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SCC Professor Inspiring Students Inside and Outside of Classroom

Published: 02/09/2021

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Like many kids, SCC English Professor Dr. Joe Baumann loved stories growing up. He loved telling them. He loved hearing them. He loved books, movies, television shows and video games.

But when asked what he wanted to be when he “grew up,” Baumann always navigated toward science.

“In eighth grade,” he recalled, “I wrote down on some end-of-grade-school thing that I wanted to be an optometrist.”

Things changed when he hit high school. He found a love for English and writing.

“I think it was really my great high school English teachers that invigorated my interest in studying writing and books. That, I guess, is what really great teachers do: they make their passions yours,” Baumann explained.  

Writing has become a central part of who he is, personally and professionally.

“If I wasn't writing, I'd probably lose my mind, especially right now,” said Baumann. “It's how I process the world and make meaning out of the chaos that seems to only get more intense every day.”

Dr. Baumann became a full-time faculty member at SCC in 2014. Since that time, he’s been busy. He’s been published in many literary journals, publications and online magazines. He also has a growing list of awards to his name.

“I like seeing my work out in the world, and knowing that it's been chosen and curated by editors makes it feel somehow less "Hey, look at me!" than if I was self-publishing or writing on a blog or something.”

Baumann won a prize from a magazine called the Freshwater Review at Scholastic University. His work has also appeared in journals such as Passages North (a story coming out in 2022), Sou'wester, Barrelhouse, and in Electric Literature, a fairly major online magazine that has published some of his favorite writers.

His favorite published piece is a story he wrote a few years ago called “Still Life.”

“It's very short--three or four pages. It's about parents who children have passed away, and they are doing art therapy. They draw their kids, and the paintings come to life, but only as long as the parents don't touch them,” stated Baumann. “It won a writing prize and was later included in an anthology, and lots of people have said very nice things to me about it.”

As an educator, Baumann tries to inspire his own students, especially in writing classes.

“What I aim to do is help them find joy in the process, in simply discovering their own abilities and enjoying the work,” said Baumann. “Writing is hard, and it’s easy to feel underwhelmed with one’s own efforts. I try to show students that getting where they want to be is actually possible.”

Over the years, many of his students have found a successful path forward, both inside and outside the classroom.

“Lots of them, of course, happen in the classroom: when a student makes a breakthrough in their writing, or shows a vast improvement, or talks to me about how they've developed a certain confidence they may not have had before,” said Baumann. “I've also had former students get into graduate programs, land stories or poems in magazines, or find their own way to those desired successes.”

Due to the pandemic, the last several months have been a challenge, Baumann admits.

“Especially in creative writing courses, the challenge is to reproduce a version of the intimacy and community that happens in a classroom with fellow writers,” said Baumann.

He gives a lot of credit to his students, who have adapted well to the changes.

“I joke with them that I'm the newbie to Zoom compared to them – and how they are very go-with-the-flow; when I forget to share my screen or unmute, they laugh and take things like that in stride,” said Baumann.

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