Every week, Hiram College News will profile one faculty member. Check back at the beginning of each week for the new profile.
This week, we feature Jeff Swenson, assistant professor of English and Director of Writing Across the Curriculum and the Writing Center.
Hiram College is the kind of institution where I’ve always wanted to teach. It’s small, with very good connections between faculty and students, and yet fantastic in its collection of collegial scholars. … I also like the fact that Hiram is a rural Midwestern college with a bit of an East-coast flare. It’s beautiful out here; Hiram has many things that I value in a college, so I feel lucky to be teaching here.
One of the surprises in coming to teach at Hiram was how open the relationship is between students and faculty. At a lot of colleges you will have office hours – we still have office hours – but Hiram is the only place that I have known where students are in and out of faculty offices all day. As a professor walking across campus, before and after class, you are always talking to students. The relationship between students and faculty is the most open of any college at which I’ve taught.
The 12-3 schedule presents a lot of unique possibilities for students and faculty. The 12-week is still long enough to allow for more standard course content – much like other schools – but the 3-week allows for intensive classes, study abroad experiences, volunteer experiences and internships experiences that you don’t have at a lot of other schools. When I teach class in the 3-week, I can go into depth on a topic in a way I simply would not have the ability to in a 12-week or 15-week course.
The first term that comes to mind is “diverse,” but then that’s a tricky term because Hiram collects so many types of students that it becomes difficult to group or quantify them. We have a great population of foreign students; we have urban students from Cleveland and Akron; we have students from rural Ohio. Despite these differences, Hiram students typically move beyond boundaries between student groups and interact with each other in a unique way. The Hiram community exists despite the diversity, and that’s special.
We contribute to each other’s projects, we support each other’s scholarship, we are interested in what each other do, and we support each other in what we do. I spend a lot of my time reading articles that Professor Greenwood, Professor Quade and others in and out of the English department have written and published. They read my work as well; that collegiality makes Hiram a great environment for scholarship. And of course, that environment fosters good teaching as well.
One of the outstanding things about the writing major is that there is no one standard path. Some students I’ve taught work at advertising agencies, internet companies, newspapers and publishing companies, and that’s just in the commercial side of writing. Hiram writers have traveled to Alaska and written freelance pieces about caribou and fish canneries, to China to teach English, to Central America to volunteer on aid projects. All of these activities are informed by the writing major because it’s a major which, by design, opens out rather than narrowing down. The possibilities are endless.