Tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you came to Columbia.
I’ve known that I wanted to be a teacher for quite a long time, but once I started college I found myself taking eighteen credit hours every semester and there still wasn’t enough room to fit in everything I wanted to study. When the time came to start coursework for an education degree, I just didn’t—I decided to give myself more time for my own education. I graduated from SAIC (The School of the Art Institute of Chicago) in 2010 with a BFA with an Emphasis in Writing, having focused a lot of my time on poetry, and fiber arts. Then I needed some space to experience all of the ups and downs of those first few post-undergrad years before committing to a next step. I spent three years working as a babysitter for several families with children ranging from infants to middle schoolers. When I student teach at my elementary placement school in the spring, a girl I’ve been sitting for years will be my student! Since 2009, I have been incredibly dedicated to volunteer work at 826CHI, a non-profit creative writing and tutoring center in Wicker Park. 826CHI offers completely free programing to students ages 6-18 from all over Chicago. During my three years off from school, I logged the most hours of all volunteers and hold the longest running total of volunteer hours in the organization. A lot of that time has been spent on-demand illustrating stories about things like flying ninja toilets in outer space and hybrid animals playing basketball collaboratively written by classes of second graders, and teaching workshops with titles like Poetry is a Centaur and My Almost True Story
Why did you choose Columbia for your graduate study?
I’m pretty settled here in Chicago at the moment, so I wasn’t looking to leave. And, as an artist-writer-person, I needed a program that would give me room to explore that duality in terms of art education. I considered what Columbia offered not just within the Art Education MAT program, but as an institution that across the board embraces interdisciplinary arts and the importance of community. Both being a teacher and receiving an education is a collaboration and I was excited about being part of a small cohort of people with the passion to get behind art education in a time when the public school system is in need of arts advocates.
Schools alone don’t always have the resources to offer quality programs in the arts and Columbia houses the Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP), a program that partners with teaching artists and Columbia’s academic departments to bring arts-integrated curricula into classrooms. There are a frequently positions available for students. The Art Ed MAT’s schedule allows us the flexibility to keep jobs during the day (which was important to my ability to pay my bills), and I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity of gaining experience relevant to my field with CCAP.
Tell us about a project you’re working on that you’re excited about.
In terms of work that I am doing as part of my program, there’s a lot of lesson plan writing on the horizon. I’ve really wanted to write one that looks at art history in episodes of Doctor Who.
I know that this second year of my program is going to have me going non-stop up until and into student teaching, so I want to make sure I have a few projects going that I can come back to whenever I find a pocket of time—even if it is just a few minutes here and there. I usually like to have both art and writing projects in progress. I started writing a collection of fiction stories a couple of years ago called The Particle Horizon, but they have been on pause for a while. In cosmology, the particle horizon is the boundary of the observable universe, and the stories deal with struggles characters are facing due to only being able to understand situations and relationships from their own perspectives. I recently got an idea for a new story after I logged into the email address I used from the age of twelve until I started college and found that everything had been deleted from it under some new AOL policies.
Another project I’ve been thinking a lot about is a series of illustrations of songs that are either about or mention girls named Jennifer or Jenny (and all spellings and variations).