As promised, my “Professor Profiles” series makes a triumphant return this week (and next) with an interview with Professor Nick Plunkey. Plunkey is an English professor with an emphasis on Creative Writing. He also operates the Writing Center on campus. I hope you enjoy getting to know him better through this interview!
Stephen Dow(SD): How long have you been teaching at Rocky?
Nick Plunkey(NP): Too long! (Laughs) Just kidding. This is my fourth year. I finished my PhD in May 2010. Then after getting my PHD, I applied for jobs across the country. I was offered two jobs and chose this college because of the nature of the position and the geographical location because my wife and I wanted to live in the West.
SD: Why did you want to live in the West?
NP: We had lived in the West previously in northern Nevada. We had enjoyed the recreational opportunities in the West and wanted to live close to the mountains once again.
SD: What do you like most about Rocky?
NP: I like a lot of things about Rocky. Students are the first things that come to mind, but I always like students. I’ve never had a bad relationship with any of my students. What’s different about Rocky’s students is that they are very respectful towards each other. In Nevada, I perceived that students would sometimes become competitive with each other. However, at Rocky, the students are respectful of each other and polite. They are more mature in that regard and I have no idea why. In my first semester, I remember saying to my wife, “They’re so nice to each other and it really helps with class discussions.” Even if the students are immature in other ways that I don’t see, they are very well-mannered and mature in the classroom. That’s important in my classes because I believe in-class discussions are very important to make sense of whatever we’re reading and writing.
I also like all of my colleagues here. As soon as I moved here, my first friends were other professors at the college. To this day, I spend most of my social time with my colleagues.
So those were the two things I noticed when I first got here. I felt like I had a community immediately when I moved here.
SD: How long have you been teaching altogether?
NP: I started at age 22 which was terrifying.
SD: I bet. That’s only two years older than I am now. I’d be freaking out.
NP: Yeah. Especially when you’re only four years older than most of your students. That was in 1997. So this is my sixteenth year of teaching. I was terrified and had so much work to do during that first year. Teaching is much more rewarding now than it was then. Having good students like we have here make it all the better.
SD: Why is it more rewarding now?
NP: Because I’m more rehearsed and prepared. While I can still experiment and try new things, there are routines and habits that I go back to intuitively. I can enjoy myself more because I know exactly what I need to do to motivate students and help them reach their full potential.
SD: What types of classes do you teach at Rocky?
NP: I teach creative writing with a focus on poetry. I spent years studying the instruction of poetry so that’s what I teach here. Another responsibility is to train the Writing Center tutors. Also, my PhD is in composition so I teach many classes where the emphasis is on writing. I also teach occasional literature classes. So I teach a little bit of everything.
SD: Do you have a favorite course that you teach or have taught?
NP: I like teaching creative writing a lot. I haven’t yet taught an Advanced Poetry Workshop at Rocky, but that’s been the most enjoyable class that I’ve taught in the past. I like creative writing classes because the students bond with each other more.
I’ll be back next week with part 2 of my conversation with Professor Plunkey in which he gives suggestions for aspiring writers and describes the mission of the Writing Center. Be sure to come back next week!