Banjo: Not Your Average Professor

By Alexa Low

Dr. Michelle Combs has entered her sixth year at Quincy University as the Assistant Professor of Biology.

Assisting her is Professor Banjo, her almost two-year-old dog whom she brings with her to work everyday.

Combs brought Banjo around her students ever since she first got him so he has spent his whole life coming to QU for class just like the students.

“I got him as an enrichment for our family then I realized when I started showing pictures of him to students and friends here that people have a connection with animals,” Combs said.

She is not the first professor at QU to bring their dog to class however she is one of few who bring their dog on a consistent basis.

Each year she asks her classes if they would like to have Banjo in class and tells them they are free to email her if they have any issue with him.

It is even a running joke around north campus that Combs gets the most students during office hours because they come to see Banjo. Combs welcomes students who visit Banjo because she feels as though it often leads to conversation regarding class and grades. Having an animal present during conversation can often make someone feel more comfortable.

Most classes choose to have him there with them and Combs feels he aids in a positive classroom environment.

“There’s two things at play here that could be really good for the students. One is there’s a psychological and emotional effect of having animals in our lives that is positive and I think it sort of underlines our Franciscan ideals where we’re to look at all the living things in our environment as something to be respected and to be considered as part of our living world,” Combs explained.

Some students have expressed to her that they miss their family at home, which for some may include their dogs. Others have even mentioned that some days, he is the reason they come to class.

Therapy animals are becoming more and more common around college campuses, especially around finals time. Combs believes that dogs can be stress relievers.

Combs being a third generation QU graduate really thinks of Quincy as a second home.

“I am proud to have strong history at QU, it’s what brought me back here,” Combs said.

After Combs graduated from college she went to the University of Cincinnati to get her Ph.D. in molecular developmental biology then onto Washington University for a post doctoral fellowship.

After returning to Quincy, Combs was hired as a faculty member and is now an Assistant Professor. She will be applying to be a full Professor this school year.

All her classes revolve around biological sciences but research is her favorite thing to do at Quincy.

During last year’s academic symposium her students researched a genetic disease that their fellow classmate had and were able to demonstrate gene deletion on her genome.

Comb’s would like all students to engage in research in their desired field and would love for them to join this year’s academic symposium on April 12th.

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