Interviewed October 2014
Professor Colleen Stricker taught GEW 101 after graduating from our very own CSUSM in the Literature and Writing MA program.
Colleen began her career teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) abroad in Sylt, an island in the North Sea off the coast of Germany. A world traveler at heart, Colleen has lived and taught in numerous foreign countries. After Sylt, she settled in Hamburg, Germany for a few years, teaching adult learners to speak English. Next, she moved to Italy, where she worked with the American University and the University of Genoa. She especially enjoyed her time in Italy, where students studied famous American works like The Invisible Man, and Colleen was able to teach cultural and historical contexts that the students needed to understand the texts. One of the last places abroad Colleen lived and taught in was Beijing, China. Eventually, because of the pollution and her desire to return to school, she decided to return to California.
Although she had nearly thirty years of teaching experience, Colleen didn’t have the credentials needed to teach in California schools. Having never finished her degree, coming back to school was something that Colleen had always wanted to do—and she found one of the perfect programs at CSUSM and has been here ever since.
When speaking of CSUSM, Colleen clearly has a passion for and deep devotion to the school and her students. She says that she “feels like part of a family here, because [she] came up as a student.” Additionally, she loves the diverse cultures and multiple student populations on campus—something that she also experienced teaching abroad. And, she says, her experience teaching in foreign countries for so many years has really shaped who she is as a professor. She credits her patience, empathy, and willingness to listen and understand students to her experiences teaching ESL.
That patience and empathy was illuminated when she spoke of her goals for her students in GEW 101. She wants her student to leave her class feeling like they are all writers: they are just starting on the long journey of writing. She really stresses that writing process—not just in the classroom with individual essays—but situates her class as but one step of the writing process. She wants students to know that writing doesn’t end with GEW 101—it is just the beginning!
Colleen not only has a long career of teaching, but she also has experience writing and editing professionally. Specifically, she was a writer and editor for Dolce Vita, a web magazine in Italy. She was also a translator for Benetton, another magazine, where she translated from Italian to English for their British version.
She also has a passion for learning new languages. Specifically, she speaks German, Italian, French, and, she says, “a smattering” of Turkish and Arabic!
When not in the classroom, Colleen might be found at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. Theater is one of her many passions, along with traveling and experiencing new cultures. In fact, even though she now exclusively teaches in the United States, she still makes time for travel when possible. More recently, she traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, for a World Literature Seminar sponsored by Harvard University, where she attended lectures and took part in seminars such as the one discussing European influences on the traditional Middle Eastern tale of Aladdin.
I asked Colleen what message or advice she wanted to impart to all students—not just her own. Not surprisingly, she strongly endorses studying abroad or traveling to foreign countries. She says that it really helps to build confidence and allows you to get to know yourself. But more importantly, she says often, we “don’t realize the prejudices or preconceived notions [we] have” until they are challenged by these experiences. And traveling while in school or as a student is the best time, she argues: “When you’re a student, you have fewer of those preconceived notions; you’re more open to everyone and everything”—which is the best recipe for those experiences that not only broaden and impact your education, but also change your life.