A Q&A with Shannon Bellum, Department Administrator for Family and Child Studies and Adjunct Professor, Art and Design
Artist Shannon Bellum’s role at the University is truly multidisciplinary. As an adjunct professor, she has taught studio arts classes since 2002, as well as courses in fashion studies. Since 2004, she has also been a member of the University’s professional staff, serving as the Family and Child Studies Department Administrator.
What led you to Montclair State?
After graduating with a BA in Fashion Studies from SUNY Oneonta, I worked in the garment industry, skipping my way up until I was head knitwear designer for Norton McNaughton, Inc., which is now owned by Liz Claiborne.
After I married and became a mother, I wanted to slow down and pursue a more parent-friendly career. I completed my MA in Counseling, but I really didn’t know what I wanted to do exactly. After my divorce, with two young children to support, I decided to pursue higher ed as a career path.
I’d taken a fine arts course every semester during my MA program, because I was genuinely interested in developing my skills as an artist, This led to my pursuit of an MFA degree. While I don’t have as much time as I’d like to pursue my own work, I manage to complete a small amount of work each year. I am currently working on animation and video art projects.
What do you most enjoy about teaching?
I was hired as an adjunct after completing my MFA degree and have taught sculpture, metal work and jewelry, and 3-D design courses. I love metal as a medium and it’s such a joy to share skills with students. I love to see their gleam in their eyes when their fledgling skills allow them to create something recognizable and wearable. Our outward identity is reflected in the things wear – how many of us can say what we’re wearing is a reflection of facing fears and conquering them in the jewelry studio?
I’ve also taught about six or seven different courses in Fashion Studies since 2005. I never thought I’d set foot in that world again! Lately, I’ve been teaching Culture and Appearance fully online. I love being able to teach from the comfort of my living room couch!
What is your role as Family and Child Studies Department Administrator?
I think of myself as the chair’s right hand. I’m deeply involved in projects that relate to all aspects of the departments development and administration. Much of what I do is student-focused, like implementing changes that impact student programs and services for the better, advisement or career counseling, or simply reassuring a student that her choices are sound.
What is the most rewarding thing about that job?
Of course, working with the talented faculty and our students is something I look forward to every morning! I love the diversity of my weekly experiences. I have a lot of responsibilities that simply roll onward and are easy to maintain, but within this framework, there is always something new or challenging to do.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to spend time with my three college-age boys – my two sons and my foster son -- when they’re home. They’re crazy about fantasy and sci-fi, so playing video games is something we do together. I make art and see art exhibits – the boys all love and appreciate seeing art shows with me. I’m an avid runner and I lift weights and swim in the summer months.
How did you become a foster parent?
A little over two years ago, my cousin, who is emotionally unstable, kicked Ryen, her 17-year-old son, out of their family home. My younger son Jesse, who was also 17 at the time, had always been close to Ryen. He asked me from day one if Ryen could live with us. He was relentless, and my older son Julian agreed as well. While all of us had various rough patches as we adjusted to having a new family member and Ryen adjusted to being part of a family, we were each dedicated to being a family unit.
I’m happy to report that Ryen is currently attending Bates College in Maine as a freshman on full scholarship! Most people see how we helped Ryen and think “isn’t he lucky you took him in.” But Jesse, Julian and I feel like we won the lottery! We learned more about being compassionate, caring for fellow human beings and – best of all – we gained an irreplacable new family member.