Meredith Dodson serves as director of the writing program and assistant professor of writing at Olivet College. She has passions for writing and teaching and her current role is the perfect combination of those. Professor Dodson has special interests in fiction writing and leadership, holds a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in higher education leadership. Now, she strives to spread her love of literacy with others at Olivet College.
Why do you love OC?
I love Olivet College because people smile at one another. OC is a community, and people care about one another.
What is your favorite memory from your time at OC?
One of my favorite events is move-in day. I love seeing how excited, nervous, scared and happy the students and families are.
Where do your passions for teaching and writing stem from?
They both stem from my love of stories. Before I could read, I memorized books, and I was “writing” stories with symbols strung across the page. I believe that our stories are the most powerful tools we have to make connections with others. Writing is my opportunity to share and to explore what it means to be human. I also love revision —writing can always be rewritten.
For me, teaching is also about stories, both what students put on the page and the stories of who they are. It’s about showing students that their work is saying something valuable and that their voice needs to be heard. And, of course, helping them develop the skills to clearly communicate those thoughts.
What is your teaching or mentoring style like?
I think of myself as a facilitator of students’ own exploration of their writing. I lecture on and model specific skills. Sometimes I get carried away talking about how an author has crafted a piece. But for the most part, I like to set up challenges for students in their writing and help them find ways to solve those challenges.
What’s the average day in your role, or some of the unique things you are responsible for?
Like most people at a small college, I feel like I have a lot of roles! My main role is to be a professor, and each semester I usually teach a couple sections of composition and a section of creative nonfiction.
I’m also the director of the writing program, which means that I work on developing the curriculum for all of the writing and rhetoric courses, work with instructors (including hiring), and develop ways to assess the program, making sure that students are getting what they need to prepare for their upper-level courses.
I also contribute to the Student Success Center as the interim supervisor. We have amazing staff members in the Center — they each have their own roles and projects. My job here is to support them by helping to develop and follow through on our goals each year.
Lastly (as far as formal roles), I coordinate the peer tutors. This, again, is a wonderful group that is dedicated to working with fellow students. I hire, train and schedule tutors, and I develop strategies to get students in the door so that they see how great these tutors are! While this is part of my role with the Center, I am passionate about having strong writing tutors to support the writing program.
Why do you encourage students to attend OC?
There is so much opportunity to take charge and create your own education at Olivet College. There is a support structure, not only for studies, but for growth as an individual and as a citizen. First-year students can write for the newspaper or be on the radio. Because of the small but closely linked community, students can both stand out and find many ways to fit in.
What do you look forward to in your role?
Next semester I’m teaching a course for writing tutors, and while that may not seem exciting to most, I am thrilled to have a group of people on campus who care about both writing and working with others. I am looking forward to spreading that love of literacy throughout the campus by hosting more events throughout the year (a love letter workshop is coming in February!).
What advice do you share with students?
I try to stick to encouragement or asking questions to help students think through issues. Sometimes I share my own experiences with college and grad school. I do encourage students to go for anything they are considering doing. Why not?
What is an interesting or little-known fact about yourself?
Not only do I have publications for my creative work, but I’ve also had a recipe published in “Light and Tasty” for a cranberry-topped cheesecake. I like to bake, especially with help from my daughters, and have recently started to learn about cake decorating.