Sometimes students at the University of Evansville stick around for longer than most – and there can be many reasons for this. For Katie Mullins, a 2007 creative writing graduate, the reason was to return and mold young minds just as hers was molded.
In the years between earning her bachelor degree and coming back to teach at UE, Katie worked as a substitute teacher in a variety of topics from wood shop to marching band for some area high schools. But she always had her eye on coming back to her alma mater. “I’ve said for years, I don’t want to teach at college, I want to teach at UE.”
Her placement in the Department of Creative Writing has been really exciting both for her and for the students. “Sometimes the students here blow me away,” she said. “I’m surprised at their capability for depth of thought. I’m surprised consistently by the imagination I see. It is always stunning to see what students are capable of even before they know how to structure things.”
One student who stands out in Katie’s mind is theatre major Olivia Hebert. “To have her as a student was revelatory,” she said, listing traits that can be found in many outstanding UE students: open minded, thoughtful, intelligent. Katie explains “There were times when I would leave class with my own opinion changed after having talked with her.”
After having a Olivia in a few courses, Katie asked her to be a teaching instructor in another course. Even though Olivia had doubts about whether she would be very successful in that position, Katie says, “She’s amazing. She’s so good at it. She’s a natural at talking to people, and really brings discussions in class to a great place.”
On writing well
As a graduate of UE’s creative writing program, Katie understands well the importance of good writing. In addition to working toward her MFA and teaching at UE, she maintains a popular music review blog that has earned her a lot of attention from music lovers and music makers alike. She said it’s surreal how well the blog has done over the years since she doesn’t do any sort of marketing for it.
“I always tell people that if you get good at writing, the other stuff will come along eventually,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re interested in – If you can write well about it, someone will pay you to do it.”
Not just books
Like all professors at UE, Katie works hard to make sure the content of her courses is fresh and unpredictable. She likes to have students consider creative work from all different media, such as essays and magazines. And, since music plays an important part in Katie’s life, she likes to work it into classroom discussion. “Music is an easy way to standardize language between people. Everyone is interested in music; it opens up conversations on topics ranging from feminism to crime. “Last semester, I was teaching crime as a form of entertainment – so we did a whole unit on murder ballads,” she said. Understanding that this could be a dark topic to pursue, they held a class on black comedy to help students be more comfortable with a lighthearted approach to the topic.
Emphasis on teaching
Katie says that one of the big reasons she has wanted to be a professor at UE is because of the emphasis on teaching. “It’s so wonderful that they actually want you to teach,” she said. Many universities place heavy emphasis on professors to do more research and publications, often at a larger institution, professors don’t have as much time to spend in the classrooms with students, but at UE, professors get to maintain one-on-one relationships with every student. “It’s great to research and write,” said Katie. “I definitely have my projects. I have the draft of a novel, I’m publishing a collection of short stories, and I’m writing for my blog, but by far my favorite thing is being in the classroom.”
Even as a professor, she’s thrilled by the literature and discussions, learning new interpretations for old writings. “I love seeing the life behind the language – which is something you don’t get at home on the computer, writing.”