Brokaw is a thirty-two year veteran of teaching marketing in the School of Business and Economics. Seigel is starting her third year of teaching rhetoric and technical communication in the humanities department, and we believe they are the first father-daughter tenure-track duo in the University’s history. (Seigel’s husband, Matt, is also an assistant professor in humanities.)
Seigel remembers sitting on the floor of one of her dad’s classes as a youngster. “I was pretending to stir soup,” she recalls. “Later I realized it was something called ‘college,’ where grown-ups went to school. I was impressed by that.”
The passion for education runs deep in the Brokaw family. Seigel and her brother, Tomas ’01, are the sixth generation of college graduates, and Seigel anticipates that son, Indrek Alan, and daughter, Annika, will be the seventh.
“There was always an expectation by my parents to go to graduate school,” Brokaw adds, “and we passed that on to our children.” Seigel shifted from a less-than-promising career in acting. “I wasn’t very good.”
Instead, a future in education occurred to Seigel as an undergraduate: she first entertained thoughts of teaching English as a second language, then literary criticism, finally pursuing her current field at Penn State. “And, after all, mom [Marianne Brokaw ’85 MS RTC] taught rhetoric, too.”
Is there a challenge teaching humanities or business at a technological university? “The humanities aren’t always as visible,” Seigel says, “but there’s so much interdisciplinary work going on.” She’s currently working with colleagues in humanities and computer science, looking at case studies to teach the rhetorical considerations when communicating with project stakeholders as a technical communicator or as a software engineer. Brokaw and Seigel have considered collaborating on the rhetoric of risk.
And as for teaching business? “I came up here for a style of life,” Brokaw says. “The fact that there was a great university here was a bonus.” Besides, “it’s a great job,” Brokaw says and Seigel agrees. “I came here to teach in one of, if not the best, RTC programs in the nation. The location was a bonus for me.”
Brokaw plans to retire in a couple of years, but Seigel is looking toward the tenure process and eventually teaching Annika or Indrek, continuing the family tradition.
Appeared in Michigan Tech Magazine, Winter 2007-2008, Volume 33, Number 3, page 14.
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