Digging Little Rivulets: An Interview with Professor Bernie Jim

Digging Little Rivulets: An Interview with Professor Bernie Jim

We recently had the chance to speak to Professor Bernie Jim about his experience as a facilitator with Books@Work. Bernie has a Ph.D. in History and has worked as a SAGES Fellow and Lecturer in History at Case Western Reserve University since 2007. He leads seminars on cities, spectacle, matters of proportion and puzzles. His favorite writers are Gabriel García Márquez and Haruki Murakami.

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The Conversation Is the Point

The Conversation Is the Point

The joy of being a professor is getting to share what I love with a mostly rapt, albeit captive, audience. Whether the course is a requirement they begrudgingly take or an elective they happily attend, the contract of the classroom is the same. We will read the Baldwin or Ehrenreich I assign, the main purpose of which is to instruct them on how to think and write. Though my students influence the semester, I do the bulk of the steering, ensuring we hit the landmarks I have designated en route to a final destination I have, however loosely, predetermined.

At Books@Work, however, the readers are not my students.

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Exploring Our Personal Stories: Professor Brock Spencer on Books@Work

Exploring Our Personal Stories: Professor Brock Spencer on Books@Work

We recently had the chance to speak with Brock Spencer, who recently retired as the Kohnstamm Professor of Chemistry at Beloit College where he taught environmental and interdisciplinary courses in addition to a range of chemistry courses. Brock has been involved nationally in NSF-funded projects to develop and disseminate an inquiry-based approach and instructional materials to better engage students in their introductory chemistry courses.

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Breaking an Academic Taboo: Professor Laura Baudot on Books@Work

Breaking an Academic Taboo: Professor Laura Baudot on Books@Work

We recently had the chance to speak with Laura Baudot, an Associate Professor of English at Oberlin College who has facilitated Books@Work sessions at a private high school and an adhesive manufacturing company. Among other things, we discussed her experience as a facilitator and how it differs from her experience teaching at a university. How do the humanities translate out of the academic world?

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Memory and Narrative: Finding Common Ground

Memory and Narrative: Finding Common Ground

As a shy, dreamy teenager who wrote poetry and often lived more fully with the fantasies in my head than in the real world, I could easily relate to Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical Another Brooklyn. The opportunity to talk about the book with a diverse group of paraprofessionals from two suburban schools intrigued me. Would they take to a book with such a poetic, impressionistic writing style?

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Embracing the Interrogative: Vulnerability and the Power of Unanswered Questions

Embracing the Interrogative: Vulnerability and the Power of Unanswered Questions

The interrogative is a dying form – not only of grammatical expression but of life. At a time when efficiency and productivity seem the driving forces of culture, it makes sense that emphasis should lie on the generation of answers rather than the formulation of questions. Answers, after all, mean closure – answers grant one permission to put one thing to rest and move on to the next, and that seems the very definition of progress. Questions, on the other hand, are messy, imprecise things that tend toward the propagation of their own kind, leading ad-infinitum to heaven knows where.

How do we get a group of strangers during a Books@Work session- many of whom do not consider themselves “readers” and for whom being in a room with an English professor evokes unpleasant classroom memories – to embrace their vulnerabilities and enter into an interrogative mindset?

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A Special Lens: Science Fiction at Work

A Special Lens: Science Fiction at Work

We recently had the chance to speak with Professor Robin Zebrowski, an Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at Beloit College. Among other things, she studies artificial intelligence and embodiment. Robin recently read and discussed science fiction as the facilitator of a Books@Work session with a group of engineers. We asked her to share her experience: What in particular does science fiction bring to discussions in the workplace?

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Books@Work: It’s All About Relationships!

Books@Work: It’s All About Relationships!

We are thrilled to include the voices of individuals who have experienced the Books@Work program. Today’s post was written by Kevin Williams, a Senior Service Supervisor at Fairbanks Morse Engine:

“Books@Work (B@W) is using a small piece of writing to foster easy conversation between team members to gain some mutual understanding of how we as individuals think and perceive different situations. We use stories and characters to trigger random conversations about similarities to our own experience, or point of view. We might explore alternate choices characters might have made, or maybe alternate endings. It’s always fun and interesting to see where the conversations go. A participant might just be having fun talking about a character or something, meanwhile the rest of us are learning a little about how to better interact with them.” Learn more about how Kevin’s Books@Work experience has helped him build better working relationships with his colleagues.

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New Opportunities, New Perspectives: The Value of Books We Dislike

New Opportunities, New Perspectives: The Value of Books We Dislike

I recently had the chance to speak with Professor Sabine Ferran Gerhardt about her experience leading several programs with Books@Work. Sabine is an Associate Professor at the University of Akron, where she specializes in Criminology and Justice Studies, with an emphasis on the children of incarcerated parents and school shooter prevention. Sabine found that reading and discussing texts in the workplace – even texts we don’t like – can be a transformative experience. How can a book we’re not sure about bring us closer to our colleagues?

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