Dr. Lenore Wright is associate professor in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning at Baylor. Dr. Wright’s academic background is in philosophy. She teaches in both the BIC and the philosophy department. We hope you enjoy this interview with Dr. Wright! (Read more faculty interviews)
How long have you been teaching in the BIC? What do you find most rewarding about working with BIC students?
I began teaching BIC courses in 1999, my first year at Baylor. My first BIC course was Examined Life; the second was World Cultures II. Thereafter, I taught World Cultures III, World Cultures I, and the BIC Capstone (co-taught with the incomparable Tom Hanks). Now that I have a course reduction for administrative work (I direct the Academy for Teaching and Learning), I teach only one BIC Course: World Cultures III. I am honored to serve Baylor in an administrative capacity, and I believe deeply in the ATL’s mission to support the development of faculty as teachers, but I do miss BIC students. I am happiest when I’m in the classroom, and I feel renewed by my time with BIC sophomores each fall.
What’s not rewarding about working with BIC students? Their willingness to read widely and think deeply about matters that matter is inspiring. Their ability to make connections among a vast array of ideas and texts is impressive. Their care of self and concern for others is humbling. BIC teaching is rewarding on many levels. What is perhaps most rewarding about working with BIC students is their commitment to the community of learning that BIC fosters: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and psychosocially. When they leave Baylor they want to make a life, not just a living. They want to improve themselves and improve the world. I am always struck by their deep desires to make a difference in the lives of others. I admire that. They are young colleagues. And I’m gratified by the professional and personal associations I have continued to have with many former students. Sic ‘em, BIC!
Tell us about your work with the Academy for Teaching and Learning at Baylor.
The mission of the Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) is to “support and inspire a flourishing community of learning.” What that means concretely is that I facilitate collaboration between faculty, between faculty and students, and between the faculty and administration on teaching-related endeavors. My charge is to provide programs and resources that develop faculty as teachers. Baylor has many excellent instructors—and many of them teach in BIC! I seek to recognize and honor effective teachers, encourage faculty to experiment with new approaches to teaching, and mentor new instructors as they begin to form themselves as teachers. It’s exciting to engage in dialogue with instructors at different stages of their teaching careers. I enjoy finding ways to meet their specific needs for support and inspiration. I can’t do this alone. Many faculty colleagues join me in my work, which is guided by the ATL Advisory Council (Dr. Schultz and Dr. Hanks are members). I am honored to have colleagues who lead programs, such as Faculty Interest Groups (FIG) or Seminars for Excellence in Teaching (SET). Together we strive to continue the historic tradition of teaching excellence on Baylor’s campus.
The BIC is unique at Baylor in how it approaches teaching and learning, particularly in how it utilizes team teaching and the combination of large group and small group class sessions. How do you think this structure contributes to a positive teaching and learning experience for students and faculty in the BIC?
The large group-small group dynamic is ideal for student learning because it keeps students informed and engaged. Large group meetings provide a forum for faculty to convey information that shapes the close reading students engage in during small group meetings. Changing approaches to teaching, multi-disciplinary perspectives, and different types of team-teaching (two person to eight person teams) also enable students to think about course material in complex ways. The large group-small group dynamic is also ideal for instructors because it exposes us to diverse teaching methods and styles (we learn a lot about teaching by watching our colleagues teach). The large group also allows instructors to occupy the learner position for a short time as we hear from colleagues in other disciplines. That’s helpful because we experience what students experience as unfamiliar information is presented. I ask myself, for example, did I grasp the information presented without having any background knowledge, or was it pitched for an audience with some background knowledge? If the latter is the case, did our students have the background knowledge needed to make sense of the information? I think the large group-small group dynamic is one of the greatest strengths of BIC. It’s essential to our core curriculum and commitment to primary source material presented in interdisciplinary ways.
Besides your teaching and work with the ATL, are there any other research and/or writing projects you are working on right now?
It’s timely that you should ask. I am reading galley proofs of an essay that will appear this year in an edited volume on philosophical autobiography. The volume will be published by the University of Chicago Press. My contribution is titled, “From ‘I’ to ‘We’: Acts of Agency in Simone de Beauvoir’s Philosophical Autobiography.” I am devoting considerable scholarly attention these days to the work of Beauvoir, a twentieth-century French feminist and philosopher (you may know her from The Second Sex). Her four-volume autobiography, completed over a period of sixteen years and comprising nearly 2,200 pages in the original French, represents the most comprehensive autobiography by a philosopher to date. Her work may be the longest autobiography in any language by a woman. That’s fascinating to me. Related to work on autobiography, I continue to remain interested in theories of the self, self-representation in literary and visual texts, and feminist philosophy. “Who’s Afraid of Naomi Wolf: Feminism in Post-feminist Culture” appeared in Feminism and Popular Culture, 2013.
What is your favorite memory from your time teaching in the BIC?
I have too many fond memories to choose one. They include traveling to London with BIC students over spring break; walking on the SLC track with seniors to satisfy the capstone “walk and talk” requirement; receiving a gift from students when I was pregnant with my first child; holding independent studies with impressive pre-law students (Skye Perryman in 2003 and Beka Breque in 2014); and chatting about life and learning over coffee or in my office with a host of bright minds (too many to name, but here’s a shortlist of those from my early years: Dharmpal Vansadia, Skye Perryman, John-Paul Hayworth, Cole Bucy, Jeremy Rogers, Robert Christian, James Saucedo, Nabeel Uwaydah, Abby Morton, Anna Morton, John Garland, Lisa Sawyer Samp, Megan Rapp, Paige Panther, Kiera Boyle, Sabrina Neff, Erin Ausbury Reese, Matt McChesney, Ryan Reese, Judy Bozone, Kathryn Connor, Brian Dixon, Ashley Killough, Amelia Thomas, Belinda Petri Jordan, Luis Vivaldi, Jori Nissen, Sam Perry (now a BIC colleague!), Sarah Wurgler Walden (another BIC colleague), John-Michael Marrs (a Baylor colleague), Ken Larson, Ta-Wei Lin, Sam Binkley, Alison Backus, Carole Bonner Crowson, Toni Nogalski, Carlos Manzana, Brett Hager, Dustin Lyles… and many more). Mostly, I remember the many, many rich classroom discussions that have enriched and challenged me as a thinker and teacher. I want the last class I ever teach to be a BIC class. What could be better.