Marlboro College

Communities Kyhl Lyndgaard - Writing

On teaching at Marlboro

Many colleges and universities now use the word “interdisciplinary” as a marketing buzzword to emphasize their responsiveness to a rapidly evolving world. But in reality they are unable to overcome decades of specialization in the way different disciplines teach and how departments are constructed. When I saw the titles of recent Marlboro course offerings and student plans, I was amazed at how diverse and vibrant the academics were. My initial pleasure in learning about Marlboro gave rise to a strong desire to be amidst those catalog listings—this was a chance to challenge disciplinary boundaries on a daily basis and join a community that is built around flexibility of inquiry. It’s wonderful to tell people I do writing and environmental studies, and have the reaction be one of interest rather than confusion.

On Marlboro students

I believe students come to Marlboro because they want a transformational experience. They want individuality and creativity to be at the heart of their academics. To live and study here, a high degree of personal responsibility and openness are required. In less than a month, I’ve already seen growth in my students who are rapidly learning how to juggle the freedom to study what they wish with expectations to challenge themselves. I have no doubt that the best of them will next put those two potentially opposing forces together in the service of their education. I’ve particularly enjoyed the willingness of students to challenge each other—and to challenge me.

On campus life

I grew up on a liberal arts college campus near my childhood home in rural Minnesota, yet I only sometimes remembered to take advantage of the cultural and recreational opportunities. Being at Marlboro has been like a homecoming to me, and I have been so excited to take part in campus life. Even within my first month, on-campus experiences such as the faculty-student softball game—I hit the go-ahead home run for the good guys, which originated as a bloop single—and the showing of Jay Craven’s film A Stranger in the Kingdom suggest how rich and varied the supposed isolation of Marlboro is.

On pursuing research

When what you’re discussing in class is what you’re thinking about and writing about for research, a synergy is created that improves both sides of the academic life and makes research easier to see through. I’m following up on two book manuscripts that are both under review. One, which had its genesis in a student seminar, is a co-edited anthology entitled Currents of the Universal Being: Explorations in the Literature of Energy. The second book examines a handful of subversive Indian captivity narratives published in the 1820s and 1830s that challenge Indian Relocation policies and depict the frontier wilderness as a domestic and inhabited space.

On teaching writing

Good writing requires fine craftsmanship; however, none of us were born with a pen in hand. Good writing is therefore dependent upon practice. I truly love guiding a student through several drafts of an essay and then finding that on one page everything is clicking, and they know it. The goalposts are shifted at that moment—what is possible suddenly expands—and the real joy of creation is realized. That moment might not happen for every student in every class, but then again, it might. 

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