Mea Hall was our Faculty Highlight for September 2016. She was interviewed by Carrie Morrow.
Carrie: As your students might know (and if they didn’t before, they do now), you also work at the New Village Arts. Are there any similarities between working there and teaching?
Mea: I love this question! I'm really interested in the concept of roles. Pretty much every play begins with the designation of roles—they're very obvious in that way. But, in real life, we all have roles, too, although sometimes they're less obvious. At CSUSM, my primary role is adjunct lecturer faculty member. But I'm also an alumna, a mentor, a friend, along with all of my other, non-campus roles: mother, daughter, sister. You know? So, when I'm interacting with my students, I am very aware that I'm performing the role of instructor, which is not to say that I'm faking or pretending, just that I know the boundaries—like the "costume" or the "blocking," the objectives or the intentions—of this particular role are different from, say, the boundaries of my role as friend. Whew, that was a long answer.
Carrie: What subjects do you enjoy covering in your GEW class?
Mea: Since most GEW students are first-year students, I think that it's really important to help them think about who they are, why they are who they are, what they believe, what their values are. So we explore identity, but identity is a really, really, really big topic, so I try to find ways to limit it down to more manageable, Brownie Bite-sized portions. This semester, the theme of my GEW classes is "home," which I'm super-excited about. The last couple of semesters, we've worked through the theme of heroes and villains, which was super-fun, too. These themes allow students to discuss things that they really care about but also be in conversation with one another and other scholars. I also love talking about Scooby-Doo!
Carrie: We all do! What do you enjoy most about teaching at CSUSM?
Mea: I went to grad school here at CSUSM. I earned my Master's in Literature and Writing here. So CSUSM very much feels like home to me. I also think it is an absolutely beautiful campus, and I love being able to hike the trails around CSUSM or even just go for a walk between classes. I think that, since CSUSM is such a new campus relatively speaking, the possibilities here are pretty limitless. We, the students and faculty, have the opportunity to make it whatever we want it to be. And, as a San Marcos resident, it's pretty fun to watch as San Marcos blends its old identity with a new identity—the transformation into a college town with a funky, distinctly SoCal flavor is pretty cool. Plus, at CSUSM, you're pretty much guaranteed never to skip leg day!
Carrie: Hooray for stairs! If you could teach a dream class, what would it be?
Mea: Hmmm, dream class. . . . Well, I actually do love teaching GEW. I have had the opportunity to teach a large lecture class—TA 323: Power and Popular Culture—as well, and I loved that experience, too. Would it be too conceited to say that I think I can turn any class into a dream class? (I'm hearing Anthony Michael Hall in Breakfast Club say, "You're so conceited, Claire!" here.) I like any class where I get to synthesize my observations on the world with things that matter to my students, like their life experiences, the music they listen to, the movies they watch, the things they read. That wasn't a very good answer to your question.
Carrie: It was! But now I keep thinking about the theme song to that movie: “Don’t
You (Forget About Me).” Speaking of forgetting -
If your students only took away one thing from your class, what would you want that to be?
Mea: My #1 goal for my GEW students is that they learn that they are writers, whether they like it or not. Writing is a fact of academic life, so there's no use fighting it. I hope that my students discover a writing process that works for them, that they can replicate with successful results, regardless of what the assignment is or who the instructor is. I guess that's the one take-away I'd choose, if I only get to choose one. But I hope they remember everything! (Insert evil laugh here.)
Carrie: (Evil laugh continued.)