Defining the line between professor and parent

“When my son, my oldest, started at WKU, all of the sudden I started looking at my students through new eyes. My students were all somebody’s son or daughter,” said Dr. Dawn Bolton, associate professor of management. Dr. Bolton has a son, Chase, and daughter, Vanessa, who both attend WKU. Matt Lunsford/HERALD

Francis Wilson

For some students, going to college is a way to gain freedom away from a controlled family environment. But for a select few WKU students, their parents are still not too far away. There are a several faculty members that have children enrolled at WKU.

Evelyn Thrasher, associate professor of information systems, considers having her child in class as blurring the lines between her and her daughter’s professional and familial relationships. 

“I don’t want to blur the lines between faculty member and mother,” she said. “We much prefer that she takes courses so that she gets viewpoints from other folks, and viewpoints that are outside of our family dynamic.”

When Jessica Thrasher, a junior from Kingsport, Tennessee, enrolled at WKU, she and her mother agreed that she would not enroll in any of the courses that her mother teaches.

“I don’t want to ever have it perceived that I would show bias in either direction, in favor or the opposite,” Evelyn Thrasher said.

Jessica Thrasher also noted the duo wanted to maintain a professional relationship on campus.

Jessica Thrasher is studying business management with a focus in human resources. Therefore, she has many of her classes in Grise Hall, the same building that her mother works in.

“The only time [these lines] get blurred is when she needs a snack or lunch money,” Evelyn Thrasher said. “Other students can’t necessarily do that with their parents.”

However, Evelyn Thrasher is not the only professor with children attending WKU. Dawn Bolton, associate professor of management, currently has two children enrolled in the university.

“I think it has made me a better professor,” Dawn Bolton said.

Vanessa Bolton is an undergraduate undeclared major, while Chase Bolton is a graduate student studying Industrial/Organizational Psychology.

“When my son, my oldest, started at WKU, all of the sudden I started looking at my students through new eyes—my students were all somebody’s son or daughter,” Dawn Bolton said. “It was a very good thing for me to experience.” 

Dawn Bolton said that through her daughter, she has been able to see her students at WKU with a different perspective.

“I would not have had that [if] had it not been for my children,” she said.

This year, Dawn Bolton celebrates 25 years of teaching at WKU. Since 1991, she and her family have considered WKU to be a home– not just a place of employment.

“As little kids, I would bring them on weekends and they would run around Grise Hall while I would do work,” she said. “My colleagues have watched them grow up.”

Evelyn and her family have similarly spent many years in the WKU community since relocating from Massachusetts in 2008. 

“It speaks highly of Western that faculty who teach here encourage [their] children to consider Western,” she said, nodding along with her daughter. “I believe in it, I believe it’s a quality education for my child.”