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Sean O'Brien, PhD

Clinical Associate Professor, Literature and Writing

  • 312.915.8926
  • Maguire 388
  • Education

    Truman State University (BA), National Louis University (MAT), Loyola University Chicago (MA '10, PhD '15)

    Courses Taught

    • ACWRI 105 and 110 College Writing I and II
    • ACENG 110 Interpreting Literature
    • ACENG 273 Interpreting Fiction
    • ACENG 274 Interpreting Shakespeare

    Research Interests

    Narrative theory, fiction, new media literature, global literatures in English, and composition studies


    Springfield, IL

    What attracted you to Arrupe College?

    I was particularly drawn to Arrupe's mission as a college of opportunity. The current higher ed system in America presents many barriers, especially to first-generation students, from expense to bureaucracy to expectations of certain kinds of knowledge and external support. I love that Arrupe is constantly working to design financial, social, and academic supports to help our students overcome these systemic barriers and access the life-changing opportunities that a college education can provide. Our students are here because they have chosen to pursue their education in spite of challenges like these, and it's my privilege to help provide both the supports they need and the educational opportunities they've been seeking.

    Talk a little about the classes you teach.

    I teach College Writing I and II as well as intro courses in literature, fiction, and Shakespeare. I love that both the writing and literature course are spaces for helping students develop and articulate their perspectives on the world. What do I think about the things I see around me? Why do I think that way? Academic writing is about examining our ideas and what other people have learned on the subject to develop well-supported perspectives and arguments. It's also about building the habit of being open to letting other perspectives productively challenge ones own thinking, a habit that society always needs to continue to foster. Literature classes also offer a way of exploring both the universality and particularity of human experiences through expressive art forms. It's often easier to address tough or touchy issues first in hypothetical or fictional settings, but that kind of interpretation and reflection can then be of great use to us in our everyday lives, too.

    How did you get involved in teaching English?

    I've always loved literature and writing. I majored in English as an undergraduate, but at that time I wasn't interested in teaching, partly because it seemed like such a default option for English majors and I didn't want to go into a career for lack of a better idea. After college, I spent three years studying in Germany and teaching ESL in Japan. While teaching in Japan as a temporary opportunity, I realized that I really liked it and thought it was important. So when I returned to the US, I pursued teaching as a career, moving from junior high (Japan) to high school and then finally to college, which I think is the best fit for me.

    What’s your favorite part about teaching? And the biggest challenge?

    The short answer is "the students" and "the students." Working with a room full of intelligent, talented, unique individuals with their own experiences, questions, and goals means that every class is different. Something that worked terrifically last year may flop this time around because that's not the best way for these students to grasp that same idea. Teaching never gets boring but that also means it's never easy. I love that challenge. I love teaching challenges most of all because the source of the challenge is in the individuality of each student and the dynamic when you get a group of interesting individuals together in the same classroom. I learn about what I'm teaching from each group of students and I also learn about them, which keeps the job interesting and rewarding year in and year out.