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Family Ties: Sibling profs find a home at C of I

If you ask for Dr. Daniels on The College of Idaho campus, you could get one of two names. While Professors Jennie Daniels (Spanish language and literature) and Luke Daniels (biology) are not married, they do share a connection.

“After my first class I taught at the C of I, a girl came up to me and whispered, ‘I heard a rumor that Prof. Daniels is your brother,’” Jennie said.

As it turns out, the rumor is true. The siblings took their own journeys to the C of I after graduating from high school in Ashland, Ore.—Jennie gained her Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego while Luke earned his from the University of Southern California. Neither thought they’d end up reunited at a small liberal arts school in Caldwell, Idaho, but both have found a new home at the C of I.

Luke originally went to college to study engineering, but looking at cells and organisms in a mechanistic way swayed him toward biology. Jennie had no intentions of staying in school long enough to earn her Ph.D., but teaching a language class during graduate school opened her eyes to becoming a professor.

“It makes me think we’re doing the same thing we did as kids,” Luke said. “I’d be sitting in my room building a scuba tank out of a two-liter pop bottle and she’d be in her room reading.”

But both knew they wanted to teach at a small liberal arts school in the Northwest. Luke first came to the C of I in 2009, enjoying the chance to work closely with his students in small classes. He contacted Jennie when a tenure track position in the C of I Modern Foreign Language Department opened up. After hearing all the wonderful things Luke had to say about the C of I—and being intrigued by the College’s distinctive PEAK Curriculum and Winter Term—Jennie decided to apply.

“By the time I was through with my interview, I was absolutely sure this is where I wanted to be,” Jennie said after witnessing the campus community and the relationship between students and professors.

The two Daniels grew up together, but each sibling has been able to witness a new side of the other’s personality by working side-by-side in a professional capacity. In January 2015, the duo partnered to lead a group of Yotes to Ecuador during Winter Term for a “Spanish for Healthcare Practitioners” class.

“It was really fun to see her working,” Luke said. “I only know her as my younger sister, I’ve never worked with her on something. I was pleasantly surprised. She’s an incredibly competent faculty member who is at the top of her game and doing things I could never do.”

Jennie was equally impressed.

“It was fascinating to see how he would approach topics from the biology side and the way he would dig with the students and help draw out their thoughts and develop their critical thinking skills,” she said.

Though the Daniels are only two years apart, no rivalries exist between them. Their interests growing up were too different for that. But, there are some fun stories, such as Luke pulling out the tails of Jennie’s My Little Ponies dolls. Or the time Jennie took karate and was able to throw Luke to the ground.

“You don’t realize your 14-year-old sister can throw you when you’re 16,” Luke said.

Might make you think twice about turning in a late homework assignment in Spanish class.

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.