Dr. Ellen Bayer, assistant literature professor, leads a busy life filled with hobbies and fun. Between all of the grading and reading, she sat with the Ledger to speak on her personal life and some great advice for students.
WHERE DID YOU ATTEND COLLEGE AS AN UNDERGRAD AND GRADUATE STUDENT?
For my undergrad, I went to Northern Kentucky University, and I did one year at Midway College (I was an equine science major). I was all over the place for my undergrad! I initially started undergrad as a history major, and then I transferred to Midway and was an equine science major. I then transferred back to Northern Kentucky University and was an English major. I attended (sic) both my master’s and my Ph.D. from Purdue University.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO YOUR PASSION FOR LITERATURE?
My freshman year at Northern Kentucky University I had a professor my very first semester, and as it was just an English class, there was a lot of literature involved. I’ve always loved reading and there was something about how we had conversations about books in that class. That fueled my interest even more!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BOOK AND WHY?
“Moby Dick” by Herman Melville. Everyone who knows me knows I love “Moby Dick.” People think of me and send white whale stuff to me all the time. I love it because it’s not just about some crazy guy who’s obsessed with killing a whale — it really deals with all of the stuff we worry about in life. Whether it’s political or spiritual or scientific, it takes every human thought and emotion and explores that in one book, in such a complex way. I never get tired of it, and I love reading it with students!
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT TEACHING HERE AT UWT?
I really like the students here. It’s hands down my favorite because it’s such a wide group of different types of student experiences that people bring. It’s such a wide range of experience and I think that makes for a richer conversation in the classroom because everyone has different experiences. For me, that makes it so much more enjoyable to have all of these different voices talking to each other and figuring stuff out.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A PROFESSOR?
The hardest thing for me is that the classes are huge. Forty students is enormous, so trying to create a space for everyone so that it’s comfortable and everyone can add their voice — it’s hard to do with 40 people in one room.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR HOBBIES?
I have lots of hobbies, but my main one is being an ultrarunner. I run distances from 50 km to 100 km. So when I’m not working, I’m running very long distances in the mountains. I have also decided to start rock climbing to combat my fear of heights. I am interested in kayaking, anything really in the outdoors. I’m trying to find new outdoorsy stuff because we have so much great wilderness here, and I’m trying to access it in more ways than just running all the time.
WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU OFFER TO UNDERGRAD STUDENTS AT UWT?
We have this tendency to think of end goal instead of the moment. Try to redirect your focus into the moment. Think about what impact you will make today, rather than the future. “Living in the moment” is too cliche, but really being present and seeing each part of your experience as having value, rather than seeing the future.
Fun Facts About Professor Ellen Bayer:
•Dr. Bayer is an ultrarunner! She runs 50–100 km in the mountains.
•She has been a vegan for 11 years.
•She is teaching herself to play the mandolin and ukulele.