“Though only two hundred and seventeen miles long, [the Grand Canyon] expresses within that distance more than any one human mind yet has been able to comprehend or interpret to the world. Famous word-masters have attempted it, great canvas and colormasters have tried it, but all alike have failed…They know they cannot describe it, but they proceed to exhaust their vocabularies in talking about it, and in trying to make clear to others what they saw and felt.” - George Wharton James, 1910
In “The Loss of the Creature,” the philosopher Walker Percy describes the tourist’s agenda of visiting the Grand Canyon, stating, “Instead of looking at it, he photographs it. There is no confrontation at all. At the end of' forty years of preformulation and with the Grand Canyon yawning at his feet, what does he do? He waives his right of seeing and knowing and records symbols for the next forty years.” Tourists, he says, cannot appreciate the Grand Canyon in the same way explorers did when they first came upon it. Tourists visit the canyon and think of the great mythology surrounding it and how impressive it is supposed to be; they think they should look over the rim and automatically have Big Thoughts. Instead of experiencing Grand Canyon, they buy a postcard and return to their hotel for a soak in the hot tub.
Several years ago, I began thinking about Percy’s tourists in relation to my own teaching. I noticed that students were striving for the “right answer,” and in seeking an “A,” they were more likely to look toward Wikipedia than think for themselves. They were afraid of being wrong. My English students do the same thing as those Grand Canyon tourists. When the students read great poets, they knew there is supposed to be greatness in, say, a famous sonnet, but they couldn’t access it because the sonnet was delivered in a package of preexisting analytical literature. I realized that I was telling them to think “great things” and understand the writing on the level of experts without coming to it first as an object of surprising beauty. I wanted my students to graduate with certain concepts and skills, but I also wanted them to be independent learners so they would continue learning and pushing themselves long after they were my students. I believe that fostering curiosity is a means to that end. Curiosity is a disposition that we expect students to embrace and develop throughout their undergraduate experiences. It is a prerequisite for lifelong learning and helps students feel brave enough to venture outside their comfort zones. Purposefully introducing curiosity into the curriculum and a learning environment makes learning more enjoyable and rewarding, and can help democratize learning by encouraging students to see themselves as creators of knowledge rather than passive recipients. What’s more, curiosity is not bound by an academic discipline, by ethnicity, or age. It encourages students to ask questions, experiment, read deeply, fail and learn from mistakes, and, most importantly, to continue taking learning into their own hands.
I teach seminar courses in the Honors College, which offers a broad and flexible curriculum similar to a small liberal arts college. To this end, all courses must be interdisciplinary, must use active learning instruction techniques, and must be accessible for students who do not have extensive training in my field. Because the Honors College focuses on undergraduate education, I am required to teach at the 100, 200, 300, and 400 levels. I design all of my own courses, and while they all draw on my background in creative writing, graphic design, and anthropology, each course is distinct.
The 100-level “Locking Eyes with our Eastern Legacy” is an introductory humanities course for first semester freshmen. Each faculty member in Honors is expected to teach a 100-level course with the “legacy” tag. In my Eastern legacy course, students learn about cultural appropriation and how the East and the West influence one another. We primarily analyzed the influence of ancient Japanese and Chinese poetry and traditions on the Beat poets, but we looked at several other subjects in less detail, such as Disney’s appropriation of anime, the connection between Metlife and Japanese emperors, and New Mexico sushi rolls. The students designed their own research projects for their final analytical paper and presentation. Students looked at the history of anime costume competitions in the U.S., racecar driving in Japan, Hello Kitty exports, Eastern and Western business etiquette, yoga in the West, and many more examples of appropriation.
The 400-level “Turning the Weird Pro: The Craft and Practice of Narrative Journalism” introduces students to narrative journalism through textual examples, analytical and craft essays, as well as participatory anthropology practice. Each student is required to perform a thirty-day immersion project and during time, they spend ten hours per week with members of a subculture they previously knew nothing about, research it, and write two substantial narrative journalism essays about it. Students investigated the third grade classroom, city buses, the transgender community, archers, and the pediatrics floor of UNM hospital. They achieved a level of synthesis that displayed interdisciplinary learning in a way that truly engaged their curiosity for a majority of the semester.
