Thia Eller serves as assistant professor of art, developing her passion for the subject as a college student seeking her fit in the world. Today, she enjoys welcoming Comets into the Olivet College family and strives to help other students learn about careers as an artist. For Professor Eller, the family aspect of OC is extra special. She works alongside her husband, Gary Wertheimer, professor of art, and serves as mom to one alumnus, one student and one dual-enrolled student.
Why do you love OC?
The best thing about a small college is the feeling of belonging to a close-knit community where I know so many people by name. I mostly live in the Riethmiller Blackman Art Building, which is such a beautiful space that is always humming with students. I am also grateful for the opportunity to teach in the Liberal Arts Core, which enables me to come in contact with a wider variety of students who always amaze me with unexpected creative skill. Finally, a great thing about Olivet today is the sense that we are all on the same team, for which I have to give credit to the current administration.
What is your favorite memory from your time at OC?
My favorite memory was going to Kino Bay in Bahía de Kino, Sonora, Mexico, last fall with President Steven M. Corey, Ph.D., and seeing our amazing students in action during one of our extraordinary travel learning opportunities. They impressed the faculty of that fabulous facility with their exuberant energy, work ethic and playful spirit. I felt like a proud parent showing off my kids.
Where do your passions for teaching and the arts stem from?
My passion for teaching comes from my passion for art. To me, learning to draw was like discovering magic. As a kid, I thought only geniuses were artists, and I was amazed to learn that just about anyone could learn how to draw well if they had the desire. The students that have this desire are the ones that continue to make teaching a pleasure.
What is your teaching style like?
My teaching style is very-laid back because I have a relaxed personality. I start with very basic skills and gradually build toward increasingly complex drawing challenges. Drawing is very hands-on, so each student is given one-on-one instruction.
Why do you encourage students to attend OC?
I think Olivet College is a great place to be an art major. Our department has excellent teachers who are all devoted to helping students do their best. It can be a lot like parenting at times because we do care so much about student success. Being a student is stressful, being human is stressful and life isn’t always easy for students for many reasons, including non-academic issues. I think we care about the whole student at OC.
What advice do you share with students?
I advise students to travel. I think getting out of one’s comfort zone and meeting people from other cultures is one of the most important things a person can do for themselves and for the planet. You learn so much about yourself and how you think. It can be very challenging, but then, that’s the point of an education. The more that people explore the world with the intention of broadening their minds, the better off this world will be. There are many opportunities available to travel, and I would be happy to discuss the possibilities with anyone who is interested.
What is an interesting or little-known fact about yourself?
I am a student of Buddhism. I would like to spend some extended time in a monastery someday. See what living with four Wertheimer men will do to a person?