A La Porte County Life in the Spotlight: Dr. Heather Fielding

By: Paul Scott Last Updated: February 25, 2015

heather-fieldingDr. Fielding was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and she lived there until she was eighteen. She received a B.A. in English from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1999. She went on to get her M.A. from Brown in 2002, and her Ph. D. from Brown in 2007. In graduate school, she focused on Modernism (the late 19th to early 20th centuries), and she is currently working on a book about how “modernist writers in Britain conceptualized novel reading.” She has taken advantage of this knowledge by teaching several courses at Purdue North Central that contain materials from Modernist Europe.

Dr. Fielding moved to Chicago and has been teaching at PNC since 2009. She taught at Brown and Harvard on a two year postdoctoral fellowship beforehand. Her favorite class to teach at PNC is English 201: The Nurture of Literary Study, which is an introductory course for English Majors. This class introduces her to new English majors and allows her to help hone their skills for future English courses. She believes that a professor’s job is most rewarding when they have the opportunity to assist their students and watch them improve from the beginning their college experience.

In 2014, Heather won Purdue North Central’s Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award. There is a full-time and a part-time version of this award, and faculty members are nominated by peers and students. After nomination there is an application and evaluation process, and these awards are not handed out freely. This award is particularly representative of teachers that have a positive impact on their students. Professors choose their profession because they enjoy advising and directing students, and this award is recognition that a professor is adept at the most rewarding part of his or her job.

In order to win this award a Liberal Arts professor must display several habitual behaviors focused on positive student interaction and diverse teaching strategies. The professor must be committed to the subjects they are teaching, and encourage students to think critically about those subjects. The professor must teach interesting and mentally stimulating courses that students enjoy taking. The professor must also be available for their students, and present students with opportunities to revise and workshop their writing assignments.

Being a current and past student of Dr. Fielding’s, I have firsthand experience with her teaching abilities. After just one class with her, I signed up for more as quickly as possible. She conducts herself in a profession manner, but she is still able to relate to her students easily. More importantly, she creates a classroom environment where nothing anyone says is ever wrong. Dr. Fielding is a firm believer that “there are no right or wrong answers in English,” and any abstract thought can eventually be developed into something concrete and understandable. In order to create this open-ended environment, she tries to make sure “a first thought is never the last thought,” and any topic any student brings up is somehow expanded. This greatly reducing any anxiety involved with expressing personal ideas about difficult material.

Dr. Fielding is continuing to fulfil the reward’s requirement for diverse classes this semester by offering two classes at PNC for the first time. One class is Careers in English, and she personally provided each student in that class with his or her own internship. The second is an author study on Virginia Woolf, who is one of Modernism’s most popular authors. The career course is especially demanding and required guest lectures from past students and current professors with knowledge about resumes and job hunting on the internet. I am lucky enough to be in both of these classes. I attended the 24th conference on Virginia Woolf in 2014 at Loyal University in Chicago thanks to Heather, and she also provided me with my internship at Ideas In Motion Media. I am just one example of the many students Dr. Fielding has mentored and assisted at PNC.

Dr. Fielding feels that flexibility is an important part of any teacher’s job, and embracing change is important for dealing with new students. Any professor should be excited about opportunities to learn new materials and teach their students in dynamic environments. Dr. Fielding exclusively utilizes discussion based courses to create this environment. Discussion based courses help encourage students to be confident about original ideas, and gain sympathy towards other student’s points of view. The result is a supportive panel of equal minds that all desire refinement.

Outstanding professors like Dr. Fielding can inspire and encourage their English students to gain the confidence and knowledge required to have coherent conversations about difficult literature. Poetry, novels and essays that make little sense on the first read can be completely clarified with assistance from Dr. Fielding, but she still forces her students to attain a conclusion with original ideas. Without the threat of being wrong students are able to interpret text on their own, sympathize with the interpretations of others, and also gain the expert analysis of the professor. With all of these sources of information, difficult abstract literature becomes clear and thought provoking. Dr. Fielding displays diverse and successful teaching methods, and the impact she has on her students illustrates how much she deserves recognition.