In addition to these kinds of interdisciplinary courses, half of my teaching load is comprised of a two-semester literary publishing course that includes “The Publishing Process” in the fall and “The Making of a Magazine” in the spring. In addition to being two classes, Scribendi is also a small business. The students are staff members learning course content while they participate in an educational internship. During the fall semester, the class focuses on learning skills: graphic design, copyediting, arts and literature assessment, Adobe Creative Suite, WordPress, and many aspects of small business management. In the spring semester, we put all of those skills into practice by creating our annual literary magazine both in print and digital editions. Because of the demands of Scribendi, I am present much more than just during my office hours—students, stakeholders, and administrators often need to speak with me every day of the week. One particular demand is the emphasis on learning desktop publishing. I work closely with all of my students to master the programs necessary and unlock their creativity as well as their inner copyeditor. Scribendi students must plan and coordinate three big events each year to showcase their work: Honors Homecoming in the fall, a regional and a local debut reception for the magazine in the spring. Additionally, each semester I take three to six students to conferences to present on aspects of our class, from using web-based applications in the classroom to energizing alumni engagement.
Since I have been the faculty advisor for Scribendi, the literary journal has won the Associated Collegiate Press’ Pacemaker Award (2013) and been a finalist (2015) for the award, which recognizes excellence in editorial selection and process and design and the magazine. Additionally, Scribendi was a finalist for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Undergraduate Journal Award (2014). In 2016, we welcomed our first exchange student, who transfered for a semester to take the Scribendi skills-building course; Scribendi has continued to draw undergraduates to UNM to learn about literary publishing.
I also help students teach workshops in the community—for instance, last semester three of my students ran a “Make Your Own Zine” workshop for high school students attending UNM Continuing Education’s Young Writers Conference. Another student taught young women about body image through eight multimedia self-portraiture workshops at DATA High School as a part of her senior thesis. I encourage students to submit their work for publication—and several have been accepted. Each semester, I supervise and instruct several students through independent studies so they can focus a semester on investigating something of a particular concern to them, such as flash nonfiction writing, rebranding and redesigning a family business, or researching the history of typography.
Outstanding New Teacher of the Year Award
In 2015, I was honored to receive the Outstanding New Teacher of the Year Award presented by the University of New Mexico.
Courses Developed and Taught for UNM Honors
100 Level: The Legacy of Storytelling: Creative Nonfiction
100 Level: Locking Eyes with Our Eastern Legacy
200 Level: Discourse and Rhetoric: The God Particle Is a Beatles Fan
200 Level: On the Road to Discovery
300 Level: Sketching Autobiographix and Poetry Comics
300 Level: The Making of Magazine (Scribendi Part II)
300 Level: Publication Process (Scribendi Part I)
300 Level: Reading and Writing the Landscape: the Lewis and Clark Trail in Montana
400 Level: Turning the Weird Pro: The Craft and Practice of Narrative Journalism
400 Level: Wit
Undergraduate Senior Theses and Projects Supervised
2017-2019 Senior Thesis Director, Phoebe Cummins, "Breaking Bad Stereotypes"
2015-2018 Senior Thesis Director, Jesse Yelvington, "Naming the Nameless: An Exploration of Queer Poetry and Empowerment," UNM Honors College.
2014-2015 Senior Thesis Director, Claire Stasiewicz, “Building Self-Esteem through Visual
Art Workshops: A curriculum for high school girls,” UNM Honors College.
2012-2013 Senior Thesis Director, Austin Evans, “Scribendi Editor’s Handbook,” University
2012-2013 Senior Thesis Reader, Alyson Alford-Garcia, “Copyright Handbook for Small Print
and Digital Publications,” University Honors Program.
