Jacqueline Frost only teaches at Fairleigh Dickinson University one day a week, but she travels more than 2,700 miles to get here.
A tenured professor at California State University Fullerton and an adjunct at FDU’s Florham Campus, Frost flies from California to New Jersey and back every week.
“I think about it as if it’s a commute,” Frost said. “I do it twice a week: I go to the airport, I get on a plane, I get off in California. It’s not that bad.”
On Saturdays or Sundays, Frost flies from New Jersey to California to teach two Monday classes at CSUF. Then on Tuesdays, she teaches another class and flies back to New Jersey, where she lives with her mother. She teaches Film Production I and 20th Century Cinema at FDU on Wednesdays.
Frost stays on Eastern Standard Time when she’s in California, waking up with the sun and going to bed early.
She said she could only sustain this lifestyle because she’s in California for just a few days. There, she keeps many of her belongings in her CSUF office and has extended stay at a hotel.
Frost pays for her own flights, most of which cost less than $300.00. She rents cars from two car companies depending on which has a lower rate, and leaves her own car in New Jersey in long term parking. Rather than checking a bag every week, she keeps everything in her carry-on.
During the 4.5-6 hour flight, Frost works until her laptop dies. Then she’ll watch a movie. She marvels that she has not had to cancel class due to a flight delay or cancelation.
“It’s been really amazingly smooth so far. It kind of blows my mind,” she said. “I have not had any issues — we had a little turbulence last night; the guy next to me shrieked — but I have not had any major issues so far.”
Frost returned to New Jersey two years ago to care for her mother, who is now in her mid-nineties and lives in Madison. She lives in the house she grew up in, and wants to retire to the Garden State.
When she was 18, Frost left for Florida to attend the University of Miami, where she earned a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts in Motion Picture Production.
She later earned her Master of Arts in Cinema from San Francisco State University.
Frost has taught at CSU’s Fullerton Campus, the largest of the university’s 23 campuses, for 17 years. Many of her students have gone on to successful careers in film. One of her students won the best commercial award for the Super Bowl, she said. She also has former students working at companies like Panavision.
She also taught as an adjunct at UCLA for eight years, where her students included Bryce Dallas Howard. Frost’s book, “Cinematography for Directors: A Guide for Creative Collaboration,” has been used at universities across the U.S.. FDU film professor David Landau even uses it.
Whether in California or New Jersey, Frost loves to go for hikes and walks, and every week she adds about 50 miles of walking to her thousands of miles of flying. She loves to walk downtown Madison, and run into old friends from school.
When she moved to Madison, Frost sent her resume to Howard Libov, the director of the Florham Campus film program, who called her right away. She enjoys being part of the university’s film program.
“It’s smaller, but I think it’s nurturing for the students because it’s a very close environment; you get to know everybody,” Frost said. “I like the intimacy of it, and I never thought that when I left here, that I would come back to teach something that I love so much.”