Name: Rebecca Meacham
Position at UWGB: Professor of English, Humanistic Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies, Director of the Creative Writing Program, Advisor Sheepshead Review
Summary of what you do: I teach courses in writing and American literatures, advise the 70+ students in our creative writing program, mentor the editors and staff of our campus journal of the arts, give readings and lead public workshops, fundraise for room remodeling (donate to our Revise the Room-TH 378 Fund!) and develop our writing program.
How long have you been employed: since 2002
Brief history of employment with UWGB: As an Assistant Professor, I relaunched Sheepshead Review in 2003 and added courses in African American literature and Literary Publishing to the UWGB Curriculum, and taught additionally for ILS/ADP, LIR, online and in person. As an Associate Professor, I taught new courses in Ghost Stories, Caribbean writers, The Harlem Renaissance, and Novel Writing, among other areas. I won the Founders Award in Teaching in 2011, and was promoted to Full Professor in 2016.
Three words that describe you: Energetic, fast-talking, fast-walking.
Personal interests: Parenting my fantastic kids, watching superhero and spy shows with my husband, running relay races and gossiping with my Green Bay friends, and reuniting with far-flung friends every few years in sunny locales.
Random facts/interests: I have lopsided dimples, a tattoo on my ankle, and I’m 5 ft. tall.
Are you messy or organized? Both. Syllabi, calendars, desktop computer folders: organized. Every single surface of my house and office: messy.
Best vacation you’ve been to? In May, my mother treated me to seeing “Hamilton” on Broadway with the original cast. I’m grateful to have traveled around world with friends and family throughout my life. I’ve backpacked, camped, and stayed in hotels and on people’s couches in Europe, Canada, all around the U.S., including Hawaii.
Do you have a favorite quote? From my daughter’s namesake poet, Gwendolyn Brooks: “Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.”
Do you recall any embarrassing moment at work? As a new teacher in the 1990s, I forgot to bring something to erase an overhead projector (remember those?), and so I spit on the screen and wiped it off with my sleeve in front of 25 students.
Favorite travel spot? My family and I stay in Door County several times a year.
If given a chance, who would you like to be for a day? I’d love to be the birthday party planner for zoo animals.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you? My former colleague says I look like Emma Watson.
If you could interview one person (dead or alive) who would it be? The author Toni Morrison, but I couldn’t actually speak in her presence. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda would be delightful, and we could sing together between questions.
If you could witness any historical event, what would you want to see? Prince or Michael Jackson in concert at their peak.
If you were an animal what would you be? One of my housecats. What a life!
If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it? “Hang On.”
Tell us a little about yourself. I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and went to college and two graduate programs up and down Interstate 75 (Oxford, Bowling Green, Cincinnati). I wrote my first poem in 1st grade, sent my first Letter to the Editor in 3rd grade, and published my first magazine in 4th grade. In High School, I was a cheerleader, wrote for the newspaper, sang in musicals, and stayed silent as “The Mute” in “The Fantastiks.” The first time I majored in English was during my PhD program, which is a lousy time to start. My work has always been interdisciplinary, in the fields of creative writing, American Studies, and ethnic American literatures. I’ve published two well-received story collections, and I’m currently doing my darndest to finish writing a novel set during the 1871 Peshtigo Fire.
Tell us a little bit about your family. I am so lucky to be married to Chuck Rybak, a fellow writer, UWGB English professor, and spy-movie fan. My household includes our cats, our two hilarious, brilliant daughters and my darkly funny mother, who moved from Ohio when she retired from her law practice and built a house that connects to our house.
Tell us three things most people don’t know about you.
- I seriously considered becoming a hot-air balloonist after my first and only flight.
- I can make ice cream from scratch—Peppermint Stick, Salted Caramel, Blueberry Cheesecake.
- I never imagined being a teacher, let alone a college professor, until my first semester as a Teaching Assistant, when I taught my own class just 3 months after graduating college myself.
What advice would you give to recent new hires? For new teachers: The consequence of innovation is often failure, and that’s just as useful as success. Sometimes a fantastic assignment goes terribly wrong and a terrible assignment goes startlingly well. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s the day, sometimes is the classroom, sometimes it’s luck. Along the way, don’t be afraid to make your process, failures, and your objectives transparent to your students—and to seek their input. Set clear standards, and create thoughtful, scaffolded assignments — but also allow students to experiment, self-direct, and move their insights beyond the boundaries of the classroom and, ideally, beyond you.
What are three career lessons you’ve learned thus far? 1. Don’t make assumptions about students’ lives, backgrounds, preparedness, or interest. 2. Do reach out to peers, colleagues, learned friends for advice, help, and reality checks. 3. Admit you will never grade when you say you’re going to grade.
What are your hopes for our industry/school? My Humanities colleagues and I impart to students—and to our community—the skills of tolerance, creativity, adaptability, self-direction, critical thinking, and empathy. These qualities are central to UW-GB’s interdisciplinary mission, and a key reason I took this job in 2002. My hope would be that UW-GB would commit to not just preserving, but also to growing, programs that question, investigate, critique, and listen to the human stories at the center of our often systematized, polarized, power-driven world.
What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most? The students– UWGB students are so willing to take risks, to stretch, to learn, and to try. Also, I regularly thank the Employment Gods for my warm colleagues, staff, and workers all over campus. And once in a while, I drive to work with my husband, and that’s quite nice.
What book did you read last? The Public Library (stories), by Ali Smith, for a blog post I have to write.
What books are at your bedside? What books aren’t?! I’m an English professor married to an English professor—we’re lucky we can find the bed.
What children’s character can you relate with most? Why? I loved Pippi Longstocking, because she was independent and confident and gloriously nutty and kept a horse on her front porch.
What did you want to be when growing up? When I was six, I wanted to be a “joke-teller” and a carpenter. In my actual job, I’m kind of doing both: crafting things, looking at how things are made, and cracking people up—at least myself.
What do you like most about your job? I get to read great writing, then have conversations with people about how great it is, and help people write their own great work as well.
What do you like to do in your spare time? I try to write my novel—although sometimes I cheat on that novel by trying to write a different novel.
What is an ability you wish you had? To ride roller coasters. I get carsick just looking at my iPhone.
What is the first concert you attended? John Denver. I was seven, and at the concert, a girl my age went up on stage and gave him a rose, and I seethed with jealousy forevermore.
What is the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery? An otterarium. Followed by an annual salary for a personal chef. These are not related.
What is your biggest pet peeve? Intolerance and bullying.
What is your family like? Witty, self-deprecating, book-loving homebodies. My dad and mom are competitive and have morbid senses of humor, as do I. Everyone else, from my step-mom to in-laws, are warm and funny and genuinely wonderful to be around when they visit.
\What is your favorite movie and book? Anything I’ve just seen or read.
Hidden talent? I can sing and love harmonizing. I used to make jewelry from beads, clay, or old watch parts and sell it. I make excellent dioramas for, ha! I mean with, my kids.
What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have outside of work? I run 5-8 miles several times a week. I’m a fierce Uno player. I’ve just discovered the TV show “The Americans.”
What tv show/movie are you ashamed to admit you love? You wouldn’t think so, but I am unashamed of my love of the show “Arrow.” Everyone should watch it for the shirtless ladder pull-ups, I mean great writing.
What was your favorite book as a child? I really loved The Westing Game, a puzzle storybook by Ellen Raskin. This summer, I read it to my daughters over a week–truly one of the best experiences ever.
Where would you like to go on a dream vacation? My entire family would explore Australia for a month.