Secret lives of our profs

Rachel Young

Associate Professor of Psychology Matt Ansfield has always loved Wisconsin. Now, when I use the word love in this case, I am not exaggerating. Ansfield really loves Wisconsin. He loves the muskie fishing and he loves the Green Bay Packers.
Above all, however, Ansfield has a passion for teaching. With the added benefit of Lawrence being located in Wisconsin, Ansfield says that the eight years he has spent so far at Lawrence have been a very rewarding experience, and he speaks of his time here as the realization of the life he has always wanted.
Ansfield has always known he wanted to be a teacher, and has always been interested in psychology. He was raised in Madison and graduated from UW-Madison with a bachelor’s degree, but he moved to Virginia to get a graduate degree in social psychology.
During his time in grad school, however, Ansfield always had the dream of returning to Wisconsin to build a life in a place where he could be close to the great muskie fishing he loves so much. In Wisconsin he also has the opportunity to be close to his family, though he says that Appleton is just far away enough from Madison, where his parents live, to make the situation “perfect.”
It was during graduate school in Virginia and the separation from Wisconsin that Ansfield really began to develop a passionate love for the Green Bay Packers football team.
Ansfield said that growing up he could not “remember a time when he wasn’t a fan”, but he asserts that he achieved Packer “super fan” status during grad school because watching Packers games was a way to connect with his family back at home in Wisconsin.
He describes the experience of watching Packer games as one similar to looking up at the stars at night, knowing that your family is going through the same things you are. In Ansfield’s case, this experience came with the knowledge that his whole family would be watching the game, and could relate to the jubilation or pain that came with a touchdown or a turnover.
After graduate school – and his conversion to super fandom – Ansfield worked for a time at a larger, researched-focused university where he had less contact with students.
Though Ansfield said that he had a good experience working in a more research-based place, he always knew that he wanted to work at a smaller, more student-focused institution where he could continue to do research but also concentrate more on teaching.
Lawrence ended up being the perfect place for this type of atmosphere, and its proximity to Madison, its plenty of lakes and its location near Lambeau Field makes Lawrence the ideal location for Ansfield.
At Lawrence, Ansfield teaches all levels of classes, from introductory to capstone, and is currently working on humor research. His last published article focused on smiling while distressed, and he is currently working on an article about how different types of humor affect distress.
The article to be published is titled “Is All Humor Created Equal? Effects Of Distress Focused versus Distracting Humor on Coping with Distress.” Ansfield says that he will continue to do research and that his favorite type of research to work on is any project that he can do with students.
In his free time, Ansfield, as previously mentioned, loves to fish for muskies, which he always releases because he actually feels conflicted about having to hurt them to catch them. When asked if he would eat a muskie, Ansfield simply says that it would be “sacrilegious” to do so.
Muskie fishing takes patience. After 100 hours of fishing per year, he said he may have only caught and released 15 muskies. However, photographs of his successes adorn the walls of his office. “I’m all about CPR,” he said. “Catch, Photograph, and Release.”
Packer games are another huge part of Ansfield’s life. “I try to go to as many as I can afford a season,” he said. For the games that he cannot attend in person, Ansfield has a well-equipped Packers shrine in his basement, complete with a large TV and the helmet, pants and jersey of his favorite Packers player, Gilbert Brown.
Luck is very important to Ansfield when it comes to the Packers games, as he says it gives him a little bit of a way to control the outcome. Certain rituals are crucial, such as only allowing two out of his three cats to be in the room when the game is on.
If the third cat should enter the room, Ansfield said, the results are disastrous. “Whenever he enters, something bad happens,” said Ansfield. “It’s not correlation, it’s causation.”
It is probably a good thing, too, because if the Packers lose, Ansfield said that the rest of the week is pretty much shot, and that his students know it, too.
A dream day for Ansfield, he said, would be to come home after catching and releasing three muskies, then watch the Packers beat the Vikings. To sum it up, when asked what a world without the Packers would be like, Ansfield said, “I’m speechless.”
As if muskie fishing and following the Packers were not enough to keep one busy, Ansfield is also the chair of the tenure committee at Lawrence and the POSSE mentor for the coming year. Above all, Ansfield reiterates that his true passion is for the students and for teaching.