New Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Scott Hopkins 

Dr. Scott Hopkins in the LU Writing Center (Photo by Jordan Parker)

By Jordan Parker 

LINCOLN UNIVERSITY- In a recent interview with The Clarion News, Dr. Scott Hopkins, a new assistant professor of English and director of the Writing Center at Lincoln University, discussed his plans for students and his future at LU. 

Clarion: Where are you from originally and what is your background?  

Hopkins : I’m From Australia, where I spent a long time in the Defense Department in publications, research, and intelligence. I ended up in strategic studies doing future research, imagining what the Defense Department might need 30 years into the future. While I was doing that, I was getting my doctorate in writing. So, I was using all the skills I was learning on the day job and incorporating it into fiction. But when I came to America in 2009, I switched over into education and have been teaching since 2010. 

Clarion: Where have you been teaching? 

Hopkins: I’ve spent a lot of my career in Florida working part and full-time for Lake-Sumter State College, which is a junior college. I rose through the ranks to become Dean of Arts and Letters, in charge of all the academics through that area. 

Clarion: What are your initial impressions of Lincoln University and what do you want to accomplish here? 

Hopkins: So far, I’m impressed with what I see at Lincoln. I am training tutors and then I have to program the tutors to be available for the students. We need to spread the word across the campus about what we do and how we can help. We need to communicate that we’re here for every need and every course. It’s not just where you come to do your English homework. If you have a writing assignment in biology class or you’re a graduate student in the Master’s of Education program, this is the place to come and get help. 

Dr. Scott Hopkins assists student Amanda Oniyama with a paper in the Writing Center located in MLK Hall. (Photo by Jordan Parker/Clarion News)

Clarion: How did you become interested in writing? 

Hopkins: I first became interested in writing when I was very young. I remember encountering the story of the headless horseman and I was unhappy with the way that it ended. So, I rewrote it to make it more satisfactory to me and there was such an incredible power in that ability to control (the ending). 

Clarion: What is the thing you are most proud of? 

Hopkins: It’s helping students learn how to think in a structured way. I’ve had former students send me emails five years after they graduated, saying they are now at Princeton studying law because of what they learned as freshman. It really shows me that this job can make an impact in a student’s life. I once worked with an army veteran – an adult learner – and he was ready to give up because he found college very hard. But I gave him some feedback on one of his papers – and that changed his direction.  

Clarion: How can you ensure that your students comprehend the lesson? 

Hopkins: It’s tricky because many of today’s students feel a lot of anxiety. One of the harsh things about being in college is that it’s OK to feel that you can’t let it slow down. You have to jump in and try, and it’s OK if you get it wrong . You have to learn from your mistakes.  

Clarion: How do you cope with the pressures of teaching? 

Hopkins: I thrive off working with students. I tell people I’m a vampire, you know.  I drain the life out of a class of students, and then they bring me a fresh batch next semester. It’s the students that keep me young and engaged and that keep me focused and energized because everybody comes in with different ideas. 

Clarion: Was becoming an English professor a dream of yours? If not, what other professions did you have in mind? 

Hopkins: My father was in the Air Force in logistics, so I grew-up wanting to be a fighter pilot, and that turned out to be, you know, you’ve got to be good at math to be a fighter pilot, and math is not my thing. I like words. Set an alarm. I love puns. I love word sounds. I love crossword. When I was quite young my mother, who was a single mother, went back to university and she couldn’t afford child care, so she used to take me to classes when I was 10, and I thought this was great. When I was about 13, I read a book by American author John Irving. The book is called The World According to Garp, where he becomes a creative writing teacher at a university and I thought, “You can really do that, you can teach and write books on the side” and I knew that I could make it happen in my life – and I did. I win. 

Clarion: What distinguishes you from other instructors of English? 

Hopkins: I have a strong background in the practical applications of writing, so much of my background is in government jobs, private industry jobs, and how you use writing in so many different ways.  

Clarion: What recommendations would you give to college students who desire to teach English in a university setting, if any? 

Hopkins: Involve yourself early as a student (and) publish your work in the campus newspaper. Get involved in writing competitions. Often there’s not even an application fee; they just put out an open call and you send it in, and then suddenly you know you’re starting to win a couple of these competitions and you get your stuff published and that builds a lot of confidence. Anybody that wants to join this field must be a reader and they have to be a writer. Getting a degree in English opens up many more career options than merely teaching English; it also prepares students for careers as editors, readers, and lawyers, many of whom first need to develop their reading skills. 

About The Clarion News

Campus and community news produced by journalism students at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.
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