Seasonal preparation eases professors' commutes

For more than three decades, Mother Nature’s worst couldn’t stop Chi Chang from teaching class.

The chemistry professor begins his 45-minute drive from Brighton to East Lansing earlier once snow starts to turn I-96 white, but those extra allotted minutes aren’t always enough.

“I sometimes come here the previous night and stay in my office,” he said. “I never cancel any class.”

Every winter, Chang and other MSU professors who live outside of Ingham County fight the elements to make the trip from their homes to MSU.

The thought of moving closer to campus crossed Chang’s mind, but he and his wife currently live in the middle of their jobs.

“I guess after all these years, I got used to it,” Chang said, laughing. “I do occasionally consider moving closer, but it’s a lot of work to move.”

Although moving out of Ann Arbor would mean less travel time for Kenneth Boyer, changing locations isn’t a logical solution for the economics professor.

Boyer’s wife works in Ann Arbor and, prior to the couple’s move out of East Lansing, she would drive about 120 miles each day to and from her job.

“I found it was more convenient for me to drive than her to drive,” Boyer said. “Especially with kids, it’s better to have one person in town rather than have both parents out of town.”

Professors who live outside of the county brave the weather for longer periods of time than those who live in surrounding communities, but living near campus doesn’t always guarantee an easy trip.

Jack Baldwin, a professor in the Department of Astronomy, lives in Okemos — about a 15-minute drive from MSU.

Baldwin relies on Grand River Avenue to take him from his home to work, and a recent announcement about cities scaling back on clearing snow this year could affect Baldwin’s trip.

“I read an article in the newspaper that they’re going to cut back on snow clearance on that road, so that’s a concern,” Baldwin said. “There is no better route.”

Chang recalls sleeping on his office couch only once in the last two years and said winter weather can slow his commute, but most delays come in the summer.

“The delay usually occurs in the summertime when they’re building the roads,” Chang said. “Sometimes they block the whole road to one lane … so you’re waiting half an hour to get through. Summer is worse. Winter is all right.”

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