College of Arts and Science Highlights

Assistant Professor of Physical Education Jennifer el-Sherif

Professor Motivates Students in a Personal Way

Her 17th Ironman will be October 11

On October 11, when Assistant Professor of Physical Education Jennifer el-Sherif (at right in photo) enters the water at Kailua-Kona on the big island of Hawaii, it won’t be for a leisurely swim. The endurance athlete will have several hours of challenges to overcome if she is to complete this year’s Ironman World Championship. Among them? Crosswinds that can reach 45 mph, temperatures that hover around 95 degrees and a scorching sun.

For el-Sherif, it’s almost old hat. In fact, this will be her 17th Ironman. Her first full Ironman race was in Florida in 2001; before she even crossed the finish line she’d signed up for the race in Lake Placid, New York—and still she keeps going, finishing races in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Arizona, and even Mont Tremblant, France.

What drives Professor el-Sherif are much more than the physical challenges and the flush of success upon completing the grueling races. In an article on, she notes that she is “driven to be an example to the students she teaches at Salem State University.”

“I always do my training as a way to motivate my students,” she says, “because a lot of times they only want to participate in varsity sports. I use triathlon as a teaching point, to say, ‘Look at me. I’m this age and you can continue to do this throughout your lifetime.’

Pedro Poitevin reading a book

In his sabbatical semester (the fall of 2013), Pedro Poitevin wrote two and a half books.

One of them, a book of Spanish palindromes titled Ateo Pedro Va Para Pavor De Poeta (in English, roughly Pedro the atheist is on his way to becoming a fearsome poet) is being published by Ediciones Acapulco in Mexico with a grant from Conaculta (the Mexican National Council for Arts and Culture). Another, a book of Spanish poems titled Perplejidades (in English, perplexities), is in press in Mexico at the moment. Much to the author’s surprise, in spite of what the title of the first book says about this one, it also won a grant by Conaculta, and it is being published by Cooperativa La Joplin in a collection of three books, including one by Edward Hirsch and one by the Mexican poet Aurelio Asiain. Aside from these two creative projects, Pedro also began writing a book entitled “Introduction to Real Analysis: Examples First,” a book guided by a philosophy according to which students benefit from having a large collection of examples before encountering abstract definitions or theorems. On November 25, 2013, Pedro also delivered an invited talk on poetry and mathematics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Meghan McLyman

Meghan McLyman: dance professor in the sport and movement science department

My sabbatical began with two celebrations, earning tenure and promotion and my daughter’s first birthday. This was followed by a huge sigh of relief because I had survived the year of became a mother while simultaneously going through the tenure/promotion process. That being said, my sabbatical turned into a discovery process of finding myself again. I returned to dance making with the creation of a solo that examines my transition into motherhood including the joys, frustrations, pure exhaustion, and being torn between mother and artist. I created two additional student pieces as a guest artist at the College of the Fenway’s (COF) dance program for their December dance concert.

The most precious gift a sabbatical period provides is the gift of time. In addition to choreographing, I immersed myself in a number of classes including dance technique, yoga, the Alexander Technique, and two online dance pedagogy courses… oh, and a parenting class!

Upon returning to the Salem State classroom, my sabbatical research unfolded as I shared my newfound discoveries with our students, including restaging one of the COF dance pieces on them. My own choreography continues to explore the balance between motherhood, artist, and life in general.