Category Archives: Interview

Professor Aimee Taylor and her Classes Explore Ball State's History

This semester, #bsuenglish Professor Aimee Taylor developed and organized an alternative final project for her ENG 104 class that focuses on archival research of Ball State’s history. With it, she hopes to immerse her students in scholarly research and unravel ageless inspiration. She will also be attending a conference this May where she plans to shed light on this exemplary work she is witnessing from her first-year students.

Ball State University will soon be preview-full-keepin_it_100.jpgcelebrating its 100th anniversary, but one English class is already getting a head start. They are looking into the archives from 1917, the year the university’s land was purchased, to now. The professor behind this project is Aimee Taylor, who the English Department hired this past fall. She has experience with archival research at her alma mater, Bowling Green State University, and decided to apply this technique to her ENG 104: Composing Research course. For the course’s final project, students must compile research in their selected time period and connect their findings to the central question: “How has Ball State changed?”

Many of her students were intrigued by this twist on a typical research assignment. Out of her four sections, she was met with some adversity that led to necessary accommodation for her students’ passions. While she has provided an alternative assignment in those cases, she is enthused by the fifty or so students who did choose to move forward with the history project. Professor Taylor broke up each of her four sections into one of the 25 year spans since 1917, and has already watched her students flourish within these time periods.

Professor Taylor allowed her students to first explore the Digital Media Repository, or the digitized archives, before she required them to dive into more complex research. The archives include texts, catalogs, daily news, student publications, and donated photographs and videos. Yet a lot of her students aren’t looking at institutional content, such as how Ball State spent money or how populations changed; they are looking at how Ball State has changed in ways that they can relate to. Students have been able to relate many of their finds to their majors, extracurricular activities, and personal backgrounds.

In one of the research project’s preliminary assignments, one of her students made a connection within her position at Ball State’s student-run radio station, WCRD. This student looked into the radio station’s archives and was able to use that information to advance her involvement in the project. She was able to unite her passion for the radio station and the class project and gain insight into an area for which she has a tremendous passion.

These are the experiences that Professor Taylor has sought to initiate. She motivates her students to experiment with different types of content collection while immersing them in new environments because she values these skills. Projects like these are what revise attitudes toward scholarly research and rejuvenate students to learn. It is through archival research she has certainly found a unique way to connect students to their university, history, and each other.

Tara Olivero: Teacher at Homestead High School and Writer at Book Riot

Tara Olivero is a teacher at Homestead High School in Fort Wayne and a contributing writer at Book Riot. She graduated from Ball State in 2014 with a degree in English Education. In this post, she discusses her job as a high school English teacher and how her time at #bsuenglish helped her find her passion for teaching.

How would you describe your job?

My main career will always be my teaching career – I’m in my third year of teaching in Fort Wayne at Homestead High School. As any other high school teacher knows, it’s an exhausting job but one that’s personally satisfying beyond all compare. I also have two side-gigs outside of teaching. I’m a contributor at Book Riot, which I really love because it gives me a platform for my own writing. And my “purely for fun” job is that I work at an Escape Room in Fort Wayne on the weekends; I also write blog posts for the Escape Room’s website.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

I usually try to get to school between 6 and 6:30, so I can set up all the documents I need and make copies for students who have laptop issues. That’s when I don’t oversleep, of course. I teach five classes of freshman high school English, where we do the standard reading/writing you’d expect. I also teach one class of juniors and seniors in Film Literature, Tara Oliverowhich is essentially how to write thoughtful and critical analysis of films. After school, I’m usually still there until 4 or 5, either running one of the clubs I sponsor (including the school’s Creative Writing Club) or helping the theatre department with costuming. At the end of the day, I’ll finally head home to grade papers, work on my current Book Riot pieces, or pet my cat.

How did your English major affect your career path?

