Betsy Pollard Rau, the current director of MIPA, reclines in a chair in Room 130 of the Michigan State University Business School. Chad Sanders, her long-time assistant director, climbs up the stairs and sit down next to her. Rau and Sanders have known each other since Sanders’ teen years, and Rau was his teacher. Next year, Sanders will serve as the new director of MIPA when Rau retires from the position. The Upstart sat down with them to find out just how their relationship has progressed over that time.
The Upstart: You were Chad’s teacher. Can I have a quick overview of how your relationship started?
Betsy Rau: I taught English and journalism at Vestaburg High School and, if I’m not wrong, I think his family moved to Vestaburg when he was an eighth grader.
Chad Sanders: Going into seventh.
BR: He was in my eighth grade English class.
CS: You recruited me out of eighth grade English.
BR: And he ended up being the editor of what was called The Update newspaper at Vestaburg High school, so I knew him for five years at the high school level. Then he went to MIPA as a student journalist and won a lot of awards, and then he went on to college to be journalism teacher. Then we connected again—well we kept in touch through college—through the workshop. He started working in the office and then moved into the classroom as a teacher and came into the office as student director and now he’ll be taking over as director. We have a long history.
TU: What kind of student was he?
BR: (He was) a little — [laughs]. The kind that was really enthusiastic. Anytime I did something really creative—if we did something—he really got into it. I enjoyed having him in the classroom. That’s why I recruited him.
TU: What kind of teacher was Betsy?
CS: The same kind of director as she is. Nutty, inappropriate at times and inspiring.
TU: What’s it like working together now?
BR: Just kind of great.
CS: We’ve been together so long it’s just kind of what it is.
BR: I pretty much vent to him and then he calms me down. He gets my stupid jokes. Or laughs at me. He at least makes me feel good.
CS: We’re together…this week is so intense. We’re on like 19 hours a day and then we leave and don’t see each other probably until February when we get together for a weekend to plan this. Then we say bye, and then we don’t see each other until a week before the camp. I mean maybe once at spring conference, but it doesn’t matter. We just—boom—pick up. We know what we need to do.
TU: Was it hard to make the transition from student-teacher relationship to coworkers?
CS: I think the very first summer I worked in the office, I’m pretty sure I called you Mrs. Rau and we had to transition there, but it was not weird in terms of working together because we worked together on the student paper. We were a team then and so that was easy.
TU: What’s the biggest perk of working with someone you know?
BR: I know what to expect, and I also know that, for me at least, he knows me well enough that if I do something stupid that upsets him or other people he can tell me. So we’ve got that communication system open. Where there are other people who might go talk behind my back, Chad would not do that.
CS: This is not pertaining to your question, but it’s a memory that’s flooding back. One of the first criticisms I ever got from her was in eighth grade. We did kind of a writing unit, and we interviewed students. I interviewed a kid who had gone to see the Jacksons in concert. They had a big tour, and I wrote a big paragraph describing what this kid had seen. (It was) really descriptive, talking about the explosions and whatever, and her margin comment was “puke” (laughs).
BR: That wasn’t very nice of me!
CS: And I was like “puke”? “Puke?!” She said it’s way over the top. It’s all flowery. Just get to it. Don’t embellish. Way overboard, like gag me. And I was like, okay. Alright. But yeah, really quickly I kind of got it. I understand. So it’s good to know. Sometimes she just cuts right to it. There you go.
BR: He didn’t hate me forever. I didn’t destroy him I hope.
CS: But now it’s shorthand. I don’t know where I was going with that.
TU: If the opportunity to work together again presents itself, do you think you will?
BR: Not next year. I’m staying away next year. But we’ll do it. We’ll be doing other things. It just time to move on. And I’m excited about it. By Danielle Raykhinshteyn / Upstart Staff