From professor to friend: Michael Hudson goes the extra mile

Martina Baca - From Feb. 13 2015

Kates Gymnasium was half full and the clock was running. You could hear the squeaking noise of the shoes and the bouncing of the ball. You could hear the uneven screams, “Let’s go Eagles!”

In the middle of the crowd, in the fifth row, professor Michael Hudson was fist pumping the air, screaming “Yeah! Good shot Laina,” while holding a hotdog in his other hand.

Hudson was there to watch his student, freshman Laina Snyder, as well as waiting for half time, when another of one his students, Madison Fletcher, would preform her twirling routine. Minutes before she started her routine, Hudson went down the stairs to wish her good luck. After the routine, she came to where Hudson was sitting. 

 

“You did a great job,” said Hudson.

Fletcher’s shaky hands weren’t so shaky after talking to her professor.

This is not unusual for Hudson. He rarely misses basketball or football games. He tries to go to every event that his students are involved in. His students can be swimming, running, singing or dancing, it doesn’t matter, because Hudson makes sure to be there. He watches them and takes pictures. He looks at them with pride, just like a parent would.

Hudson arrived at Ashland University in 1982. He didn’t have a clue that he would end up in a place like Ashland. He didn’t even imagine his life as a geology professor, even though he comes from a family of teachers.  After enrolling in the Army and finishing his master’s degree, Hudson wanted to work for a mining company, doing geological survey.  He had the opportunity to choose between AU or a geological survey job. He chose AU primarily because he needed to support his wife and two kids. He actually thought that AU would be a stepping stone, that he would spend three to five years here, then he would go back to the northeast, where he is from. He never thought that AU would become his home for more than 30 years. 

He doesn’t regret it though, his decision to come to AU.

Doc, which is what his students call him, has impacted the lives of many students. One of those students is Mackenzie Taylor. Taylor was a sophomore the first time he had a class with Hudson. Taylor wasn’t known for his enthusiasm for studying or getting good grades. He was an education major hoping to become a biology teacher after he graduated. When sophomore year came along, Taylor took Physical Geology with Hudson. After that class, Taylor not only changed his major to Geology but he changed as a student too.

This year, Taylor nominated Hudson for an AU Mentor Award, which Hudson received.

“He opened my eyes to geology,” said Taylor, “I think his influence has a lot to do of why I started to make better decisions and also help me becoming a better student.”

But what is it about Hudson that affects students so much?

Hudson was just another professor, teaching Taylor just another class.

But the difference between Hudson and other professors is that he puts as much effort into teaching his students as he does in building relationships with them. 

He wants his students to look at him not only as a professor, but as a friend.

“He is extremely easy to talk to,” Taylor said. “We all have respect for him. Doc is formal but informal and my relationship with him is the same, is formal but it is informal. I still have respect for him. He has his Ph.D. He is a doctor, he is a professor, he is extremely intelligent, loves geology, but I can talk to him about everything.”

Hudson says he goes to all those things because he wants his students to know that he supports them.

“I want to make sure that I am there for that,” said Hudson.

 

Every year Hudson hosts an open house in the middle of finals weeks for his students and some faculty members. They come to his house from 6 to 8 p.m, but it never actually ends at 8. They eat and drink his special wassail, which is a sort of apple cider spice beverage.

Hudson goes a step further. He spends time with students outside the classroom, on the weekends, on field trips, on making PowerPoint presentations of his students who are athletes so they can feel recognized.

Hudson knows that details matter.

He doesn’t have to go to the basketball games or any meets.  He could easily use the same PowerPoint from class to class like many professors do. He could just arrive at his office at 9 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m.

But what drives Hudson to teach is more than the paycheck every two weeks. For him, the most significant payback is the success of his students.  He knows that every day he stays in his office until 1 a.m. preparing materials for his classes, or that extra time he took to explain something to a student, is worth it.

“The thing that satisfies me the most is to see students succeed,” Hudson says. “To watch them walking across that graduation platform, knowing that we made a difference, not just me, but the entire university. That that person is somebody different from the person that entered campus four years earlier.”

Hudson makes a difference because he is passionate about what he does. He is passionate about geology and when he sees his students share that same passion, his heart starts to beat just a little bit faster.

“The thing that stimulates me the most is seeing students getting excited about a topic or a subject that I am excited about,” says Hudson. “To see a light bulb clicking on their heads, to see enthusiasm and interest develop, so they are starting to live and breathe it like I do a lot of the times.”

The appreciation that students have for Hudson is not because he is an easy A, or because his classes are laid back. They appreciate him because he actually makes an effort to make them understand the material. He challenges his students.

He won’t hesitate to remind his students when they mess up, but he is going to be in the first row, clapping and probably wiping a few tears from his eyes, when they throw their graduation caps.