“There are a lot of messages in this office,” says Assistant Professor of Sociology Michael Rocque, “and one of them is that it’s OK to play with toys.”

Rocque has created a festive atmosphere in his second-floor Pettengill Hall office. One of the first things he’d like students to see upon their arrival is his toy collection, lined up on his desk. It’s a reminder that “this isn’t a dark and gloomy place with just degrees,” says Rocque, a widely published criminologist. “What we’re doing here sometimes can be stressful, but it also should be fun.”

A line of fidget toys greets students when they visit the Pettengill office of Assistant Professor of Sociology Michael Rocque. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

The toys reflect Rocque, from his love of sports to childhood memories. Take Mister Rogers, who “played a large role in influencing who I want to be as a human,” Rocque says.

Then there’s a Ninja Turtle, an updated version of a toy that he had as a boy, who’s dressed as a Union soldier and reflects his childhood interest in the Civil War. One of his two bobbleheads is a memento from sociology department colleague Mark Owens; the other was a giveaway from the Xander Boagerts Boston Red Sox Splash Bobblehead game he attended with family members this summer.

Favorite toys. Above left, Yankee Doodle Raph reflects Rocque’s boyhood love of the Civil War and Mutant Ninja Turtles. Above right, a “slimer” next to Mister Rogers, whom Rocque considered a childhood hero. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College) .

He makes seasonal additions to his displays, pulling Pez dispensers from his collection for appropriate holidays. And last but not least are his squeezable Ghostbuster toys — perfect fidget toys for students who are studying for finals or are trying to finish their senior theses.

Rocque’s students appreciate the display. The Ghostbusters “Rat” and “Slimer” were favorites of his honors thesis student Anna Rose Franceschetti ’18, who made a beeline for the squeezable toys during every visit. (Her thesis looks at the drug use on the opioid epidemic among the Maine lobster fishing community.) It might be the first time squeezable toys have made it into a yearlong honors thesis acknowledgment: “I have endless appreciation for my thesis advisor, Michael Rocque. This project truly would not have been possible without your tireless investment, emails, encouragement, skype conferences and desk stress toys.”

Rocque wants to combine serious, sometimes stressful work with a bit of fun. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

Does Rocque use the toys himself for a bit of stress relief? Mostly they’re for the students, he says. But at home, he has his own. “I always find it easier to concentrate and not have my mind wander when I’m fidgeting.”

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