You Had Us at Llamugs – Tiffany Salter Nerds Out
Hawthorn Hall’s third floor is the primary location of the faculty offices for the Bates English Department. Many of the brave souls venturing up the steep flights may be unaware, though, that this floor also happens to be the residence of the llamugs! The llamugs belong to Visiting Assistant Professor of English Tiffany Salter. They are a collection of mugs with llama depictions on them, which she started when she received one from her mother. Professor Salter’s charming taste for kitchenware, however, just scrapes the surface of what makes her a special member of the Bates faculty.
Salter has been at Bates since January of 2017 after completing her degree from Ohio State University. She teaches in the Department of English and serves on the program committee for Bates American Studies Program. Additionally, this semester Salter is in charge of the Literary Arts Live Reading Series. Her research and academic interests mainly focus on Asian American and Pacific Islander literatures, specifically comparative work between the two. In the near future Salter will be submitting research on a Chamorro poet (and indigenous person of Guam) whose work has recently come into the public spotlight. “It is an exciting piece for me,” says Salter. She is also working on a book project she started over the summer. The project analyses the fox spirit, and as Salter describes it, “It’s looking at how Asian American writers are taking the spirit up as kind of a decolonial figure.” Part of what makes Salter such a valuable member of the Bobcat community is her ability to translate her engaging research and passion into her teaching.
When asked if she could design a dream course Slater points to an upcoming English seminar on Pacific Studies and Literatures of Oceana. This higher-level course, covering a subject not taught before at Bates, will tie in perfectly to her research. For the Fall semester, Salter is teaching two sections of the Asian American Women Writers. “I love the class, we read great stuff, some of it is stuff I wrote about in my dissertation, and some of it is new things,” notes Salter. The course looks at a broad range of topics from America’s relationship to minoritized populations to an interrogation of college application personal statements. This year is special because Salter’s involvement in the Literary Arts Live Reading Series will allow students to speak with the authors of texts they are reading in class. “Having them come to class is going to be a special treat,” comments Salter. Although she incorporates traditional forms of literature in her couseres, Slater is also a proponent of utilizing unconventional texts and forms of teaching in the classroom.
In the winter semester, for example, Salter teaches a course on the Asian American Graphic Novel. The genre is relatively new to academic study, and the range of questions students will learn how to pose is wider than what they’re used to in more traditional literature courses. Throughout the class, students discover the qualities that make the graphic novel a unique and intriguing form of study. Salter explains, “You have to learn how to read graphic narrative as much as you have to become literature in any other type of medium.” Aspects such as color and palette are analyzed: “We get really deep into everything that images can tell us that move beyond just what the words are on the page,” She mentions. By utilizing the graphic novel in her courses Salter is helping to couple English literature with the contemporary world and student.
Salter is also bringing modernity into her teaching through the use of technology. The culmination of her class American Writers since 1900, which Salter teaches as multi-ethnic speculative fiction, is a Virtual Reality presentation. Students collaborate to create a Virtual Reality cityscape that they present at the Mt. David Summit. They work in pairs to 3D render a building and with the help of the ILS staff and a computer program, the buildings are placed in the city scape. In speaking of the significance of the project Salter says, “It is a process in actively thinking about what it means to build something collaboratively and make compromises. It sounds kind of romantic but it’s like the students are imagining a future together.”
Collaboration and technology are concepts Salter hopes to put into practice more looking forward. One potential prospect to couple these two principles is through a course Salter and Professor Stephanie Kelley-Romano have discussed co-teaching. The course would cover the subject of cyborgs. Looking past the superficial surface there is a lot of theory on cyborgs according to Salter. She notes, “Cyborgs are this space of potential as imagined by gender and sexuality studies as well as writers of color and black feminist thought. All of these folks are looking at the cyborg and the potential- the cyborg as a generative site for imaging possible futures.”
One thing for certain is that it is easy to enjoy the intellectual excitement Professor Salter brings to Bates . “I’m just a nerd who is pretty excited she gets to share nerdy things with students,” finished Salter.