Faculty on Writing

Professor: Julie Risak                                            
Interviewed By: Carrie Carlson
Department: Art & Design                                 
Date: September 17, 2007

As our class started to vacate the room, I set up my computer at the front of the classroom.  Julie soon joined me and the interview was in session.  I began the interview by explaining to Julie exactly why I was interviewing her, telling her all about the ongoing project of putting up a database where students can go to gain a better understanding of their teachers and what their teachers are looking for in terms of writing assignments. My first question to Julie asked if she gave her students writing assignments. She replied with a yes and explained that she gives her students writing assignments because they allow her to assess her students’ understanding of a particular concept.  Writing assignments confirm that her students did not just make a lucky guess in their coursework.  Julie also said that she knows it is very important for her students to be able to speak about their art in a way that gets their artistic ideas across.  She went on to say that she feels writing is very important, especially for students in her Visual Structures course because she is teaching her students the art discourse. In other words, she is teaching her students to speak about their art in a way that other artists will understand.  Being able to do this is an absolute necessity in the world of professional art.  Assigning her students writing allows them to practice using this language and to prove their understanding of it. 

When asked what she looks for in her students’ writing, Julie responded by saying that she likes to see the creativity they present.  Though students may give wrong answers, Julie is still happy when her students are making a creative effort.  Julie also said that she does not mind if her students occasionally incorporate references into their own creativity, so long as the students can prove to her in their own words that they understand what is being asked of them.  I asked Julie what she thinks of her students’ writing and she said she believes that, for the most part, her students possess a solid foundation in writing, in terms of basic skills.  Sometimes, however, she feels that her students can get too caught up in making their paper sound “pretty,” preventing them from clearly expressing their ideas. Julie is one of many instructors who believes that the content of her students’ writing is, in general, more important than the mechanics of the paper itself.   After discussing her students’ writing, I questioned Julie on whether or not she writes herself.  

As a small business owner, Julie said she does a lot of writing in business correspondence.  She also writes many personal letters and e-mails.  Aside from all of this, Julie mentioned that she likes to write poetry.  She uses her poetry to relieve stress, getting all of her thoughts out of her head and onto paper.  Julie joked, “Someday, when I grow up, I’m going to write a novel.”  She would like to write about her life and also include her poems in the novel.  Julie is also considering writing a book that could be used in her Visual Structures course.

Continuing on with the interview, I asked Julie if she had ever heard of the Writing Center.  She said she has heard of it, and when asked how, she replied that she saw an advertisement for it in a place that showed all of the university’s services available to students.  Since Julie deals mostly in the visual area, she has not yet encouraged her students to try out the Writing Center.  She went on to say, however, that she feels it is very important for students to be able to talk with other people about what they are writing. 

Bringing the interview to a close, I prompted Julie for any suggestions she might have on improving our work in the Writing Center.  She had one answer: advertise.  Julie explained that we really need to make students more aware of our tutoring services.  Advertisements that are interesting and fun, but not intimidating, will draw students in.  Julie said that sometimes students get intimidated by going to a tutoring center.  Therefore, we need to make a conscious effort to make sure our advertisements are fun, and not intimidating.  I thought this was very good advice and is something I know we as tutors are aware of, as sometimes it is hard to let students know we are just like them. 

My interview with Julie Risak proved to be both interesting and insightful.  I am sure that this will be a helpful tool for present and future students to utilize.