Mattie arrived ten minutes late for the faculty meeting, interrupting Professor Larkin now associate head of the department.
“Glad you could join us, Ms. Saunders.”
Mattie ignored him, took a seat near the back of the room. Despite continuing allegations of Lecherous Larkin’s sexual impropriety, he’d been promoted, which convinced Mattie she’d made the right decision by not pursuing charges of sexual harassment against him. “We Believe You” was the motto of the university’s Sexual Violence and Prevention Response Office, they didn’t say they’d do anything about it.
For an hour and a half her colleagues, a bunch of pompous academics, debated their elitist opinions while Mattie caught up with her texts. In a profession where advancement was ten percent knowledge and ninety percent sucking up to the Dean, it was a wonder she was still employed. She couldn't care less about department politics and never attended any of the social functions.
It was her students, whom she mostly couldn’t stand, who tipped the scale in her favour, consistently ranking her as the most popular professor in her field and one of the top ten at the university. Mattie knew part of that appeal was her rep as the bad ass ex-girlfriend of an international rock star, Bodine, but curiosity didn’t account for the grades some of them pulled down.
Mattie loved birds, found them endlessly fascinating, and when she talked about them it was with passion and amazement. Sometimes she’d go off on tangents, intellectually riffing from one avian related topic to another only to stop when the bell rang, out of breath, emotionally drained and realizing what she’d been talking about had nothing to do with the course curriculum. Other days she’d rant and rage about the destruction of habitat, species at risk and the sheer stupidity of mankind until she was hoarse.
She guessed what she said resonated because her lectures were consistently standing room only. One thing for sure, she wasn’t boring.
Her lecture later that the morning got totally off topic when she began to talk about a study she’d read on bird migration, specifically the composition of flocks and how long they stay together. Do birds come together in flocks by chance? Do they actively choose flock members? Turns out they do. In fact, some bird species prefer to migrate with “friends”. How fascinating was that?
For the next hour and a half Mattie enthused about the species in the study, the methodology applied, the advanced technology used and, of course, the findings.
“And by the way,” she said at the end of the session, “your final exam for twenty percent of your grade is in two weeks. Expect to answer questions on aspects of avian ecology, evolution, physiology, behavior, and conservation, with particular attention to species from British Columbia.”
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