I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have the teaching position I have today without an English major. One of the strengths I bring to the table in terms of serving my students IS my English content knowledge. While I’m always trying to work on improving my teaching strategies, inclusion of technology, etc., I know I never have to worry that I’m not hitting at the heart of the books we read in my classes and the structure and content of the essays my students write.

When I was student teaching, I was overwhelmed with the experience, too. I didn’t realize how stressful it would be until I was already in it, but I knew that I wanted to teach English more than anything. I was armed with so much knowledge from my English classes, and I knew how painful it was to be in non-English classes at Ball State and see that writing was something that plenty of other students desperately needed to work on. All of that made me want to teach English even more. Reading comprehension, critical analysis, and the ability to put that comprehension and analysis into words are some of the most important skills high school students need to master, so I’m honored to have a part in that now.

What skills did you pick up in your major that have proved useful in your job?

The English Department did a bang-up job helping me hone my analytical writing skills. Until I started teaching Film Lit, I didn’t realize how helpful it was that I can actually write well. I’m able to show my students examples of my own analytical writing that they can use as models for specific tasks, which is nice.

The instruction I received in my writing classes also helped me hone my style and build my confidence in my own writing. The voice present in my writing and my passion for literature, both of which grew throughout my time as an undergraduate, helped me land a spot as a Book Riot contributor. For the longest time in college, I was a “quasi” book blogger; I ran a YA book blog but didn’t interact much with the blogosphere because I was intimidated. I feel like I can run with that crowd now and not feel inadequate, which is partially because all of the Book Riot people are lovely individuals and partly because I know I’m now a decent writer when I put in the time and care about what I’m writing.

Is there a particular class or professional opportunity that you remember having a big impact on you?

The young adult literature class impacted both the way I teach English, especially the way I run the student-chosen summer reading activities in class in the fall, and my experience writing for Book Riot as a critical reader of YA fiction. The ideas that were covered in that class – how to talk about tough subject material, how to tie in relevant current events, etc. – were more helpful than I could have anticipated. I also know that the entire education program, but specifically the English education classes, helped prepare me for how to design the best reading and writing lessons that I can.

What advice would you give current English majors?

If you’re trying to get onto a writing staff, be brave and apply when there are job openings, even if you think you won’t be good enough! You never know until you try. Write your passions and your voice will come through.

The Twittersphere is on fire right now, and Book Twitter is one of the greatest social platforms you can engage in. There is so much critical analysis happening in 140 characters, it’s madness. So find some authors, publishers, book bloggers, etc., to follow so you can get in on all of that action. It’ll also help you make connections that can further your own aspirations once you graduate.

Save all of your notes! I had to teach The Scarlet Letter my first year at Homestead, and I knew I had taken such great notes in Dr. Habich‘s class, but I tragically couldn’t ever find them.

An Interview with Elizabeth King

Elizabeth King is a MA student at Ball State in the English General Studies program. She received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Taiwan for the 2016-2017 school year. Since August 1, 2016, Elizabeth has been in Taitung, Taiwan, a rural county popular with tourists for its beautiful landscape. She has been spending part of her time working with local Taiwanese English teachers in elementary or middle school classrooms, and also improving her language skills and investing in the local community.


King

Winning a Fulbright is a big deal. What do you think made your proposal stand out?

I think there were two main things: one, I knew Taiwan was the right country for me to apply to, and two, I knew how my past experiences added up to make that the right place, and the ETA the right grant. I studied abroad in Xiamen, China back in 2011 and moved there to teach English for a year after I finished undergrad in 2012. After I came back to Indiana, I was a substitute teacher and was able to do some long-term subbing before I came to Ball State, where I have been a TA for the Writing Program. It was a lot of haphazard teaching experience, but when I started my application for Fulbright, I could see how it all added up, and how to demonstrate that experience in my essays.

Also, I worked with Dr. Andrea Wolfe to revise my essays, which taught me so much about that genre of writing. I’m not sure my application would have been successful without her help.

