We are thrilled to feature an interview today with Jon Schmitz, the Archivist and Historian for the Chautauqua Institution and a six-time Books@Work participant.
Tell us a little about yourself. What kind of work do you do on a day-to-day basis at Chautauqua?
I am responsible for acquiring, preserving and providing access to the records that document the Chautauqua Institution and Movement. I answer inquiries from the public, assist researchers, support staff and various Institution programs. I offer advice and support regarding archival practice to groups both on and off the grounds. I teach classes in archival practice which are open to the public and oversee educational internships. I also organize a lecture series and speak about Chautauqua’s history at the Institution, in the local area and around the country.
We recently had the chance to speak with Guido Isekenmeier about his experience as a Books@Work facilitator discussing Franz Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist” in German with German participants. Guido is an Assistant Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Stuttgart, Germany. His research and teaching focus on the history of description in narrative fiction and the relations of postmodernist literature and visual culture.
“I’m doing all kinds of classes: undergraduate, graduate, lectures, seminars,” Guido said of his current course load. “Unlike some of my colleagues in the United States, we have to cover the whole field from the beginning to the present, including literary, historical, theoretical stuff. We’re also doing English and American literature.”
We recently had the chance to speak to Professor Michelle S. Hite about her experience as a facilitator with Books@Work. Michelle is an Assistant Professor of English at Spelman College. Her research and teaching focus on death and mourning in African American culture.
How is your role as a Books@Work facilitator different from your role in teaching in the university?
“What’s markedly different is that for Books@Work, I’m not committed to student learning outcomes, and I’m not committed to the professional obligations of preparing students to be responsible for certain standards. I don’t have to sit in judgment.
So I try to draw on other models that I have for interacting with people over ideas. I grew up with a front porch where people shared ideas and that typically is the metaphor that I often work with. That’s what I’m trying to do – extend my front porch and create a space where people can share ideas. We can think about things together and see where they go. The whole point is just to build community around our thinking. What I like about Books@Work is that it gives me that opportunity to just wonder with people.”
This week, we are thrilled to share insights and reflections from Erin Ulrich, a senior English major at Oberlin College who recently completed a month-long internship with Books@Work.
My internship with Books@Work has focused primarily on data-analysis and listening to interview responses from program participants. While the nature of this work may seem mundane at first, it has offered me a first-hand glimpse into how exactly Books@Work works. While the impact of the program improving colleague relationships and promoting a fruitful, healthy and productive work environment are obvious from the company interviews, I have been particularly moved by the community interviews.
“In your career, you’ve worked with numerous companies on cultural transformation. Is there anything about Books@Work that is new for you? Is there anything different in how the program nurtures individuals and the community?”
There are several dimensions that are different. In my McKinsey days, the cultural transformation was always embedded in a business transformation and a performance imperative. We would ask what role culture played in achieving tangible business goals, whether that is sales growth, cost reduction, responsiveness, whatever it is.
I was initially skeptical about Books@Work because it did not tie directly to a business outcome. How would I know that I was actually making progress?
We are thrilled to feature an interview with the enthusiastic and thoughtful Alison Cochrane for today’s blog post. Alison is a technical writer at Nordson Corporation and a recent Books@Work participant.
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.
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.
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.