Erin Mikulec thought her class needed a little hedgehog therapy so she gave Sonic a bath and blew her tender quills dry.

The African Pygmy hedgehog was a surprise to students who were expecting a little more instruction on their final day of class last week. But after the room full of future teachers filled out their evaluations, the talk turned to Sonic’s diet of mealworms and litter box training.

Mikulec, an assistant professor in the School of Teaching and Learning, looks for ways to ease stress at the end of the semester, and that includes a Kung Fu Panda take-home final in another class. She assigns the movie final that involves answering 10 questions on topics covered throughout the semester. Questions like: Was the panda a divergent or convergent thinker?

“They need to watch it at least twice,” she said.

Erin Mikulec and her hedgehog

Erin Mikulec, an assistant professor in the School of Teaching and Learning, introduces her students to her hedgehog Sonic.

Matthew Smith, associate professor in the School of Music, thought he was done with grading one semester. He was in the mountains out west when he found out a student turned in a late assignment. Since he didn’t have an Internet connection to update it, he got in his car.

“It seemed surreal at the time to be driving around the mountains at night trying to find a Wi-Fi signal somewhere, just to update one grade,” Smith said.

But he did, although he didn’t offer what the final grade was.

Associate Dean John Walker from the College of Fine Arts remembers walking into a classroom to see an art student who was often late or absent, sleeping in the back of the room.

“He said he worked all night on his project and slept in the classroom to make sure he wouldn’t miss class,” Walker said.

Associate Professor Heidi Harbers in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders gives a cumulative final in her phonetics class.

“I used to play the Rocky theme song. Now I have my students use the mantra, ‘Bring it on Harbers!’” she said.

In the Department of Mathematics, Professor Cindy Langrall said she allows a “cheat sheet” of definitions and formulas. But it’s not cheating at all.

“By the time a student has constructed the sheet, he or she has probably reviewed everything on the exam,” she explained.

Getting all those grades posted on time can be hairy for faculty. On the department’s list of suggestions on how to get through it, the final one is: Blitz the grading as soon as the exams are completed and then reward oneself with wine and chocolate!

Don Meyer teaches in the Department of Agriculture. He likes to leave his class with a capstone message about what’s really important in life. He shares a 2-minute video of the poem “The Dash,” about what happens between the date you were born and the date you die.

“Coming from an old parental figure like me, I want them to take away this message,” he said.

Check out more photos of Mikelec’s students with the hedgehog:

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Kate Arthur can be reached at