Friday, September 5, 2014

Questions from a student

A student in Washburn's first-year experience class asked me questions about my college experiences, etc. I thought I would post them with my responses here, just for kicks:

1.Do you think WU 101 is necessary?
2.Why do you think colleges are doing it?
3.Did they have a course like this when you were in college, and if not, do you wish they did?
Many universities are having it because students are not prepared, there is a large first-year drop-out rate (25%), and such. However, I have heard complaints about it from students who were prepared, students who took AP classes in high school. I know I wasn’t prepared when I entered college. Maybe it could have helped me? I would love to see more discussions between professors and students about what they want WU101 to be.

4.What did you learn through your college experience?
I learned who I am.

5.Would you do anything differently?
I am not sure I would, or else I would not have learned from all of the mistakes I did make. I can’t tell you what you should do, except don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

6.Do you believe students should build relationships with their professors?
Yes! I love the relationships I have made as both student and professor. It might be the reason for being alive—to build relationships with others.

7.Are there any interesting/shocking facts about yourself that you would care to share?
It took me eleven years to earn my first degree in Computer System Analysis. However, it took seven years total to earn my BA, MA, and MFA in English!

8.What is your favorite college experience?
That is tough! The one changing point is when my philosophy professor called me in his office and said I should become a better writer. See question #10 for more info.

9.Was English your first passion? If not, what was?
When I came to Washburn, I followed my dream of what I wanted to be: A Computer Programmer/Analyst! My first degree was in Computer Information Systems. I moved into the job at the bank I was working with, then moved to an insurance company. Soon, I realized I did not like working in the corporate world. I went back to Washburn at night to earn my second degree in English, then left the business world for grad school--and never looked back!

10.Why did you choose English?
English chose me. When I was twenty, a professor said I should learn to be a better writer by keeping a journal and carrying a thesaurus. Those journal entries became poems, which entered me into the world of language. Language was a way I found myself—broke out of the isolation I was in. It was that moment when I was in my cubicle at work as a computer programmer when I looked at the walls and realized that, instead of flowcharts and programming strategies, I had poems. My cubicle walls inside a room of cubicles inside an insurance company were covered with poems!

11.How long have you taught?
Since 2004.

12.In literature who is your favorite author and who is your favorite poet? Why did you choose them?
WOW, what a question! I still love what Herman Melville did with Moby Dick. If people would just pick it up and give it a close reading, it really is amazing. I can’t put my finger on one poet, as so many have influenced my work: Joe Harrington, CA Conrad, Kate Greenstreet, Rachel Zucker, on and on.

13.Do you like writing? If so what do you like to write?
I write poetry, fiction, and hybrid works that combine them. In fact, I will teach a Poetic Memoir class in Fall 2015 I am really excited about.

EN199/399/599: CW Poetic Memoir. This special topics creative writing class explores mixed-genre/contemporary form examples from writers who use verse, prose, image, appropriation, experimentation, and form to "show" their autobiography/memoir. Students will write their own poetic memoirs inspired by these examples. No previous experience necessary.

14.What kind of books do you normally read?
Poetry. Lots of it. Sometimes experimental fiction.

15.What do you like to do for fun?
I spend a lot of time with my family, and they are a lot of fun to be with. Also, I like to meet friends at PT’s in College Hill to hang out, write together, etc. I also love movies.

16.(On a not so serious category) Do you believe in aliens?
I am still up in the air on this one. I do tend to side with Stephen Hawking, that if aliens come to Earth it would be for harm. Maybe I have watched a lot of sci-fi?

17.Do you believe the Avengers or the Justice League secretly exist?
The Avengers, of course, do. The Justice League is make-believe.

18.Who do you like better and why?
I am more of a Marvel Comics reader because I grew up identifying more with Marvel superheroes, especially the X-Men. I was a loner with only one friend, so I related to mutants being the outcasts. Here is a poem I wrote about it:


“I’m good at what I do, but what I do isn’t nice.”

Logan shouts at me
to run away
from middle school not knowing
the kids who chase me
and the late afternoon down
to the comic book store
isn’t this time for him
to catch a scent hear
tracks and double back
claws extended?

19.Do you like sports? If so what kind and who is your favorite team?
Baseball! Maybe, again, it has to do with my passion for it when I was a boy. It was the Golden Age for the Royals, when everyone knew each of the players’ names: George Brett, Hal McRae, Dan Quisenberry, etc. I’m still a Royals fan and took my boys to see their first game last Tuesday.

20.Did you make any friends in college that you still communicate with?
Yes! In fact, someone I went to school with while earning my second degree at Washburn teaches English here: Israel Wasserstein.

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