It’s all about how you handle Plan B…

Dear Students, Colleagues, and Friends:

A little over a year ago my wife and I decided that we were ready for a major change in our lives — some new cultural scenery and a new academic setting. Reading a beautiful job description about a place I had never been, I applied to James Madison University (JMU) with open eyes and a spirit of adventure. I was ecstatic when JMU selected me to be their next cartography, web GIS, and visualization professor. With a young one entering kindergarten this past year, a stellar salary and benefits package, and a Dean who is into floor hockey, I really believed that this might be the place my family and I would settle down for good. That was the plan.

Unfortunately, the first rule of life is that nothing goes according to plan. The second rule of life — or at least axiom of my universe — is always go with your gut feeling. This is even more important when your gut contradicts rational, economic, or expert opinion. (I realize the irony here; I am basically saying ignore science if your intuition and instinct tell you differently.) Thus, it is with a sense of disappointment that I will be resigning from James Madison University effective August 24, 2015.

The reasons? I could keep it vague and mysterious. However, that’s not my style. Being shy is definitely not my strong suit. And there is nothing to hide. I am leaving Harrisonburg, and thus by default JMU, because:

  • my family really needs to go back home to Minnesota;
  • my kids really miss their grandparents and relatives;
  • for whatever cultural, physical geographic, or climatological reasons, Harrisonburg just isn’t the right fit for us.

The worst thing one can do — for both oneself and a university — is secure tenure in a community where one does not want to live forever. I have no particular grievance against Harrisonburg. I have absolutely nothing against JMU or the ISAT Department. I possess no umbrage at all. This simply has to do with the fact that something about being this far away from the upper-midwest and north woods just doesn’t work for my family. It was an experiment that failed. Plan A ist kaput. It’s on to Plan B.

This decision is tough, and there are many people I am going to miss, so I want to spend most of this post thanking numerous people for making this past academic year wonderful in so many ways. First of all, my students in Geog 365 last semester… I will never forget how awesome it was teaching you! I remain incredibly proud of your achievements and work. I have never enjoyed such a great class vibe and dynamic as we had last fall. I wish you all the very best and am truly glad that I had the opportunity to teach you. I learned a lot from you in return… Heck, I always thought “Nova” referred to a television program. ;-) To my students in Geog 280, I had a blast! I hope you never forget the chickens of Baraka. (Epic!) Finally, if you are my student this semester I need to make an apology. The semester started with such great expectations! Then there were a flurry of snow day cancellations interrupting our flow. On top of this, for the last several months I have been trying to cope with a large decision hanging over my head. I just want to say that I have been duly impressed by your work… and I am sorry my grading is so far behind! You have all been great and you are producing incredible visual products!

Thanks to my colleagues in GS and ISAT who have been great to work with and very accepting of my decision to leave. I will miss many of you. I truly see the Geographic Science Program and the ISAT Department moving in very cool and positive directions. (A fleet of drones, Baby!!! :-) Thanks for such a great year and all of the fun collaboration.

That’s it. I have no new job announcement as of yet. No idea about where I will be other than likely in the state of Minnesota, perhaps Wisconsin. I only have an incomplete vision. I see my family hunkering down somewhere for a long, dark winter. We’re bracing for the cold, but importantly, we are all happy and content.

I wish the same for all of you… at least the happy and content part. Not necessarily the cold, dark winters.

Sincerely,
iM Signature
Ian Muehlenhaus

4 thoughts on “It’s all about how you handle Plan B…

  1. Noooooo!!!!! Dr. Muehlenhaus, you were hands down one of my favorite professors during my entire career at JMU!! And I’m a senior! So I know your leaving doesn’t really affect me, but I just want to thank you for all the awesome things you taught me about persuasive cartography, Illustrator (never knew how to use it before – DEFINITELY never would have understood the freaking Pen tool without you!), and spatial visualization in general. If you move on with your educational career, I am sure your future students will feel the same way about you – that you’re an awesome, hilarious, brilliant teacher and cartographer. If you don’t (well, regardless), I hope you and your family all the best in all endeavors. Sucks for the undergrads at JMU who won’t get to have you for their mapping courses, and in that light I’m honored to have learned under you when you were here. Idk if this is weirdly cheesy or sentimental but I mean DUDE you made learning fun, your classes were my favorite this semester for sure, and so I just had to tell you how grateful I am!

    Again, thanks for all you’ve done for us, and good luck with the rest of your life! :)
    Your humble student,

    Christie Martin

  2. Thanks, Christie! Your kind words mean a lot to me. Honestly, you were all the most fun students I have ever had! Such eager learners and funny too! Hey man, I’ll still exist… just on Twitter. :-) Thanks again.

  3. I most definitely agree with Christie! I am so sad to hear this news. I only had you for a mere 14 weeks (469) and my maps hands down were the best of my career thus far. I learned so much with visualization and I’m so excited to add Adobe products to my resume as skills. Learning the skills from this one class is more than I could’ve ever expected in my last semester. I understand the heartache involved with this process, and I hope you know that we support you! We may be sad, but life is all about doing what makes you happy; JMU can’t keep you from that. I will miss you screaming at me at 9 AM.

    Best of luck to you and your future,

    Justin Porter

  4. Thanks, Justin! I appreciate the kind words. I will miss all of you guys! :-)

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