Independent Studies and Projects Supervised
2017 Caitlin Carcerano “Creating a Graphic Novel”
2017 Julia Schuster “Communicating Wellness in the 21st Century”
2015 Michael Andrews “Branding and Marketing Student Publications”
2015 Joel Dacus “Capturing Paris through Short Stories”
2015 Sarah Haak “Flash Nonfiction”
2015 Vital Mazor “Portraying Human Rights through Musical Theater”
2014 Kara Fillipas “Redesigning Cravin’ Cookies”
2013 Claire Stasiewicz “Print in Progress: A History of Typography”
2013 James Epps “Rhetorical Approaches of Comedians”
2012, 2013 Sara Crespin “Web Design and Digital Publishing”
UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT PUBLICATIONS FROM COURSES TAUGHT
Jesse Yelvington “Lessons from the Mountain,” Scribendi (2017): 63. WRHC Runner-up.
Poem from assignments during the field portion of UHON 302
Reading and Writing the Landscape.
Jesse Yelvington “Two Photographs,” Conceptions Southwest (Spring 2017). Photographs
from assignments during the field portion of UHON 302 Reading
and Writing the Landscape.
Keriden Jumping Eagle Brown "Dungeons & Dragons and a Little Yellow Dress" UNM Best
Student Essays (Fall 2015): 23-28. Essay from UHON 402 “Turning
the Weird Pro: The Craft and Practice of Narrative Journalism” Spring 2015.
James Epps “Damn Brass Sight,” Scribendi (2015): 66-67. Essay revised from “Wit” Fall 2013.
Shelby Cluff “Research Developments in Acute Myeloid Leukemia” UNM Best Student
Essays (Fall 2013): 26-29. Final paper from UHON 200 “On the Road to
Discovery” Spring 2013.
UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT PRESENTATIONS FROM COURSES TAUGHT
April 2018 Josh Rysanek, Tessa Chrisman, Paul Talley “Who Censors Whom?” Western
Regional Honors Council Conference, Orange, CA
April 2018 Heather Brock, Olivia Comstock “National Student Exchange with Honors,”
Western Regional Honors Council Conference, Orange, CA
Nov. 2017 Jesse Yelvington, “Queer Poetical Empowerment: An Interdisciplinary
Conceptualization and Exhibition,” National Collegiate Honors Council Conference, Atlanta, GA.
Nov. 2017 Josh Rysanek, “Handcrafting the Future of Design,” National Collegiate Honors
Council Conference, Atlanta, GA.
Nov. 2017 Tessa Chrisman, “What’s the Verdict on Blindfolds?” National
Collegiate Honors Council Conference, Atlanta, GA.
April 2017 Caitlin Carcerano and Kim Mitchell, “I Remember/Flag Books,” UNM Continuing
Education Young Writers Conference, Albuquerque NM
April 2017 Allie Sipe Poster Presentation, Western Regional Honors Council
Conference, Ashland, OR
April 2017 Alexandra Magel and Melissa Krukar, “Why Print?” Western Regional Honors
Council Conference, Ashland, OR
Oct. 2016 Alexandra Magel, “The Birth of a Magazine Design,” Poster Presentation,
National Collegiate Honors Council Conference, Seattle, WA.
Oct. 2016 Melissa Krukar, “Is Your Identity Proficient?” Poster Presentation, National
Collegiate Honors Council Conference, Seattle, WA.
April 2016 Melissa Krukar, “Is Your Identity Proficient?” Shared Knowledge Conference,
UNM, Albuquerque, NM.
April 2015 Claire Stasiewicz, “We Are Who We Are: Building Self-Esteem through Visual
Art Workshops: A curriculum for high school girls.” Panel Presentation,
Shared Knowledge Conference, UNM, Albuquerque, NM.
April 2015 Jesse Montoya, Keriden Jumping Eagle Brown, Neethi Baskaran, “Use of Web-
based Technology in Student Publications,” Panel Presentation, Western
Regional Honors Council Conference, Reno, NV
April 2015 Jordan Burk and Sarah Haak, “Make Your Own Zine,” UNM Continuing
Education Young Writers Conference, Albuquerque NM
Nov. 2012-Present “Scribendi” Idea Exchange Table, National Collegiate Honors Council Conference