Innovative Pedagogy Interview
with Bradley Melekian, MFA, Assistant Professor, Creative Writing
The Breakthrough With Brad Melekian
Brad Melekian, one of the many respected and influential professors in the English department, does not have all the answers. Instead, he has all the questions. As a professor, Melekian is constantly evolving with his students by implementing a model of dynamic teaching. His classroom becomes collaborative, from honest full-circled discussions to weekly workshops organized by the students. As we sit down, Melekian tells me how he addresses the anxieties, de-centers the classroom, and facilitates an environment where students feel comfortable.
“Life comes at us so fast. One of the ways we make sense of it is by applying narrative to our day-to-day life”, Melekian tells me.
His office is filled with his favorite books and, of course, a photo of Joan Didion, a writer that resonates passionately with him, rests on top of his desk. Not only is he a professor, but also a USD alumni and journalist, whose work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Surfer Magazine, and Outdoor Magazine.
When I asked him about his objective in the classroom he says “I teach a lot of Joan Didion. In one of her essays the opening line says, ‘We tell ourselves stories in order to live’. So I guess if there is a theme, it is by applying narrative to our life so that we can make sense of the human experience”.
His classroom is known to be engaging and interactive. We discussed that a collaborative classroom should include a setting where students feel comfortable to converse and have discussions with each other. “My job is to facilitate an environment that is comfortable. I try to respect everyone in the classroom. Starting with a place of common respect and genuine curiosity gets people fired up with what I’m trying to teach you”.
Creating a classroom environment in which students are comfortable to engage and discuss is difficult for any professor to tackle. Melekian finds ways to create an authentic connection with his students by addressing the anxieties of the classroom, and facilitating student engagement while bonding and encouraging them to find common interests with each other. Through student discussion, not only the students but professors as well, are able to explore and delve into new curiosities.
In the end, he left me with a few words on the meaning of being a professor: “The best way to learn something is to teach it”.