Supporting the Professors Who Support Us

by Jessica Derr on February 17th

Supporting the Professors Who Support Us

by Jessica Derr on February 17th

One of the greatest benefits of attending Arcadia is that I’m more than just another body in a crowded lecture hall. I am not just a number. I am not just plopped on a conveyor belt, only to be churned out at the other end with a piece of paper, a head full of half-remembered facts, and not much else.

My professors are always ready to help when I am struggling with something. But how often do we, as students, get the chance to support the people who support us?

- Jess Derr

At Arcadia, I truly am an active participant in my education and self-betterment. I’ve been fostered close intellectual ties with involved and compassionate professors. I could go on for pages singing the praises of Arcadia’s staff—how they are willing to go above and beyond for their students, how invested they are in seeing students progress and succeed, how they manage to balance meaningful critique and encouragement. My professors are always ready to help when I am struggling with something. But how often do we, as students, get the chance to support the people who support us?

The first Friday in February presented us the opportunity to do exactly that. For the first time in program history, Tracey Levine, assistant professor of English and coordinator of Arcadia’s undergraduate Creative Writing concentration, spearheaded a faculty reading where students could hear pieces written by the very people who teach us writing in the classroom. Despite unforgiving weather amid a polar vortex, people flocked to the Castle to hear a diverse collection of works from Professor Levine and her colleagues, Dan Schall, Joshua Isard, Jeff Ingram, Gretchen Haertsch, and Dan Pieczkolon.

The pieces varied in genre and subject matter—from nature haikus, to a memoir excerpt, to a reimagined folktale. Poems ran the gamut from disenchantment with social media to a beloved family dog’s final hours. I found myself transfixed by their words, slightly envious, but mostly inspired to write after a long period of producing nothing.

Assistant Professor Tracey Levine reading at a faculty creative writing lecture.

Professor Levine reading her work.

Following the reading, the professors gave students an opportunity to ask questions. They shared the intricacies at play beneath the polished surfaces, pulling back the curtain on their pieces. Topics included how to know when an idea is worth pursuing, how to write about personal subjects without getting emotionally exhausted, and when (if at all) the faculty members began to identify as writers. Not only did this reveal how each professor approached the writing process, but it also forced students to consider their own work and writing habits.

Writing is a personal, precious thing—the most intimate, innermost pieces of yourself wrenched out and laid bare for all to see in all its messy splendor. To hear your professor’s writing, in their own voice, is to know a part of them that might not come across in a two-hour class period. When I asked Professor Levine how she thought students will perceive their professors after hearing their personal writing projects, she responded, “Hopefully, it will deepen relationships and mentor/mentee situations, which I, at least, think of myself as, as opposed to just professor. It creates more of a trusting bond, which is always beneficial to one’s growth.”

I, too, believe that my ongoing evolution as a writer, critical thinker, and person is partially due to the organic mentorships I have cultivated with my professors here at Arcadia. I truly value everything they have given to me. So listening to some of them read their own works is but a small reciprocation for everything they have done for me.