Faculty Focus: Kimbel Westerson
Humanities and Social Sciences
Title: Instructor of English and Specialist, Professional Writing
Years at GCU: 3
Academic degrees: Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside
Notable research in your field: I am working on research that investigates pre-service teachers’ sources of information regarding state and local civics. It will determine where these future educators go to stay informed about local political, economic and social issues. Capturing beliefs and attitudes about local sources of information, such as radio, television, print and so on, is the goal. We’re looking at attitudes and practices before and after a classroom intervention to measure change. It’s exciting to consider how a generation of new educators obtains the material they then will use in their classrooms.
Notable employment in your field: The Kansas City Star newspaper employed me as the managing editor of three local and regional magazines. In that role, I created an arts publication that covered the visual, performing and cinematic arts in an extended metro community of about 1.5 million people. It was my passion to promote the arts in the community and transform young patrons into long-term supporters. My career in education started when I attended graduate school and worked with Johns Hopkins University during summers teaching writing to gifted young people. It was a fascinating experience. That’s when I truly began my transition to educator.
What are you most passionate about in your field? Teaching students about the ethics of journalism and the responsibilities of journalists is vital right now. Journalists educate the public, which then makes decisions based on that information — those decisions create public opinion and determine who serves as leaders in our country. I also use essays and other materials that cross disciplines and topics. I encourage them to get curious about the world around them. Years from now, they may or may not remember what is a gerund, but I want them to have an interest in the world that makes their lives rich.
What aspect of your teaching style is the most distinctive and/or memorable? I strive to find non-typical ways to engage my students. I joke that I teach everything but English because I bring in diverse topics and ideas for my students to examine. My ultimate goal is to build critical thinking skills. I like helping students be confident in their writing. I do that through setting up a game plan before they write their essays, then providing meaningful feedback in their essays after they have been submitted. Connecting to my students in the classroom is great fun; I do this by being authentic and telling them stories about being a writer and traveling.
What do you like to do for fun in your spare time? Hiking is one of my favorite activities, and I treasure our too brief window of temperate climate. I also love to travel, especially in the West’s wide open spaces. Last summer I spent a month in Wyoming near the Grand Tetons.
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know? I’ve ice skated since I was 3 years old and take figure skating lessons.