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Arlene Plevin – fulbright scholar, avid bicycler, ‘green’ cheerleader, world traveler, OC instructor

Arlene Plevin

“I love all the life stories I hear and the people I encounter. So many students at OC have worked amazingly hard to return to college or to find their life’s path.  I’m constantly amazed, and in awe, of their challenges, determination, and creativity.”

You currently teach English at OC. Can you tell us a little about your teaching background?

I earned a Bachelor in English and MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Poetry at the University of Iowa. I joke that I also earned my BAI there—Bicycling Around Iowa—because I did the 500-mile Des Moines Register’s Bike Ride Across Iowa five or six times. I received my Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington, focusing on eco-composition and environmental literature. In addition to OC, I have taught at the University of Iowa, Seattle University, Clemson University, Indiana State University, Cascadia College, and others in 20 years of teaching.

How do you keep current in your field?

Arlene PlevinI attend and present at national conferences and research and write chapters for book collections and scholarly journals. My work on eco-composition, environmental and social justice has been included in books and scholarly journals published by the State University of New York Press, Rutgers University Press, Illinois State Press, Wayne State Press, and others. Over the past four years at OC, I’ve had two essays accepted and one has appeared in print.  I will be working on two more essays this summer.

Most recently, I attended the 4Cs (College Conference on Composition and Communication) and presented at ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment). I was delighted to be invited to be part of the Curriculum on the Bioregion, a 20-member, statewide committee for creating composition curriculum. In addition to that, I attended by invitation “Sustainability Across the Curriculum Leadership Workshop” presented by AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education), and I presented at the “Reinventing Green,” EEAW (Environmental Education Association of Washington) conference. I’ve attended and presented at the Western Literature Association Conference and have been a member of the National Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Committee. On invitation, I have also reviewed two manuscripts for different scholarly journals.

What do you enjoy about teaching at OC?

I am most proud of what students discover they’re able to accomplish. In my technical writing class, students do a discourse analysis. This involves researching their (career) field and interviewing someone who could, perhaps, function as a mentor. I start students working on who they could interview a month before the actual event. They are often able to connect with someone who is amazing: articulate, helpful, open, and so on. As a direct result of this project, students have found internships, work opportunities, and lifelong mentors.  It is, as one student wrote me, “empowering.” And that is what I aim for: for students to grow as writers and thinkers, and critically believe that they can make amazing things happen. That’s what happened for this student: the project guided her and she connected. She did the work and interviewed two individuals who have helped her see what she is capable of doing in a field to which she’s committed.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love hiking, bicycling and travel. I love to encounter films that prompt me to question my world. I have family and friends in Finland, Italy, and Belgium, and I visit each summer. I do volunteer animal rescue, helping out with Friends of Campus Cats. Also, I wear dark nail polish to hide the perpetual dirt under my fingernails: I’m a gardening fiend!!  I have what I call the “dissertation garden.” It was so named because when I was supposed to be writing my dissertation, I was in the garden, which blossomed and grew lush way, way before I finished my 260-page dissertation.

I’ve bicycled from Tecate to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Berkeley to Port Townsend and back to Santa Barbara, California; Melbourne to Sydney, Australia; Missoula, Montana, to Jasper, Alberta, Canada; Anchorage, Alaska, to Seward and back; Rockville, Maryland, to Lynchberg, Virginia (Sky Line Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway), Arlington, Washington, to Nordman, Idaho, and in parts of Belize, New Zealand, Ireland, Taiwan, Sweden, and Italy.

Travel—and learning while I travel–has always been important to me. I was a Fulbright Scholar in Taiwan, teaching at Tamkang University in Taipei.

What do few people know about you?

That I wrote a restaurant review for The Daily (The University of Washington’s student newspaper)for four months under a pseudonym. My limit was $15 for a meal, and I often took a friend out to eat with me.

How have you been involved in writing about the environment?

Environmental action has been a thread throughout my career, indeed throughout my life. I was a writer/editor for the National Wildlife Federation, where I put out EnviroAction, which went to some 80,000 grassroots activists.  I wrote a book on bicycling for Fodor’s Sports, an imprint of Random House. I was a freelance writer and wrote for the Smithsonian Institute, the National Education Association, Bicycling magazine, Caribbean Travel and Life, and others. I did Poetry in the Schools projects, including in South Dakota, which at that time imported writers because their small state (then some 700,000) loved to support the arts and needed more writers.

What activities have you been involved in to promote sustainability?

I’ve helped organize a variety of projects and Earth Week events at the college. I also try to educate through presentations at OC, such as a recent event that served local foods raised sustainably. I like reminding folks that’s a side of living sustainably—enjoying the bounty we have—and that being sustainable doesn’t mean suffering or walking around in a burlap sack. Sustainable living can be enjoyable, deeply satisfying, and fun!

I also volunteer for community cleanups and activities centered on the environment. Everyone needs and deserves clean air, water and soil that are rich and non-toxic. I hope everyone works for that for all—for now and for the future.

What awards have you received during your career?

I was nominated for a Washington State Environmental Educator of the Year. I was also a Fulbright lecturer, recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Grant in Arts Management, and received a $5,000 grant from the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

What inspires you about OC?

I love all the life stories I hear and the people I encounter. So many students at OC have worked amazingly hard to return to college or to find their life’s path.  I’m constantly amazed, and in awe, of their challenges, determination, and creativity.

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