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Fall 2002

Vol. 03, No. 1


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Excerpts: Richard Bovard

Richard Bovard began working at NDSU as a professor of English in 1972, and chaired the department from 1981 to 1991. He was interim director of NDSU Libraries from 1997 to 2000, interim dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences from 1995 to 1996, interim director of the Division of Fine Arts from 1994 to 1995. Bovard earned his bachelor's degree in English at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, a master's degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a doctorate in English from the University of Denver.

Teaching was one of the best things I could think of doing with what I loved. I thought law school would be boring so I decided to go to graduate school.

I got along well with students. For a long time it was fairly easy. We had a shared passion of a number of other things, civil rights and Vietnam war protests and the Rolling Stones.

Teaching for the kind of success you'd like to have, to have an impact (that somebody will love what you love, like what you like and will work hard and prosper because of their working hard), you reach 10 percent maybe. But often that's enough.

I always liked what I was teaching. I had a passion for what I liked (novels, plays, poems).

I no longer ask students what they read. I try to make connections to the movies that they're seeing.

You have to be able to have at least some respect for the students, to believe that they have a certain amount of rights, I think, in class, to be ultimately successful.

I believe that a syllabus had to be detailed, thorough, no tricks for students, no surprises, no pop quizzes. It all had to be there. It was my responsibility as a teacher. Their responsibility as students was to read the syllabus.

Students are very literate in pop culture, they're very literate in visual culture. Sure, I'd like them to read more. I'd like them to use English more effectively and correctly, but toward the end of my life I just wanted them to use it consistently. I don't care if my colleagues or even my communications specialist friends abuse it as long as they're consistent. A consistent error is sufficient.

I had first year students in my last year who were as good as any first year students I'd ever had. Maybe not as many of them, but I still had some very good students.

The dilemma as the teacher is to try to convince them that you're helping them. The dilemma is that you are judging them too because you will eventually grade them and they see the judging often more than the helping.

More than once I've had students who half seriously have said that the paper looked like it had died, it bled so much. Over the years I tried to stop using a red pen.

That is one of the consequences of not reading much. You eventually don't write very well because you're not used to dealing with ways in which people express themselves in print, in words.

As a humanist, I tend to believe that human beings are all we know about and they are more important than anything else.

You forget what you're going through in a humanities course because you have this material and you understand that you're supposed to think of it as important and valuable but you're not always told why it is.

As a humanist I knew that power was illusionary and therefore as an administrator I didn't try to keep secrets, didn't try to withhold information that everybody needed to know.

I was a teacher and an administrator, that was what I did, not who I was.

If you have spent your life as a teacher and administrator you have spent your life among people constantly talking, communicating, and silence in retirement is good.


Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.