Professor worked odd jobs to survive grad school

Maciena Justice

Kate Hudepohl has been an associate professor at WKU since 2003, teaching students anthropology. But before she was “Dr. H,” she was a graduate student at Tulane University who had to support herself during the summer months.

“School was very generous during the academic year,” Hudepohl, 46, said. “But in the summer you had to figure out how to find positions.”

One of her summer jobs included working as a lifeguard at an apartment complex.

“It was so mundane,” she said. “I could never imagine myself doing it.”

For Hudepohl, it was a job she didn’t think she would have in her twenties.

Another interesting job she enjoyed working was a temporary secretary position at an oil and gas company.  

“They were heavily investing in obtaining the funding for opening the D-Day museum that was in New Orleans,” she said.

As much as she was doing bland work, she was scheduling meetings and going to see the space.  

“That seemed like more adult work than lifeguarding,” she said.

While these were acceptable jobs for Hudepohl, there was one that she almost considered postponing her studies for. She was working backstage at the 2001 production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” directed by a theater professor at Tulane.

“He came up with a script and staged it at a bar called the Shim Sham Club,” she said.

The Shim Sham was a spacious dive bar set in the French Quarter.

Hudepohl credits Susan Eagle for getting her the job of running the slide show for the production. Eagle, a part-time instructor at WKU, was a graduate student at Tulane with Hudepohl. She had been working for the directors — Carl Walker and Richard Read — when she needed to leave town.  

“We knew each other, and she’d been around and I knew she’d get a kick out of the show,” Eagle said.

Eagle said because they were both training to be anthropologists, it was a good time to watch the crowd and observe the audience.

“Gave a lot of fodder to think of,” she said.      

Hudepohl said she thanked Eagle for that job because it was her all-time favorite.

“I loved it,” she said, “Loved the atmosphere, music, story, actors. It appealed to me on every level.”

One of her last jobs in graduate school was working as a cultural enhancement lecturer on a cruise ship for two weeks. The cruise started in Florida and went through the Caribbean, Devil’s Island (off the coast of South America) and then went up and down the Amazon River.

“It wasn’t something that I sought out,” she said.

Her best friend from grad school, Bill Doonan, had come across the opportunity but was unable to take it, so he suggested Hudepohl.

Doonan, from Sacramento, Calif., said he knew she would be great because it was her area.

“I didn’t see any downside,” he said.

As a cultural enhancement lecturer, she gave about three lectures a week and told guests about the areas to which they were traveling.

Hudepohl said it was weird to take the job because she is prone to motion sickness.

“I would never go to Devil’s Island,” she said. “That was a fantastic opportunity to see a place like that.”

Hudepohl is currently in her last year in a rotation as the anthropology director for the department of folk studies and anthropology. She said it was her odd jobs that showed her she enjoyed teaching and connecting with people.