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An Interview with Tiffany Austin

Tiffany Austin received her BA in English from Spelman College, her MFA in Creative Writing from Chicago State University, her JD from Northeastern University, and her PhD in English from Saint Louis University. She currently teaches rhetorical and creative writing at the College of The Bahamas. Her research and teaching field also includes African Diaspora literature—African American, Afro-Latin, Caribbean, and African literature. 

How would you describe your writing?

My writing has been described as one with a gendered blues aesthetic, but I don’t relate this descriptor to how we generally perceive the blues.  I’ve always admired blues music, not only for its melancholic tones, but for its protest-like and freeing qualities. I grasp its expressive possibilities because of its creative use of language and sound (especially its disguised protest element).  I’m most interested in the embodiment of langtiffany-austinuage—readers’ visceral responses—so my poetry is full of images and elliptical narratives.  The themes range from historical and personal memory to “tenderness” amongst tragedy-fraught events and experiences.  I find myself asking, “What do we desire from memory?”  Within those themes subsist the subjects of cultural belonging, dislocation, gender, and age.  I don’t overtly point to sexuality because I’m more invested in how we sensually engage with ourselves and one another.  Pondering the possibilities for poetry, it’s about how I treat you and you treat me—personally, socially, politically—and that’s what the blues delves into and how it relates.

What should potential audience members expect if they decide to attend? Is there a target audience in your mind?

I once toyed with the term “poetics of quietude” to relate the importance of silences and ellipses in the intersection of some Caribbean and Southern women poets’ works, so my poetry, and especially its engagement with social issues, is not necessarily loud but contemplative.  It often baffles me that there has been this historical argument about whether poetry should be political or not, when the political alludes to the people.  It’s not original for me to say, but we’re always writing politically—as people.  I’m trying to work out something in my poetry, and I like for audiences to take that journey with me.  I truly believe if we use new language, our perspectives and how we engage with problems change as well.  I do not have a target audience; I only hope for one that is willing to listen.

What are your hopes for this presentation?

I hope that audience members will connect language, poetry, and social justice with a new lens.  I remember having a conversation with a young feminist who conjectured that we should take control of the word “bitch.”  But I asked why couldn’t we create a new word that proclaimed the same kind of female power that she desired to express.  I want audience members to assert a type of power in listening to the possibilities for language and political/social action.  When I tell my students that, as primary and secondary students, “unequal education funding” does not violate the constitution (there is no constitutional right to equal education), they are taken aback.  Then, they have to question the definitions of “equal,” “right,” and “education,” and they express how these definitions are ambiguously enacted by political policies through their writing.  So, I continue to ask, what can we gather from the intersection of poetry and social justice?  Our most vulnerable sites can become our most powerful means for shifts.  That’s the conversation to be had.

What do you want people to walk away with? In other words, do you want them to think about your message, learn something new, gain the desire to act, etc.?

I want audience members to think about what role language plays in their perception of ideas, in how they engage with different people.  I seldom ask, “How are you?” because at times I am not prepared for the potential answer.  How do we deliberately engage with one another?  With our privileges?  With disengaging with the soundbites?  I often say, I’m not a multi-tasker because when I am listening to someone, I try to give that person my full attention, and the same applies to my encounter with a social/political issue.  What do I not know? I want audience members to ask questions that lead me to ask questions.

Levi Todd Reacts to the Get Loud Poetry Slam

#bsuenglish student and Reacting Out Loud found Levi Todd shares his impression of the Get Loud Poetry Slam, sponsored by the Marilyn K. Cory Speaker Series, that occurred on October 16th at Two Cats Cafe.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a junior English Studies major at Ball State. I enjoy rock climbing, biking, and am waiting for the day I can adopt a pug named Gus.

What is your connection to Reacting Out Loud?

I am the Founder and Executive Director of ROL. Reacting Out Loud is an independent organization devoted to uplifting poetry and affirming community in Muncie, Indiana. We intentionally deliver our programming to Muncie as a whole and are not campus-affiliated, though we did do a one-time collaboration with #bsuenglish at this last event. We firmly believe that poetry is the most accessible form of self-expression that people have, and that it has the potential to build powerful connections within communities.

