Fanatic, socially conscious and a fun-loving prankster, Scott Monsma’s office decorations exactly match what you might expect of the conniving sociology professor. However, what you may not have expected is for him to be a fanatical recumbent cyclist, something made evident the moment you walk in the door by the mural his daughter painted for his birthday dedicated to his passion.
According to Monsma, it is his way to relax, listen to some podcasts and get into nature. Fifty miles is a good day on the bike, but he’s comfortable clocking upwards of one hundred on a weekend trip.
Socially conscious, his office contains photos from his student trips to the Sultanate of Oman, along with student and faculty art instillations on subjects of equal rights, consumerism and identity. A PhD and fourth-generation teacher, you might be surprised not to find Monsma’s own diplomas proudly displayed around his office walls, but according to him, they are just some papers validating the real work of his PhD, and they are probably sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere. However, you will see displayed his grandmother’s eighth grade and Calvin College diplomas which are ornately beautiful family relics and tactile reminders of the cross-generational impact of teaching.
As you might have guessed by his disinterest in his own diplomas, Dr. Monsma has an interesting relationship with physical possessions. His office is clinically sparse, and I do not think you’ll find a professor with fewer books. This is not because he is not well read, just that everything is digital nowadays, so why own it on paper? “It’s just stuff,” Monsma said. “It’s all just stuff. Stuff owns us. We don’t own stuff, and I don’t want to be owned by it”. For that reason, what he does keep is sure to have a story or memory attached. Maybe its story is self-explanatory (like the ducks in a row, marching across his end table), but others are gifts and baubles from students, art pieces, snarky post-it notes and even an old coffee cup (and relic, I guess) from defunct coffee shop Town Square, with a haiku scrawled across the side.
If there’s one thing you know about Dr. Monsma, it’s probably his aptitude for pranks and puns (in his words, “it’s about quantity over quality”), and to no surprise, his office matches this love, going as far as to have a “pun intended” sign greet you at the door. Strewn across bookshelves are mementos of old pranks, rubber hands, the OCD action figure, an end table with an outhouse (which you’ll just have to investigate for yourself) and a jar of “the ashes of problem students”. All these jokes are not to call Dr. Monsma’s personality flippant, but neither is he self-serious. “I take a lot of things very seriously, but I also love humor,” Monsma said. “You can take humor seriously.”
With his thoughtfully principled life and completely singular aesthetic, Dr. Monsma is a man with an ethos ripe to be imbibed. With love for nature, meditation, social activism, personal minimalism, a healthy balance between humor and composure and an office to match it all, he establishes himself as a fixture of Northwestern’s faculty. So, get out there and give one of your professors a visit! They are treasure troves of wisdom and passion freely available or all who seek.