Name: Robbin Smith
Occupation: Chair of Political Science Department, Associate Professor
Location: New Britain, CT
That bag has been to Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and the rest of Europe. It is a bag that goes with me to conferences, it goes with me everywhere. Some people have very professional looking sacks; I have a bright red backpack. It goes with me on summer vacations, and with my meetings with President Toro. It’s very utilitarian.
It’s REI. I don’t want to shill for REI but I encourage any student to get a quality backpack that they can use for more than carrying books, for any adventures they go on. The more you can live out of a backpack, the easier it is to pick up and go places. I’ve put food in there; I’ve put drinks in there; I’ve put clothes in there. I have never put animals in there, no small dogs or cats. I can’t think of anything nonliving that I wouldn’t put in there. As long as you have a backpack you have everything you need. I’m a two-strapper when I walk around campus. My shoulders won’t end up uneven. I used to have messenger bags and they’re lovely; I had a beautiful leather one. But after a lot of years of walking like this I decided to be even.
I always keep a list of things to do, so when I go home I remember what I need to do at night. Another thing always found in my bag is a folder of everything that needs to be graded. I keep tissues, candy, and I have two Czech coins. I have business cards, in case I need those. Pens, pencils, Post-it Notes, glasses, earphones, paperclips, and hand wipes.
I keep any papers I need to take home, articles I’m reading. Any research I’m doing, I keep that in a separate pocket here as well. Sometimes it’s loaded with exams and requests for letters of recommendation. Sometimes it’s not so loaded. Those are easier days, they break my back less; like many college students I’m sometimes carrying more weight than I should be. I’ve seen them all bulging and bent over.
I am carrying a biography of Justice Stevens. I think it’s interesting reading about the time he spent in Chicago where he grew up, and the family that he came from, which was sort of an interesting family that gambled significantly in the financial markets and on hotels very early on in U.S. history and lost big one time. It’s a good book and I’m reading it with a couple students.
The last big trip was to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria—nice and eastern. It was very lovely. We didn’t spend a lot of time in big cities, we went rural. We saw some really small towns, a couple hundred people here, a couple hundred there. And it was during the “off” season so we got to explore around when the tourists weren’t there. We went to a couple castles and to museums, just a lot of walking and meeting people. There were open air markets. There was one where this woman had the best cookies I ever tasted in my life. Unfortunately I don’t speak Slovak very well and I couldn’t understand what she was telling me they were made with, but they were phenomenal cookies. I also got a homemade bottle of wine and a homemade basket. It was really nice, a good trip.