The first things you notice upon walking into Patrick Schmidt’s office are the two opposing couches—one orange, the other blue, in the center of the room. Patrick Schmidt, Chair of the Political Science department, has ambient lighting on almost every surface to create a very welcoming environment. Schmidt happily gestured to the blue couch, as conversation ensued.
The couches are the focal point of Schmidt’s office. Citing them as the inspiration for his office space, Schmidt explained, “Having opposing sofas… puts everyone on an equal playing field.”
Sitting across from Schmidt created a certain sense of having more of a casual conversation. Cracking a smile, Schmidt joked, “The only real gradation of inequality is that I get the faux leather, and the student sitting on the other side gets the cloth.”
When asked which object was his favorite in the office, Schmidt took a few seconds to gaze around the entirety of his room, walls filled with bookshelves filled with books and other objects. “That’s a tough one,” Schmidt mumbled under his breath. At last, he ended on an abstract painting that he acquired in Oxford, England. “It’s a painting of the Oxford Castle and tucked in the abstract part of it is a little green triangle on the right side,” Schmidt said. The painting is important to Schmidt because the little green triangle was the tower at the college he use to work at. “I use to walk from my home up these side streets that most people never went on, and then you got this view and I found they had the same view [as the picture],” Schmidt expressed fondly. However, Schmidt couldn’t help but point out his three autographed objects. “One is an autograph from Justice Harry Blackmun,” continuing around his office, “One is an autographed copy of Peter Davison, who is the fifth Doctor in Doctor Who.” Lastly, Schmidt reached behind his head to yet another bookshelf, and pulled out an autographed recipe book by Jamie Oliver. “I’m just really inspired by him,” Schmidt said.
The only other sitting space in Schmidt’s office was a desk chair with a fluffy pillow sitting atop the seat. Schmidt’s desk is in one of the corners of his office, almost appearing as a separate, more private space. “It’s tucked away behind the file cabinet. Many don’t know if I’m in my office just by peeking,” Schmidt admits with a grin.
Many of the multitude of objects that sit on the shelves that line Schmidt’s wall come from unique locations. Pointing a finger above the blue couch, Schmidt pointed out a little red brick. “There was a refuse pile when they were doing renovation on the castle in Leighton,” Schmidt said. Schmidt, a fan of Doctor Who, has received a lot of Doctor Who memorabilia from students. “I always think fondly of those students, and it keeps their memory alive,” Schmidt said with a smile. It goes without saying that, with the sheer number of books Schmidt possesses, they carry a sense of importance. “Each book tells a story, or [at] least many of them do,” Schmidt explained as he gazed over the hundreds of books above our heads. However, Schmidt revealed that most of his objects came from home. “So much of the stuff I have in my office is stuff my wife said, ‘we have to get rid of this’ and I said, ‘I’m not ready to let it go,’ so it went to the office.”
Many of the objects in Schmidt’s office come from his various travels. “I have some glasses from beer festivals,” referring to several glasses lined up a few shelves up. “I don’t have geology as a deep interest, but I’ve managed to pick up more and more rocks,” Schmidt said, as he pointed to a small collection of various rocks sitting on yet another self.
Despite spending a large portion of his time in his office, Schmidt does not necessarily think of the office space as representative of himself. “I’m not sure if representative is the right word” Schmidt said while still turning the question over in his mind. “It has to be comfortable… If you want to use the representative word, I do want to be intentional about it, so that necessarily reflects part of my personality.”
On his final thought, Patrick drew attention to the piece in The New York Times on Marlon James and his apartment in Minneapolis. “ He’s 45 and I’m 45, and he also spoke of the importance of opposing couches or sofas,” Schmidt prefaced. “So, if he’s 45 and we both agree on opposing couches, and he’s featured in The New York Times and I’m featured in The Mac Weekly, I think we’re all square!” Schmidt concluded with a victorious smile.