Business professor scuba dives around the world

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Off the shore of Palau, a small island nation in the South Pacific, Dana Muir found herself struggling to climb aboard a boat amid a raging storm.

After riding out to the isolated location to scuba dive, a sudden storm hit and created 5-foot to 6-foot waves. The boat’s steering cable broke, and Muir said she feared for the lives of her fellow divers.

Thankfully, Muir said, no one was seriously injured, and she added another unforgettable experience to her years of diving.

Muir, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Robert L. Dixon Collegiate Professor of Business and professor of business law in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, has completed more than 1,200 dives since she earned her scuba certification in 1997.

A photo of a woman on a boat
Dana Muir, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Robert L. Dixon Collegiate Professor of Business and professor of business law in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, is an avid scuba diver and has completed more than 1,200 dives since 1997. (Photo by Tracy Grogan)

After years of enjoying snorkeling, Muir had decided to take the hobby a step further and enroll in scuba diving lessons. She trained in pools in Michigan, and completed her training in Grand Cayman in the Caribbean Sea.

“Some people find (scuba diving) to be claustrophobic, and I never did,” Muir said. “I think it’s the opposite. I think being able to float is kind of like being able to fly, and I think it’s very freeing.

“It’s the calmness — I love how calm it is when you’re in the water and things are quiet. You can’t talk to anyone, you’re just floating. It’s a very zen state to me.”

A photo of a woman in scuba gear swimming with a shark
Dana Muir swims with a shark in Little Cayman in January 2020 in the Caribbean Sea. (Photo by Tracy Grogan)

Due to the Great Lakes’ often frigid temperatures, scuba diving opportunities in Michigan are limited. Preferring warm water, Muir has traveled to fascinating scuba destinations around the globe. She even met her partner, Tracy Grogan, while on a scuba diving trip in Tonga, another small, South Pacific island country.

“The dive community is fairly small, and it’s interesting how often you’ll run across a diver that you saw on an earlier trip somewhere completely different,” Muir said.

Now decades-long diving partners, Muir and Grogan try to travel abroad at least once or twice a year to scuba dive. Their favorite destination is Indonesia. Muir said she loves exploring the beautiful landscape above and below water.

“It can be thrilling because sometimes there are heavy currents and you just let yourself get rushed along by a current and that can be fun,” she said. “It can be thrilling to see a lot of fish all packed together and going fast, or thrilling to see some fish attacking other fish. All of those things can be thrilling and it’s fun and interesting.”

Within the next few years, Muir plans to visit the Misool Resort, a dive resort and conservation center in southern Indonesia. For years she has dreamed of visiting the well-preserved reefs brimming with biodiversity, and she and Grogan are currently on a waitlist.

Throughout her years of scuba diving, Muir has seen an array of ocean life. Her favorites include whales, frogfish, blue-ring octopi and sharks. She said respecting the ocean life is one of the key rules of diving.

“You should never touch any marine life whether it’s a fish, an octopus or coral because any of those can hurt you and it can harm the things that you’re touching,” Muir said.

A photo of a woman scuba diving
Dana Muir has gone scuba diving all around the world, but her favorite place to explore is Indonesia. (Photo by Tracy Grogan)

Muir has also explored wreckage on her dives. She saw the remains of World War II planes while diving in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

With almost 27 years of diving under her belt, Muir said, she is still cautious of the potential hazards. Diving comes with the risk of faulty air in the oxygen-enriched tanks, powerful currents and lightning striking their equipment during a sudden storm.

Despite the dangers, Muir said, she finds scuba diving a relaxing reprieve from her work life.

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“I never think about work when I’m scuba diving, and that is another wonderful thing about diving,” she said. “Whether it’s a zen dive or an exciting dive, there’s always enough to engage me so I never think about work. So, it’s a great way to get away from the normal stress of being at the university.”

Muir said she would encourage others who are interested to explore scuba diving, no matter their age. 

“Scuba diving can be a lifelong hobby,” she said. “You can start to do some things at age 10, and people dive into their 80s and 90s. We see these multi-generational families on trips where everyone is having a wonderful time.”

Q&A

What memorable moment in the workplace stands out?  

My first moment teaching. The moment was both terrifying and rewarding.

What can’t you live without?

Cheese. Pretty much any kind of cheese.

Name your favorite spot on campus.

The Big House during a football game, especially if we win.

What inspires you?

My students inspire me in the classroom and hard-working Americans, who deserve a financially secure retirement, inspire my research.

What are you currently reading?

Department of Labor Regulations requiring investment advice to be given in the investor’s best interest. They are critically important regulations.

Who had the greatest influence on your career path?

Norman Stein, who was a professor at the University of Alabama Law School when he read an article I had written. He contacted me about it and has been a mentor, co-author and friend ever since.

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