About Macon State
By Em Fergusson
Now and again, Dr. Laila Richman will get an email from a student that clearly is not intended for her.
When your husband works in the same academic division, it's bound to happen.
"I've had many e-mails ... where I'll have to say, 'You have the wrong Richman,'" said Laila, who, like her husband, Dr. Allen Richman, is an assistant professor of education at Macon State College. "L. Richman or A. Richman will pop up and they'll just go for that first one."
Although married couples teaching at the same college or university is nothing new, they always seem to add a special dimension to campus life. Besides the Richmans, Macon State counts another married couple that has come on board in recent years: Dr. Michael Winterrowd, assistant professor of biology, and his wife, Stephanie Winterrowd, biology instructor.
All four say that while living and working together sometimes presents challenges, the perks are greater.
"We know a lot of people who say, 'Oh, I could never work with my spouse,'" Michael said. "But we always try to figure out how we can make it work for us."
The Winterrowds met at Wake Forest University, where he got his doctorate and she got her master's degree. They are no strangers to working together. Before coming to Macon, both taught at the University of Virginia's College at Wise and at Auburn University.
In Virginia, teaching together at a small college in a small town did have its disadvantages.
"We were teaching the same classes, which was good because we could bounce ideas off each other," Stephanie said. "But, on the other hand, because there was not a lot to do in the area, you're literally seeing each other 24 hours a day."
Before moving to the Peach State, the Richmans lived in Kansas. They both completed their master's degrees and doctorates in education at the University of Kansas.
Having met at Denton High School in Texas, the Richmans said, this is not the first time they have worked together. They both worked at the Child Care Center at the University of Texas and both also drove school buses at the same time.
Due to their different class schedules at Macon State, the Richmans said they don't actually see each other at work as often as people might think. "A colleague may ask me, 'Where's Laila?' And I'll say, 'I don't know, you know as much about where she is as I do,'" Allen said. "I know where she is after about 6 or 7 every evening."
The Richmans feel that their different areas of expertise - her specialty is special education, his is developmental psychology - help them maintain career individuality, although they do hope to collaborate on a research paper or presentation at some point.
"We have different opinions about some things, but we complement each other," Laila said. "We push each other to think beyond our limits."
The Winterrowds have also figured out ways to maintain their individuality at work. At institutions where they worked previously, colleagues would sometimes ask one to give messages to the other. "They didn't mean anything by it, but we just wanted them to see us as two individuals, not as a unit," Michael said. "I would just tell them, 'It would probably be better if you talked directly with her.'"
In another instance, the chair of an academic division where they once worked assumed the two would be willing to share an office.
"We just thought that might be a little too much togetherness," Stephanie said with a laugh.
Away from work, the Richmans busy themselves raising their two children. The Winterrowds enjoy exploring the region and socializing with colleagues.
"It's been really nice to have a lot of opportunities for social activities and to work in an open, engaged environment," Michael said.