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Meet Dr. Jeff Spanke!

The English Department would like to introduce you to Dr. Jeff Spanke:

How would you describe your perspective on teaching?

I think that teaching is first of all a reciprocal enterprise. So I don’t like the idea that there’s a person with knowledge that gives that knowledge or gifts that knowl20150413_183438035_iosedge to students who are otherwise incapable of learning. I like the idea that teachers serve as guides and facilitators of students’ own learning process, and that ideally teachers are learning along the way too. So it’s a mutually beneficial and a reciprocal process that doesn’t need to take place in a classroom and often doesn’t take place in a classroom. In my experience this idea that we’re treating students as incomplete globs of clay just doesn’t make sense and it’s totally unrealistic. Students are complete individuals, they have worries and fears and motivations and goals, so within the institution of schools, teachers need to adapt to those needs and those learning styles, otherwise we’re just going to keep reproducing a system that every year leaves millions of kids feeling marginalized and othered. So I think teaching is the most noble and important and rewarding thing any of us can do, but I also think that it’s one of the most difficult, and one of the least understood professions in the world.

When are your office hours?

Right now they are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:00 until 2:00 pm in Robert Bell 246. Continue reading

Meet Professor Allison Layfield!

The English Department would like to introduce you to Professor Allison Layfield

Layfield_Allison.jpg Professor Layfield sees the classroom as a time for brainstorming and collaboration. Her goal in the classroom is to get students to think and actively participate in class discussion. She also wants her students to think about the discussions at home and then write about their ideas on the subject.

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Katy Didden

Dr Katy Didden earned her BA from Washington University in St. Louis, her MFA from the University of Maryland, College Park, and her PhD from the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO. This semester she’s teaching one section of ENG 285 and one section of ENG 408. 

How would you describe yourself as a teacher?

One of the things I want the most, as a teacher, is for my students to have confidence in their convictions. I also want them to know how to use dialogue as a means of expanding ideas and testing assumptions, and to see the benefits of respecting and understanding other points of view. I want to convince students that because they each have unique life experiences, their contributions to class discussion and peer review are not just valuable but essential to helping the class articulate complex ideas. In my classes, I want to create an atmosphere that fosters students’ creativity, curiosity, and responsibility. I want what they learn in my class to help them succeed in all of their classes.

When are your office hours?

My office hours are Tuesdays from 2-3pm, and Wednesdays from 1-2pm, but I also meet with students by appointment.didden

What are you reading?

I’m often in the middle of several books at once, and right now is no different. Here’s what’s on my desk at the moment: Inger Christensen’s Alphabet, Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Elaine Showalter’s Teaching Literature, George David Clark’s Reveille, Stanley Plumly’s Orphan Hours, and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. I highly recommend these books! They were highly recommended to me, which is why I have them.

Truly, though, I am spending most of my time thinking about Marianne Moore’s poem “An Octopus” (her poem about Mt. Rainier). I am writing an essay about the importance of place in poetry, and about how Moore has influenced and continues to influence my writing in that respect. Soon, I will turn my attention to Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric—I’m presenting a paper on that book for a conference in November. I’m interested in how Rankine uses photographs and other visual images in Citizen to help her navigate difficult subjects such as race relations and the subjugation of women’s bodies.

What do you think everyone should read?

One short story that has stayed with me over the years, and one that has generated a lot of thoughtful discussion with my students, is Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” A quick list of poems I love would be: “At the Fishhouses,” by Elizabeth Bishop, “The City of Light,” by Larry Levis, “A Small Needful Fact,” by Ross Gay, “What he Thought,” by Heather McHugh, “Rain Effect” by Mary Ruefle, and “The Layers,” by Stanley Kunitz.

What’s your biggest pet peeve in the classroom/what is a big mistake students tend to make?

