Lori Jo Couch wins Outstanding Faculty Award

Lori Jo Couch’s colleague and boyfriend Mark Bergmooser has also won the Outstanding Faculty Award, receiving the award for the 2004-2005 academic year (Photo courtesy of Lori Jo Couch).

Office C-210 at MCCC has seen a lot of traffic in the last 21 years.

From students coming to ask for advice to others asking for help on an assignment and alumni coming back to thank their past professor for the impact she made on their life, the office buzzes with energy on any given day.

This office belongs to Lori Jo Couch, an English professor at MCCC since 1999 who became the Writing Center adviser in January 2018.

Couch graduated from Dundee High School in 1987 and earned an associate degree from MCCC in 1989. She was awarded the MCCC Outstanding Student award in the process.

She then continued to Troy State University in Alabama and earned her bachelor’s degree in 1992. During this time, she began to think about what career she wanted to pursue.

She decided to complete her master’s degree in English at Eastern Michigan University. After earning her master’s in 1994, Couch was hired to work as an English professor. She said the job combines her passion for English with her love for working with people.

At the Writing Center, Couch’s responsibilities range from teaching students how to tutor others, to becoming a sort of counselor for her students.

“She cares about her students,” said Mark Bergmooser, Couch’s co-worker and boyfriend. “She takes it home.”

According to her colleagues, Couch puts maximum effort into everything she does.

“She’s dedicated,” fellow English professor Carrie Nartker said. “People don’t realize the hours she puts in.”

Couch grew up on a farm in Dundee. Her childhood brought her lessons about life and death, as well as responsibility and hard work. She said she learned these lessons through different tasks like trying to save barn cats from harm and learning to sheer a sheep.

“I read avidly,” Couch said about her free time as a child, in between taking care of the other animals on her farm as well, including horses, dogs and chickens.

“I learned a lot about life on the farm, but I had a really nice childhood,” Couch said.

The balance Couch found between farm chores and her own learning became a tool she would bring with her into her adult life.

During her career as a teacher, Couch said she has had to balance work life with home life. She said she finds support, though, in her parents, Robert and Carol Kleindienst and older sister, Lisa Frost, with whom she shares a close relationship, and professor Bergmooser. Even with this support, Couch said she has learned how to live independently.

Because she has been a single mother for most of her son Levi’s life, she said she has had to figure out ways to make work a priority but also give him the support he needs, from putting food on the table to going to his football games, track meets and sheep shows.

“I think sometimes we have a closer relationship than most teenage guys have with their mom from my point of view,” Levi said. “Growing up with her as my main parent, it was like she was my mom and dad for a long time.”

At work, Couch is an active member of the Curriculum committee for MCCC.

As for other achievements, Couch was awarded the MCCC’s Outstanding Faculty Award for 2019-2020 for her excellence as a professor and adviser of the Writing Center. This award followed her receiving the Outstanding Student Award as a student at MCCC in 1989 and the Outstanding Alumnus Award as well in 2001. Winning these three awards symbolized a feeling of academic achievement for her.

“I was extremely proud of that achievement,” she said.

Among her different activities and awards, Couch said she is most proud of inspiring students and watching them grow.