62. Seeing Each Other’s Humanity w/ Chris Muniz

In Episode 62, Dan Dissinger and special guest host Stephanie Renée Payne talk with Chris Muniz of the USC Writing Program about reconnecting creative writing back to academic writing, developing meaningful and authentic student-centered projects, and how the personal journey leads the way towards student agency.

Chris Muniz is a faculty member in the University of Southern California’s Writing Program. He received and MFA in Interdisciplinary Writing from CalArts and a PhD. in Literature and Creative Writing from USC . His critical and creative work center on the intersection of race, identity, and culture in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and American West. The former Editor-in-Chief of Gold Line Press, Chris has work forthcoming in Ploughshares and is nearing completion of his first novel, Owl Medicine.

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

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“What is the purpose of higher education, and as I moved into a role of actually being in a place to have a classroom of my own, even through grad school, what’s the best space and use of this time and space that we can sort of carve out in the institution. Kind of pushing the boundaries as much as possible, still providing the deliverables that the ‘Man’ wants, but at the same time really emphasizing that this is an experience. rather than, ‘I’m an authority figure here to fill you up with knowledge.” –Chris Muniz

“Critical thinking and writing, they can apply almost to any major, any degree, [and] any class I taught.” –Chris Muniz

“Real life doesn’t afford us six months to sit down and sort of read and think about our lives and figure out our place in the world, so let’s take full advantage of that.” –Chris Muniz

“A student-centered approach is something that’s easily thrown around as a term.” –Chris Muniz

“Starting with getting [students] to think about and articulate their position and their positionality in terms of related to writing and thinking, but also getting them to think about their career goals begins to situate them in a space where they go, ‘Okay, wait a minute this really why.’” –Chris Muniz

“The personal value of having [my students] sit outside for 15-minutes and reflect on and write about that experience, I would argue that it actually was probably more valuable and more insightful than the final project that they ended up turning in for the whole semester.”
–Chris Muniz

“You know, this idea of building human beings, developing character and ourselves more than just like churning out A-level writers drives what I do.” –Chris Muniz

“The reason Malcolm Gladwell is so popular or Atul Gawande is because […] there’s a really kind of human center to it where you’re like, ‘Oh! I feel something emotional as a result of that writing.’”
–Chris Muniz

“In terms of the arc of my own kind of journey, one thing I haven’t been able to do but plan to do […] how do we invoke spirituality into this, right, into this sense of awe about the world? And not in a kind of dogmatic sense […] but just again that child-like awe and wonder of the world, for me, is a spiritual experience.” –Chris Muniz

“In many ways, what we’re talking about, doesn’t sound revolutionary or transgressive, but I think going back to bell hooks it is in a way to sort of approach education this way that somehow threatens the status quo to be excited about transforming the lives of your students.”
–Chris Muniz

“Coming back to this idea of willing to be vulnerable with your students, but then of course when they’re vulnerable with you, you have to be in a position to hold that, create a space for that, not only just a safe space, but a space that allows you to do something productive with it.” –Chris Muniz

“You can’t be encouraging people to come up with trauma to write about because it makes for good emotional writing and then leave them with no kind of framework.” –Chris Muniz

“I think it just comes down to seeing each other as human beings.”
–Chris Muniz

“I’m honored when people share something with me.” –Chris Muniz

“Really the goal is you want [the students] to connect the dots themselves. I’m going to gather all these dots, but I want [my students] to connect them. Because I think that’s really where they get excited, it’s when they start to go, ‘Oh! I connected something!’”
–Chris Muniz

“Not only is making a mess okay, that’s exactly where we start, the generative mess is where we start.” –Chris Muniz

“The way in which the educational system is setup is it sort of prevents students form having agency.” –Chris Muniz

“You know that notion of not letting your education getting in the way of your education […] that the real world experiences are almost more valuable.” –Chris Muniz

“Asking questions is just as good as or even better than coming up with answers.” –Chris Muniz

“You make that kind of circle where you realize at a certain point the academic connects to the creative and then obviously all of that work connects to who you are as a human.” –Chris Muniz

Call for Contributors
Humanities Podcasting Symposium
October 15-16, 2021

The Humanities Podcasting Network is inviting expressions of interest for our first annual symposium on academic podcasting. Follow the link to read the CFC and submit your ideas: Call For Contributions

This episode was recorded on May 24th, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod

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