Speaking in anthropological terms, affinity is a kinship link created by marriage, however, for this story, we are going to use it a little less literally and connect the affinity Mark and Hallie Neupert have for Oregon Tech and Klamath Falls.
An anthropologist by trade and professor by choice, Mark Neupert became interested in teaching as a graduate student at University of Arizona. After teaching several courses, he found that he really enjoyed the class experience—being with students, answering their questions, playing with their ideas—more than he enjoyed research. Thus began his trek to Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls. With her past experience working as a research associate in agricultural economics, Hallie was excited to join him.
Mark shares that Oregon Tech’s emphasis on undergraduate teaching was very appealing. Oregon Tech offered him a chance to teach a wide variety of classes—especially general education classes like Intro to Film and Globalization. “I'm not the kind of person to be narrowly focused on one small thing; I like to explore the connections between things. At Oregon Tech, I can do that,” said Mark, who served eight years as department chair and is a professor of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Hallie originally planned to continue working in agricultural economics, but became inspired to teach by Dr. Maureen Sevigny, a faculty member in the Management Department. Having always enjoyed her economics classes, Hallie was happy to make the switch to teaching so she could help students recognize the role of economics in their everyday lives. “While the foundational theory is certainly important, I try to apply that theory to as many real-world current events as I can, it is not difficult to do,” shares Hallie, now a professor and department chair of Business Management.
Although Mark says that he enjoys teaching more than research, he has found a way to combine the two. He studies what it is to be human in all of our many different societies around the world today and in the past, and brings that back to share with his students. “I have done research in the Philippines, studying traditional pottery production, and the Netherlands, making documentary films about the connection between urban planning and social life in Leiden, the Netherlands,” said Mark. To save money for school, Mark also spent several years doing archaeology in the Western US- in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, and California. “I was a real ‘Shovel Bum’, traveling from dig to dig - a strong back for hire, saving up money for the school year,” he shares. “One of these digs was with the University of Arizona archaeological field school, where we excavated old ruins on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. Very cool stuff. I also spent time in southern Louisiana, on La Fourche bayou, on an applied anthropology project studying the impact of offshore oil drilling on coastal communities. In some ways, deep Cajun country counts as a different country.”
Meanwhile, Hallie continues to draw up grand plans for the success and expansion of the Business Management department at Oregon Tech, and nurture the relationships she has built in the business community. “I have become increasingly interested in community and economic development in the past couple of years,” she shares. “I would love to see Oregon Tech formalize a structure/process to better support university-community partnerships. This could include a home for Catalyze Klamath, university-community liaisons to help maintain and sustain long-term university-community relationships, and resources to more intentionally link university expertise and resources with community needs.” Hallie helps spearhead the Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge, an annual event that has awarded more than $70,000 to students and alumni over six years to grow the entrepreneurial spirit in Klamath Falls.
The Neuperts have a love of Klamath Falls—with two sons in local schools (Klamath Union High School and Ponderosa Middle School); they have gotten involved in community service projects to better the county. Hallie is a member of Klamath IDEA's eLeadership Team (since 2015) and Mark used his experience gained in urban planning and social life in Leiden to volunteer on the City Planning Commission for 12 years. Hallie shares, “I strongly believe Oregon Tech needs Klamath Falls (and vice versa!) to not only survive but also thrive. As the community identifies, discusses, and implements future strategies and directions, I feel it is important that Oregon Tech be at that table to support Klamath Falls in its community and economic development efforts.”
When not working, Hallie partakes in many of the Northwest's culinary delights and hunts out Oregon wines for the couple, while Mark loves to fish for Steelhead on the Rogue and sings in ‘Cantorum,’ a community chamber choir led by Matt Hoffman. “Being able to sing works by Bach, Mozart, and others is amazing in a small town like Klamath Falls,” shares Mark. “We put on performances several times a year at Sacred Heart, free admission, so come check us out!”
The family has also recently gotten into mushroom hunting in and around Klamath. “Klamath is the first small town I have ever lived in and I have come to enjoy (and am extremely grateful for) the small-town experience,” says Hallie. “Regardless if I'm at work, at home, or at play I almost always know of somebody I can call on to help with a question or concern. There's a feeling of ‘we're all in this together’ so let's help out whenever we can.”“I appreciate how one person can make a difference,” Mark agrees. “I spent several years on the City Planning Commission and was grateful to be able to serve my community in an important way.”