Faculty on Writing
Professor: Dr. Chet DeFonso
Interviewed By: Andrew Hanson
Dr. Chet DeFonso is an associate professor in the History department and has been an educator at Northern Michigan University for fourteen years. The classes he usually teaches are Western Civilization (HS 101/102), both the upper and lower classman Historical writing courses (HS 200/490), Canadian History and Culture (HS 363), Imperialism (HS 315), Modern Britain(HS 314), and Gay and Lesbian History (HS 273).
In Dr. DeFonso’s experience, the students of Northern Michigan University have a wide range of talent with writing, from the students who fear writing to the students who are capable writers. This, he finds, makes it hard to give a writing assignment that is both challenging and fair. However, this does not prevent him from regularly giving his students writing assignments. It is his belief that it is important for all students to be able to write and that good writing skills equates able and critical thinking skills.
The two main things Dr. DeFonso looks for in student writings are the ability to communicate ideas clearly and the willingness of a student to present his/her own ideas. Of course, he also keeps a sharp eye out for those very few who decide to plagiarize.
Dr. DeFonso is himself an avid writer, specializing in Historical writing—focusing on European and British history—and book reviews. He also keeps a personal journal that he writes in for recreation. To him, writing is a way to find the solution to a puzzle, in that the act of writing forces one to think through problems. He is also one of the few individuals left who prefers to write in longhand.
Dr. DeFonso does know of the existence of the writing center (he gets e-mails about us). Though he does not know the particulars of the center’s process, he does have a vague (and fairly accurate) idea of what we do. He does encourage students to visit the writing center because he believes it gives students confidence in their own writing.