Two SUNY Oswego alumni are living proof that love -- of each other and of teaching -- can span distance and time apart.

Bastian Tenbergen, a 2008 master's graduate, and 2008 alumna Gilian Smith Tenbergen began their story in Oswego in 2005, and 13 years later, they are both visiting assistant professors, of computer science and psychology, respectively.

“We were both able to secure these positions out of luck, out of dedication, out of hard work and out of networking, because you never know what relationships may come in handy down the road,” Gilian said. “The people who helped us get our start here were the people who helped us come back.”

The couple met on the eighth floor of Hart Hall, where many international students reside while they study at Oswego. Bastian was an international student from Germany studying in the U.S. for one semester, and Gilian, from Syracuse, was beginning the track for a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“It was a very international, collaborative and friendly atmosphere,” Bastian said. “Different cultures meeting was never quite so in my face than it was there, and it was great.”

When the semester concluded, Bastian returned to Germany and through a combination of letters, email and video chatting, the two stayed in contact, not knowing if they would ever see each other in person again.

Then fate, in the form of the late Gary Klatsky, brought the two together again in 2006 when Klatsky, who was founder and director of the human-computer interaction program and a psychology professor, offered Bastian the opportunity to return to complete a master’s degree.

After the two graduated in 2008, they moved to Germany, where Bastian began a doctorate degree and Gilian sought her graduate degree in neuroscience. They got married, and then one week later, Gilian had to leave to go to school in the Netherlands.

“I thought I knew Germany, and I thought I knew German culture, but visiting and going to tourist cities is not the same as living there,” Gilian said. “It allowed me to learn so much about myself that I don’t think I would have learned had I stayed here [in Oswego] after graduation.”

After seven years of living in Germany and the Netherlands, both had earned their doctorate degrees and began the process of searching for a job.

“The ability to find two positions at the same school is nearly impossible,” Gilian said. “Most of us [academics] suffer from something called the ‘two-body problem,’ which is what he and I had for seven years living in Europe; I go to school one place, he goes to school another place.”

They decided they wanted to stay in academia to stay in the research world, and it just so happened that SUNY Oswego--the place that had first brought them together--had openings in both the computer science and psychology departments.

“I knew I wanted to be at a smaller college where they give you the opportunity to work on whatever you want,” Bastian said. “This was a goal for us, and the fact that the goal worked out is remarkable.”

(Story originally written by student Kassadee Paulo for Lake E-ffect newsletter)