The first thing that comes to mind is “eye-rolling,” though I’m also intrigued by it. On some level, people roll their eyes as a form of protest, and maybe more importantly to form a bond with their classmates (the ones for whom the eye roll is performed). What I don’t like about it is that it sets up the teacher/ student dynamic into clichéd, antagonistic roles, and that doesn’t interest me. I prefer to think of the classroom as a collaborative space. That is to say, I appreciate students who take responsibility for creating an engaged, positive environment in the classroom—it makes more of a difference than most students realize.

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I am working on two new manuscripts of poems. The first project builds upon and advances work I began in my first book, The Glacier’s Wake. That book includes persona poems where I write in the voice of a glacier, a sycamore, and a wasp to confront the contrary impulses of consumerism and conservation. For “The Lava on Iceland,” I am erasing a series of source texts about Iceland, from a variety of disciplines (from literature and history, to politics and pop culture) into a lyric voice of lava. The project is multi-modal, and collaborative; I am working with graphic designer Kevin Tseng to set the erasures over a series of photos, alternating between the archival photos of Frederick Howell and color photographs by numerous contemporary artists and writers. The final texts are a palimpsest of photographs, source texts, and erasures.

Even while I am working on more experimental poems with the erasure project, I have been steadily working on a series of sound-driven poems, some in blank verse, and others in looser, rhyme-dense forms. These poems address a range of subjects from super derechos, to opera, to Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” I see one theme emerging among the new poems, which is that many poems are in dialogue with other writers and artists, from photographers like Travis Dove, to writers like Cavafy, Dante, and Shakespeare. I have also recently returned from the Pilgrimage to Compostela in Spain, and have begun a series of poems inspired by my research of medieval Christian iconography and Spanish mystics like Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the hermits who lived at Montserrat.

What are your other hobbies?

I love to be outdoors, so some of my favorite hobbies are running, hiking, swimming, and cycling. I also love yoga, especially Iyengar, or alignment-based, yoga. I enjoy playing the guitar, and I’m currently taking guitar lessons for the first time in fifteen years!


Please join us in welcoming Dr Katy Didden to our department!

Cultivating Creative Identities with Brian Morrison

Brian MorrisonBrian Morrison

Ball State English Professor.

Published writer.

Part of Ball State’s Faculty Reading Series.


On Wednesday the 28th…

Brian Morrison will read with Silas Hansen as part of Ball State’s Faculty Reading Series.

The Faculty Reading Series hopes to bring English professors into the spotlight, showcasing their talents and interests outside of class.

Brian is still a relatively new addition to Ball State, taken on as an assistant English professor in 2013. He was also assistant editor of Black Warrior Review while he received his MFA at The University of Alabama. You can find his poetry in Verse Daily, Copper Nickel, Story Magazine, and other literary journals.

Before his reading on Wednesday, we got to talk to Brian about his role as a teacher and a writer.


How did you become interested in writing?

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An inquiring mind: a new faculty profile of Kristine Kotecki

Welcome to the latest installment of the English department’s new faculty profile series, where we welcome another new member to our family. Be sure to check out past profiles, which include Silas Hansen, Lupe Linares, Molly Ferguson, Laura Romano, and Vanessa Rapatz.

Say hello to Kristine Kotecki.

Photo provided by Kristine Kotecki

Photo provided by Kristine Kotecki

Kristine earned her Ph.D. from University of Texas at Austin in Dec. 2013, and she was most recently a lecturer at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Kristine will be teaching courses in world literature, film, media, and digital humanities. In her research and teaching, Kristine focuses on how the past is imagined in contemporary texts. She has written about film festivals, world literature anthologies, neorealist films, fairy-tale films, Eastern European video film exhibits, and anticolonial historiography.

So, how did you get interested in your interdisciplinary research?

I spent an eventful four years between college and graduate school exploring various paths that someone with an inquiring mind and socially conscious disposition might take.

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