Faculty on Writing

Professor: Robbie Goodrich
Interviewed By: Emalea Landgraf
Department:  History
Date: September 30, 2003

Professor Goodrich has found that in his years at Northern Michigan University he has seldom taught a class twice.  He enjoys the variety and exploring the many truths and tribulations of history.  This semester Professor Goodrich is teaching HS 101 History of Western Civilization to 1600, HS 200 Historical Thinking and Writing, and HS 307 Early Modern Europe, 1600-1815: A Thematic Approach. 

He particularly likes teaching the upper division classes, where he can use writing in his curriculum, rather than tests.  He stated that in HS 101 he does not give any writing assignments.  This class is lecture based and because of such large class sizes, he grades strictly on tests.  However, in both his 200 and 300 level classes the focus is writing.  Professor Goodrich believes history is all about argument and these arguments are brought to life best through writing.

Professor Goodrich has found that, especially in 200 level classes, his students often lack the very fundamentals of writing, and many of them have a hard time writing argumentative papers.  He finds himself not only teaching History, but also teaching them English.  This is something he does not mind, but wonders why and how they made it through EN 111 successfully.  He has made proposals to the History department, which would require 200 and 300 level classes to have prerequisites including EN 111 and EN 211.  The students also must be of sophomore or higher standing, he has yet to hear back.

When reading and grading his students, Professor Goodrich always wants to see a, “history thesis driven” paper with a strong argument, as that, in his opinion, is the basis of history.  All of his writing assignments also must be source based, have frequent foot noting, and be very well structured.

Professor Goodrich himself is a writer.  His article about drinking in Germany was recently published in the Cultures of Leisure.  Currently, he is revising his piece, “Confessional Viewing in Cologne:  The Labor Movement and Early German Cinema.”  This is something he had written at an earlier time and is trying now to condense into an article form.  Professor Goodrich is confident in his abilities as a writer, and he has had many good reviews to support him.  He does, however, believe he is not a “finished writer,” as writing can always be improved.

Robbie Goodrich considers writing as a critical aspect of everyday life.  He thinks society today is becoming less skill based and much more visual based than it used to be.  Writing is one skill that seems to be deteriorating.  An example of this is e-mail and instant messaging.  They are very “chatty” and proper writing techniques are not used.  He recognizes that writing is complex and causes critical thinking, and he also thinks to be an informed citizen a person must be able to write.

Professor Goodrich believes the Writing Center is an essential part of a university.  Both St. Augustine and the University of Wisconsin Madison, previous places of employment, had Writing Centers.  And because of the necessity, when he was being interviewed for the Northern position he asked if there was a Writing Center.  He sees writing as a process and product and this is something the Writing Center does through drafting.  Professor Goodrich considers the Writing Center to give direct effort into improving students writing.  He gives much credit to the Writing Center, but at the same time he thinks the Writing Center focuses too much on style; however, in his classes his main focus is on an effective argument.  Many of his students go directly to him, instead of the Writing Center, for assistance.  He says he likes this because he is then able to work closely with his students and can help them to achieve the argumentative style.  One suggestion Professor Goodrich gave to the Writing Center is that it should have writing workshops for their tutors.  Even tutors can improve in writing.