Andrew Winer and the Dynamic Teaching Experience

By Elizabeth Brown, CHASS Dean's Office Student Intern
October 21, 2013

Andrew Winer, Chair of the creative writing department at UCR, feels that the biggest accomplishment of the department, during his three years as chair has been a new model for classes that gives a broader scope of students’ access to dynamic professors in a creative light.

The model launched this quarter, and was prototyped by Professor Winer himself last fall quarter. He taught 600 students, two classes of 300, and proclaims it as the best quarter in his eleven years teaching because he was able to have a conversation with 600 students about what he loves most. This class structure, being introduced into the creative writing program, involves a large, lower-division introductory course that is accompanied by graduate student taught workshops. The innovative combination of the accessibility of a lower-division introductory course, and the small upper-division style workshops already familiar to creative writing, allows the department to share the dynamic faculty such as Susan Straight, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Mike Davis to large audiences that are not solely creative writing majors.

Professor Winer feels the best part of the creative writing department is the faculty’s willingness and readiness to work with CHASS to meet teaching requirements. His efforts include providing more accessibility as the need for seats in courses grows with an expanding department, while at the same time matching that growth with a quality experience in education. By creating this new model, faculty members that most non-creative writing majors would not get to interact with become more accessible. Susan Straight is teaching this quarter’s class, The Mixed Race Novel and the American Experience, and other headlining faculty members, such as Juan Felipe Herrera and Mike Davis will be teaching during winter and spring on Poetry and Non-fiction, respectively. Professor Winer is especially excited about this structure debut, stating that every time a novel is put into a student’s hands, they are given an extra piece of life, and by exploring the new world created by the author, he hopes to spread knowledge and life to his students.

The department, CHASS, and UCR have been in the media lately regarding Professor Reza Aslan’s new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, after an especially hostile interview by Fox News. Professor Aslan was verbally attacked by the journalist regarding his credibility. Professor Winer states that as Chair, he had a busy summer dealing with journalists who wanted to prove that a Muslim author was unqualified to write about Jesus, and those who simply wanted to gain notoriety during the hype. This debunking attempt backfired on those who were spreading the negativity, however, and Professor Winer states that this is a major victory for CHASS, as Aslan’s book became a #1 New York Times bestseller in spite of the interview and religious backlash.

Charmaine Craig is the newest addition to the Creative Writing faculty, and is currently completing a book on the oppressive situation in Burma, and is reframing how the west takes on contemporary Burmese narrative. She will bring a new South East Asian influence to the department in terms of specialties, and vigor to the subject of narratology and how it can help students produce better fiction and non-fiction.

Professor Laila Lalami is also working on a new book that will be published soon called The Moors’ Account. This novel will be published by Pantheon in 2014, and follows Moroccan slave Estebanico’s journey during the Narváez Expedition with Cabeza de Vaca and the conquistadors.

Professor Winer will be spending a quarter teaching at the Center for Ideas and Society with Maude Marie Clark, giving a seminar on Nietzsche and his influence on the novel and during spring will be co-teaching a course with Dean Joseph Childers on ultimate and penultimate novels. As chair, he will also be searching to fill the two exciting positions in Poetry and Noir Prose.

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