At 28, Beth Shook is one of Chico State University’s youngest and newest professors. The Anthropology Department brought the Hillsboro, Ore., native in for a temporary appointment while another professor is on sabbatical, and she’s settling in well. (Shook’s husband, who’s in seminary in Sacramento, moved up with her.) She even got her own office with a window view in Butte Hall, where she’s shelved Darwin books alongside Far Side cartoon anthologies. Shook did her undergraduate studies at Cornell College, a small, private school in Iowa, and followed up with a master’s and doctorate from UC Davis. She’ll get the official Ph.D. when she finishes up her thesis in the field of molecular anthropology involving the genetics of populations.
This was a good opportunity for me. I really want to teach. A lot of graduates apply for one-year positions to get teaching experience. I’d definitely [like to stay here]. The school is definitely along the lines of what I’m looking for. Everyone’s very welcoming and friendly. … I had been here once, just to visit. There’s so much to do outdoors.
Are you nervous about being a professor?
I have taught before. I had not taught three or four classes all at one time before. So that’s the biggest change. But the students here seem to want to learn and get excited about the material. It hasn’t been too hard of a transition.
Does it feel really cool when someone calls you “doctor"?
Technically, I’m not quite “doctor” yet. The “professor” part was new.
Ever get mistaken for a student?
Frequently, other faculty members will walk right by me and turn around and say, “Oh, yeah.” Or if I’m in the community, people always ask me if I go to school here. The students have figured it out. There’s probably some advantage to having a little more age and older appearance. But they seem pretty respectful. I have had some sorority girls try to invite me to their parties. I don’t think they’d necessarily want me to be there if they realized I’m a professor.
How hideous are your student loans?
Graduate school was not that bad. It was mostly for my undergraduate loans. I think they’re about $20,000. I haven’t had to start paying them yet.