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The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

The Student News Site of Drake University

The Times-Delphic

Finding a love of teaching…and love while teaching

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These Drake Couples hand out grades…together. Photo above and below left Courtesy of Jennifer Glover Konfrst and Lee Konfrst. Photo bottom right Courtesy of Leah Huizar.

Nothing says love like writing the same place of employment on your tax forms every year. For a few professors at Drake, sharing the same students and the same tax filing is just part of their routine.

Jennifer Glover Konfrst and Lee Konfrst

Professors Jennifer Glover Konfrst and Lee Konfrst met in the Goodwin-Kirk residence hall during their first semester on campus. At the time, Goodwin-Kirk was a first-year residence hall.

“I was going one way, Jennifer was going another way and I was wearing a U2 concert shirt because that previous weekend [I] went and saw U2 in Ames,” Lee said. “Of course, Jennifer, being the wallflower that she is, decided to say ‘Hey, I went to that show, too.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah?’ she’s like, ‘Yeah, we were in the front row.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, well, I was in the back row.’ So you know, our dynamic was born right then and there.”

However, it was not love at first sight. Jennifer called Lee by the wrong first name when they first hung out at a party. Jennifer went to his dorm room to apologize for the incident the next day but stopped because of the door decoration bearing Lee Konfrst’s last name.

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“I didn’t knock because I said ‘I don’t want that [last] name someday,’” Jennifer said. “So I turned around and went back to my room, and then we were just friends for a long time for the whole semester.”

The Konfrsts eventually realized their feelings for each other at the end of their first semester and stayed together for the rest of their college days. Knowing they wanted to move cross country together after graduation, Lee popped the question at the end of their junior year in the basement of Goodwin-Kirk.

“The cool thing about that [was] that it was literally 20 steps from where we first met,” Lee said.

A year later, the Konfrsts went from “cap and gown to wedding gown.” 27 years later, they have two children, two cats (Luna and Ivy) and a pandemic puppy, Clark. Between the two of them, the couple has four degrees from Drake.

“We’ve kind of been in and out. Drake is in our blood,” Jennifer said. “I don’t know life with Lee without Drake.”

Jennifer has been a full-time faculty member in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, teaching public relations and strategic political communication, since 2013 and taught as an adjunct professor for many years before that. The couple have been working at Drake together since Lee accepted an adjunct position to teach communications law and ethics in the SJMC in 2020. Lee Konfrst often goes by “Lee” to students to avoid confusion. 

“It’s funny to me that I am Konfrst, and he has to be something else,” Jennifer said. “It wasn’t my [last] name first, but I am now the OG Konfrst at Drake.”

Because both professors teach in the SJMC, they sometimes have overlapping students, but they said it’s important to them to give every student a clean slate when they enter their respective classrooms.

“It’s somewhat challenging for us because we’re very open with each other, and we talk about our days together,” Lee said. “When it comes to Drake, other than the content of our courses, we keep it pretty general.”

Despite their many similarities, they like when students get to experience their unique styles of teaching.

“We probably teach a little bit differently and want to continue that because [Drake students are] owed that kind of diversity and differences of opinion and perspective,” Lee said.

The Konfrsts don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because their first big fight happened on the holiday way back in 1993. However, Lee declared that “every day is Valentine’s Day” with Jennifer.

 

Leah Huizar and Gabriel Ford

Leah Huizar and Gabriel Ford, both professors in the English department at Drake, ironically met at a graduate school orientation about teaching at Penn State University. Initially friends, they discussed their future together early in their relationship because Huizar’s graduate program was a year shorter than Ford’s.

“We were in very different programs, but the creative writers and the literature people all had the same orientation and some of the [same] initial classes,” Huizar said. “We also kind of had offices near each other.”

Huizar joined the faculty at Drake in 2019. At the time, Ford taught at a women’s college in South Carolina, but he followed her to Drake a year later. Now that the pair teach at Drake together, their office distance hasn’t changed much since graduate school.

“My desk looks right into her office. So in some ways, we’ve kind of come full circle and we’re back to being officemates across the hall from each other,” Ford said.

Last year, Ford and Huizar had an opportunity that not many academic couples get to experience: co-teaching a class in Bright College.

“That was a really fantastic experience of being able to use our different strengths and our different areas of expertise to work with an amazing class of students,” Huizar said.

Ford said there’s a big advantage to having a fellow professor around the house.

“Leah being around immediately in my vicinity, who I trust and who I can bounce my thoughts off in those situations, [is a] positive,” Ford said.

The couple have much in common, which usually leads to academic-related activities on vacations or work trips, such as when Ford did a stint researching in Oxford, England.

“That allowed us to spend several weeks of the summer living in a cottage, taking up the culture and the research and the environment. I think those are the kinds of fond memories that two academics get to have every once in a while,” Huizar said.

Huizar and Ford have their next adventure planned out: parenthood. The couple are welcoming their first baby later this semester.

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