Molly McNett

Instructor, Department of English

Molly McNett

What year did you start working at NIU?

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
Oregon, IL

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I have a B.A. in theater from Illinois State University, an M.A. in English from NIU and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

In which department(s) do you teach?|
Department of English

Were you a first-generation college student? If so, what advice would you offer to current first generation students?
Come to office hours, and if they don't suit you, let us know. We're here to help, and happy to help.

What do you like about working at NIU?
I love the students here. They are warm and eager to learn, and they're always surprising me. I teach fiction writing and also ESL composition, so I have students from everywhere. I learn about the world through them!

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Make contact with your teachers. Go to office hours — we like it! This personal connection can make a lot of difference.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I developed a class in nature writing at NIU's Lorado Taft Field Campus in Oregon, Illinois. This is a beautiful outdoor campus next to a state park, just an hour west of NIU's main campus. Ours was the first for-credit class NIU had held on this outdoor campus since 2005. We walked in the woods, observed, wrote and shared our observations and writing. I was lucky to have great students from English, biology and environmental studies, all sharing ideas and inspiration.

What do you enjoy most about mentoring students?
I love coming back to the beginning. I can clearly see that they don't need to be nervous about any of the choices they are making. It seems like I'm always telling them to relax and the next decision will come to them organically — and this reminds me to do that too.

What do you hope students take away from their college experience?
I want them to be good noticers and observers of life. This is a skill one can learn in order to write well, but also to live well.

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
I loved attending the Indian Student Association festival called Sankriti. My students were all performing in fashion shows, dancing, singing and receiving awards for badminton and so on. I was amazed at their full lives outside of our ESL English class.

What’s one thing about NIU that’s surprised you?
There are many more opportunities to gather and get to know one another as the years go by.

What fulfills you personally and professionally?
I like the way that my own ideas are challenged or reinforced by what the students are learning and discovering.

Which of NIU’s core values align with your own?
Curiosity and creativity! These are core values in any writing class.

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. 
A former student, Austin Slott, is teaching English at the College of DuPage. Another, David Dinkins, teaches English and has published his writing.

Who has influenced your professional path?
Professors Amy Newman and Joe Bonomo, writers who teach here at NIU, have been so supportive and encouraging of me and my husband Dan Libman, who also writes and teaches here. We are also all good friends — a good little writing buddy group.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I started out in theater, and I still like theater, but you are sometimes waiting around in order to work, to be cast. Writing is not like that. Your own resistance is usually the biggest obstacle. And it is creation rather than interpretation, a different kind of art.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I live on a big farm about an hour west of NIU. I like to swim in the pond and watch my chickens run around the yard.

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