Instructor, Department of English
What year did you start working at NIU?
Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
I was born in Chicago and live in Oregon, Illinois.
Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I have a bachelor’s from Columbia College and an M.A. from Johns Hopkins.
In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of English
What do you like about working at NIU?
I have an 85-mile round-trip commute through pretty cornfields, and I feel like it helps me recharge to take that drive. I always feel a moment of excitement when the corn on Route 64 gives way to Annie Glidden and the bustle of the college scene. I also try to bike it once or twice a semester, taking back roads like Twombly and Hemstock. Three hours to work, teach the classes, three hours home. Those are great days.
What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Meet each other. Turn your phones off when in class, even in the classes you find boring. Especially those classes.
Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
My novel “Book of Grudges” was published this year from Spuyten Duyvil out there in Brooklyn, New York. It's a novel, totally made up, fictitious, but some of what I wrote about the fictional DeKalb State University may have been inspired by working here. For example, DSU has a library and so does NIU.
What do you enjoy most about mentoring students?
The way students can change in the course of a single 16-week semester. It's stunning. And it's up to the instructors to make that change possible. You can't force growth, but you can create an environment where it's probable.
What do you hope students take away from their college experience?
The love and desire to continue pursuing creative interests, regardless of whether those interests are financially profitable or not.
What is your favorite memory of NIU?
Receiving the Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction Award in 2018, which is not necessarily given every year. I was honored and humbled and I think about it a lot, trying to live up to it that honor.
What’s one thing about NIU that’s surprised you?
How pretty the supposedly dull landscape actually is.
What fulfills you personally and professionally?
Reading student writing. In both the composition courses I teach and the fiction classes, I am constantly gobsmacked by the creative imagination in the writing, the earnestness with which the students express themselves. I also love doing the Under Rocks podcast for WNIJ — having access to the wealth of interesting people and events at NIU is endlessly stunning.
Which of NIU’s core values align with your own?
The inclusive decision-making process.
Do you keep in touch with any NIU alums? If so, are there any doing something interesting and exciting that we should know about? Please share some information with us and we’ll consider them for a future feature.
I am always happy to get an email from a student who has graduated. Several of them have published works of fiction. But I'm even more happy when they allow me to just to keep up with their lives.
Who has influenced your professional path?
The writers I admire: Stephen Dixon, Grace Paley and Charles Portis, just to name a few. Garrison Keillor a little bit because he's such a strong writer and produced so much great material for the radio. So much of it was very good. Radio has always been an interest of mine. He turned out to be kind of a jerk I guess, but we didn't know that then.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I don't know that I could have predicted this life when I was growing up, but close enough! I wouldn't want the life I dreamt about when I was young if it meant giving up this one.
Are you participating in or have you participated in any NIU shared governance or professional development groups? If so, how has your participation enhanced your experience as an employee?
Volunteering on NIU's WNIJ has been a real joy for me. I even love doing the fundraising. I look at it like a religious holiday. You listen to public radio all year long, then once or twice a year you're asked to think about what it means to you. Whether you contribute financially or not, it's important to think about it. It's good for you, and while you're at it, please give generously!
Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional or community organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
No. I used to be the fiction editor of a literary journal but it recently shuttered, as most print literary journals do.
What community organizations are you involved in?
I ride bicycles with a loosely affiliated group of fellow cyclists. It's very grass-rootsy. We do a couple of "charity rides" each year, raising money for local groups in the Rockford area such as the Fish-Abled Foundation, which supports handicapped and disabled individuals through various programs.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I ride bicycles all year long: road bikes in the spring and fall, touring bike with a tent and sleeping bag in the summer for overnight bike-camping trips, fat tire bike for when there is snow on the ground. When I am not able to ride a bike, I spend my time looking at websites for photos of expensive bikes I can't afford.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
Been here for 25 years now. I opted to get the NIU rocks glasses as my 25-year gift, even though I could have gotten them with just 10 years in. When I actually get them shipped to me, I will raise a toast to 25 years and hope for 25 more. It's possible with the way medicine and science is advancing, though I will be 80 at that point. I'll have a really great collection of NIU glassware by then.