Professing Love


By Julia Friedman

Professor Bunkong Tuon and Professor Nicole Calandra are one of a handful of married couples at Union, both of whom studied comparative literature at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Professor Tuon works in the English department and Professor Calandra teaches freshmen preceptorial classes. They enjoy working together and being able to bounce ideas for paper topics and class discussion questions off of each other. Both emphasize that “A lot of [their] memories as husband and wife are connected to Schenectady and Union.” I sat down with the happy couple to ask them about married life at Union and I have to say that these two are adorable together.

Step 1:  The initial meeting and the subsequent dating…

Calandra: At University of Massachusetts-Amherst. I was studying comparative literature and he was a senior graduate student in the program. We had the same office hours one particular term.  During our first office hours together, he complained about having to make small talk, but he kept talking to me anyway.

Tuon: She was easy to talk to. It took us about a year to “date.” We kept the relationship in secret because we didn’t want people to talk about us. We’re very shy people.

Both: Grad students could be somewhat gossipy.


Step 2: Gathering courage to propose to the lady

Calandra: We do a lot of hiking at places like Lisha Kill, Indian Kill, and Plotter Kill.

Tuon: I proposed at Lisha Kill. It was an excruciating time for me to find the right moment. She had 24 hours to get the final version of a paper ready for a conference.

Calandra: I was stressed out about the conference and didn’t want to go on the hike.

Tuon: I had the ring in my pocket for about a week and proposed by a creek. It’s such a blur because it was a scary thing to do. I jokingly said afterwards that if she said no, I would have pushed her into the stream. A lot of our memories as husband and wife are connected to Schenectady and Union.


Step 3:  Married life and living and working together at Union

Tuon: When we were graduate students, we made a promise to each other that whoever gets a job first, the other would follow. We didn’t want to be separated and only see each other during the holidays and at academic conferences. She is my center and provides stability and order. I got a job offer at Union  and she came along.

Calandra: I’m here because he’s here.

Tuon: Schenectady is equidistant from Boston and Allentown, where our families are from. Geographically, that’s perfect.


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