Byerly to teach English course next Spring
By Aidan Trevisan ‘19 and Hannah Doherty ‘19
For the first time as President of Lafayette College, Alison Byerly will be teaching a course for the Spring 2016 semester available to all students who have taken an English class.
Byerly describes the course “Fictional Worlds” as “a course that looks at the idea of what creates a sense of realism in a literary text and compares it to how we think about realism in other media.”
Students in this course will take a closer look on how fictional books, television shows, and films create realistic worlds.
Byerly did teach a similar three-day online course last January.
“I had four students on campus taking that class in addition to the alumni who participated,” Byerly said. “It’s a nice topic. I hope that I can engage students, not only English majors, but also a wide range of students who are interested in literary form.”
Ivan Rudd ‘17 was one of the four students who took Byerly’s course during the January interim session.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I thought there was some good literature. We covered a lot in a very short period of time which was a little bit tough, but she’s a great teacher.”
Prior to being the President of Lafayette College, and provost and Vice President at Middlebury College, Byerly was a tenured professor at Middlebury in the English department. Byerly taught this course when she was the provost at Middlebury.
“I really miss teaching,” Byerly said. “The only thing that I don’t like about being President is I haven’t had time to teach.”
Byerly is one of two presidents, including Dan Weiss, since the mid-1900s to teach a course at the college, according to Registrar Frank Benginia. Weiss taught two courses, but Benginia doesn’t believe any other presidents since the 1960s have taught courses.
Excepting few colleges such as Colorado College, Haverford College and New York University, college and university presidents tend not to teach any classes.
“I think it will be tough, but we put the time in my schedule,” Byerly said. “I’ve moved some things around. I think there may be one class here or there that I might have to reschedule, and I’m hoping students will be tolerant of that.”
Because of the 25 spot limit and potential popularity that taking a class with the president might have, getting into the class might be tough.
“[This course looks] really awesome,” Kristin Curley ’16 said. “I haven’t looked into what the course is about, but the fact that it is taught by President Byerly makes me want to take it.”
Byerly said that she believes students will overcome the initial reaction to being taught by the president, and that she wishes to connect with students, rather than have distance between them because of her title.
“I think students will very quickly come to see me as a professor, rather than an administrator,” Byerly said. “I would like to be called Professor Byerly in the classroom, instead of being called President.”
“I am hoping that students will be attracted to the course and that many of them will be interested in spending some time with me,” she added.