The Secret Lives of Professors

February 3, 2011
Tamar Gendler: Creative Crafts

Professor Gendler’s “secret life” outside of Yale is a family affair. With her husband and sons as collaborators, she creates “elaborate constructions” from Popsicle sticks, yarn and acrylic paint, or Playmobil figures. Other family pastimes include racing with geography puzzles on the living room floor (“one team does Africa and Europe, and the other does Asia and U.S.”), cooking creative vegetarian food (“Harry Potter chocolate-peanut butter bon bons”), and acting out charades about politics (“my favorite was Darth Vader versus Ralph Nader”).

The family also boasts a Harry Potter Popsicle stick collection — 100 figures of characters such as Hermione, Ron, Hagrid (“two sticks glued together!”), Dumbledore, Anthony Goldstein, Professor Sinistra, and even Binky, Lavender Brown’s rabbit. “Jonah [my son] draws the faces and then paints the sticks with acrylic paint, and then I help him glue on the hair,” Gendler says. “Two of our best ones are Dolores Umbridge (her hair is made of spirals) and Tonks (her hair uses rainbow yarn).”

Gendler is a Professor of Philosophy.

Wendell Bell: Futurism

What would happen if a sudden warm front struck New Haven? Futurists like Bell ponder such questions.

“Futurists,” explains Bell, “want to know what futures are really possible, what futures are most probable, what alternative futures are most desirable, and what people can do to create the most desirable future.” They are more concerned with the “what if” question than with predicting the future: “The notion that futurists use ‘a crystal ball’ drives us up a wall,” he says, “because our primary purpose is not predicting the future.” Rather, they work to assess what futures would be most likely under different conditions, trying to provide knowledge that can help people improve their futures as well as the futures of “all living beings, plants, and the life-sustaining capacities of the Earth itself.”

Bell is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology.

Barbara Sattler: Photography

Professor Sattler’s secret pastime corresponds with her interest in Pre-socratics, not a surprising fascination given that she teaches philosophy courses on campus. Pre-socratics poses questions that wrestle with how phenomena are created.

What is surprising, however, is the way in which her art intersects with her philosophical studies: through photography, she captures the four elements — fire, air, water, and earth — “in such ways that show how unexpectedly they can indeed be transformed.” Such elements, Sattler explains, fuel the “transformation of which for a good group of them the whole material world was built.”

Sattler’s other photographic project twists our conception of reality. She takes photos of “different layers of reflections” in ordinary situations — “like in shop windows” — in a way that makes it challenging to “distinguish the different layers of ‘reality’ they derive from,” she says. The visual impact of the layers plays on our perception of reality, as we can easily identify each layer when faced with such reflections in everyday conditions.

Sattler is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Classics.

Demetra Kasimis: All Things Mid-Late 60s

Dr. Kasimis claims that many of her non-academic interests have taken “the back seat,” but her “deep interest for all things mid-late 60s” proves otherwise. What does this fascination entail? The politics of the period, the “mod fashion,” the music — the world as it was nearly half a century ago.

“Although I’m not a collector (yet), I am an avid listener of a lot of the music from that era — rare soul, organ jazz, and boogaloo — especially Latin or Puerto Rican boogaloo that came out of NYC,” Kasimis says. “I make clothes, too, but the fact that I’m self-taught limits me sometimes.”

Kasimis is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Whitney Humanities Center.

Dean Karlan: Nonprofit Work

Evidenced by his use of real-world examples such as Microcredit and Homebase to illustrate economic principles in his introductory microeconomics course, nonprofit work enters Professor Karlan’s life, both on campus and off. Karlan started a website called “,” which provides an outlet for people to make their “vices more expensive, or their virtues cheaper” so that they can more successfully face their individual aspirations. The site is “great for losing weight, stopping smoking, or doing one’s Real Life Write-up for ECON 115 before the very end of the semester,” Karlan explains.

Karlan also travels every summer, visiting his team at Innovations for Poverty Action, and has written a book, More Than Good Intentions: How a New Economics Is Helping to Solve Global Poverty, which, as the title suggests, discusses what methods do and do not work in the fight against poverty.

Karlan is a Professor of Economics.

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