Loyola University Chicago

Arrupe College

Julia Bninski

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Title: Clinical Assistant Professor, Literature and Writing; Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs for Curriculum and Assessment

Degrees: BA, University of Virginia; MA, University of Chicago; PhD, Loyola University Chicago

Hometown: Edgewater

Courses taught: ACWRI 105 College Writing I, ACWRI 110 College Writing II, ACENG 110 Interpreting Literature, ACENG 274 Introduction to the Plays of Shakespeare, ACENG 276 Writing the Self

Research and teaching interests: Writing across the curriculum, critical information literacy, aesthetic theory, Chicago literature, memoir

What attracted you to Arrupe College?

Before I decided to pursue a career in higher education, I worked as an adult educator teaching humanities and literacy classes on the West Side. That experience introduced me to the educational barriers facing many Chicagoans. The adult learners whom I met convinced me that, as educators, we need to recognize how our work connects to social justice issues like unequal access to resources. When I first heard of Arrupe College, I was excited because I wanted to work at an institution that is taking concrete steps to address inequality and to increase access to higher education.

Talk a little about the classes you teach.

When I teach composition, my goal is to help students gain confidence as writers and to develop writing strategies that they can use across the curriculum and in practical situations. When I teach literature, my goal is to provide students with opportunities to strengthen their literary analysis skills, to think critically, to improve their writing, and to connect our readings to their own knowledge and experiences. Reading and writing are practical skills, but I hope they can also be sources of pleasure and self-exploration.

How did you get involved in writing and literature?

As a kid, I always loved reading. Probably anyone who knew me from the age of seven on up would have predicted that I would study English. So when I went to college, I initially resisted becoming an English major because it seemed too predictable. I flirted with archaeology for a while, but ultimately I couldn't stay away from my love for English.

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

I'll start with the biggest challenge: grading. Too often, prior educational experiences have convinced students that getting an "A" or a "C" on a paper is a verdict on their mental capacities—they believe that a grade can determine whether you are an "A student" or a "C student." Actually, the grade on a paper is merely an evaluation of that single piece of work. When I grade papers, the challenge is twofold. First, I want to give practical feedback that students can use to improve their next paper or their next draft. Second, I want to persuade students to focus on what they've learned, not on their negative emotions about having their work evaluated. As for my favorite part of teaching—it's the best when students surprise me, teach me something, or make me see some new connection among our readings!