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Academics, Student Life

Professor’s outlook goes deeper outside classrooms

Jennifer Friedman’s office is a disaster.

Projects from past students teeter atop shelves, piled high and overlooking a floor covered with loose papers.

In her green office chair, she patiently waits. Her graying blond hair falls down onto a faded, oversized red T-shirt that she wears with jeans and a pair of hiking boots.

A wrap-around desk hugs the back corner of the room, leaving an open common area in the middle of her office, perfect for conversation.

Her blue-gray eyes seem alive with excitement as she speaks to a young man seeking ideas for the first meeting of a campus social problems club.

“We want them to come back,” she says. “We’ve got to educate the masses about what’s really going on in the world.”

It’s clear where Friedman’s priorities lie.

“My greatest fear is the world my two children are going to inherit. We’re worrying about debt when the truth is, we may not have an earth to live on in 70 years,” she says.

At 51, Friedman is clearly a product of the 70s. The effect that the era has had on her ideals is evident. Born into a South Florida family that would have rather seen her attend law school, she maintains that her decision to go for a doctorate in sociology was the right one.

“I educate others, I research, and I get paid to learn in the process,” she says. “I could be a full professor and get paid more, but being happy is what matters. I just want contentment.”

Between teaching, raising a family and doing research, Friedman barely has time for her biggest project: Millie.

Millie is a recovering heroin addict whom Friedman studied for 10 years as she battled addiction, spousal abuse and the loss of two children.

“This is why I do what I do,” Friedman says. “This world is so quick to write her off as just a drug addict, but she is so much more. She’s smart in her own way. The world just doesn’t see it.”

Friedman worries a lot.

She worries about her children and about the job her husband just lost. She worries about where Millie is now. She worries about the future of this planet and the shape it will be in for generations to come.

For now, however, it’s 2 p.m. Dr. Jennifer Friedman’s only worry is getting to her 11-year-old daughter’s parent-teacher conference on time.


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