The heart of the arts: Marianne Kunkel | Lifestyles
As departments shift and merge after the Missouri Western Cups, many talented faculty have sadly been made redundant in order to keep finances afloat. Even during tragic layoffs, Dr. Marianne Kunkel continues to inspire her students after her department was phased out.
Kunkel was hired seven years ago as an associate professor of creative writing and editing. Although she specializes in poetry, her editing skills have left her mark on students and faculty alike.
While in Western Missouri, she took over the creation of two literary magazines, “The Mochila Review” and “Reach”. She started many programs and traditions, organized campus events, and even wrote and published a book of poetry without running out. She started her teaching career energetically and hasn’t slowed down seven years later.
“I was so new! I had just left my doctoral program. It was my first job teaching at a university and I was really excited. I really didn’t know anything about Missouri or St. Joseph, but I had a really good mentor, Dr. Church, and I had the opportunity to run the creative writing magazines on campus. That part I was prepared for plus teaching writing classes, ”Kunkel said.
Prior to teaching at Missouri Western, Ms. Kunkel had already made a name for herself in her doctoral program as editor-in-chief of “Prairie Schooner,” her university’s literary journal.
“My training was at the University of Nebraska Creative Writing Magazine. I was under the direction of Kwame Dawes, which was like working for Oprah! He had so many great ideas and I took what I learned there and promised in my job interview here that I would take the floor running, ”Kunkel said.
During the first two years of her stay in Missouri Western, she initiated several new programs and beloved traditions.
“I started a podcast with the help of Dr. Nulph and a writers contest attached to an annual writers event. Using the money from the competition, we paid a judge, and then we brought that judge to campus to do a reading, and that’s how we got people like Nikki Giovanni and Taylor Mali, ”Kunkel said. “We diversified and did other things. We became known for the Tiniest Coffee Shop, reading poetry in the Murphy elevators. We organized a greeting card sale that resulted from a collaboration between the creative writing department and the engraving department. “
Between Dr. Kunkel and his students, the English department has always thought about creative ways to bring art to the community and to the campus.
“We had a monthly open mic series called Reach 4 the Mic which was an extension of Reach and it was very busy! We had it at Mokaska, a downtown cafe and it was a really nice bridge for local poets and students. We would run out of seats. It went strong until COVID. It’s something to be proud of, that things were heating up and never slowing down while I was here.
While the other professor of creative writing, Dr. Church, spawned the program, Dr. Kunkel really made it flourish.
“There were some very good students when I came here, but there were fewer of them. Together, we built a brand that inspired students on campus to become majors in creative writing. At first we had seven when I got here, and I brought it up to 23. It was our biggest focus before it was phased out.
Kunkel’s passion for poetry and creative writing of all kinds inspires his students to push their writing skills beyond the classroom. She has spent years renaming the curriculum to focus not only on honing students’ skills, but also publishing their work and internships, jobs, and graduate programs.
“The workshops, the writing exercises that I teach my students, they have to go beyond the simple classroom. They really are a springboard for students who want to go to college or consider publishing a book. I have flyers, literary journals, examples of ways students can submit their work. It’s good to be rewarded in the workshop, but it won’t get you anywhere in the real world. The next step is to let people read it by posting it in print or online. “
Kunkel is the one who leads by example. His own success is something students admire. When she published her poetry book “Hilary Made Up” in 2017, her students celebrated her success with her.
“Many students have told me that this is a good example of the professionalism of creative writing and that there is life for book tours and editing, whatever the students are wondering about,” is that possible? ”” Kunkel said.
As students mourn the curriculum and Dr. Kunkel’s departure from Missouri Western, they are left with optimism that she has yet to stop her list of accomplishments. Kunkel recently announced that through her hard work at Missouri Western, she received a job offer that she couldn’t refuse.
“I’m going to be an English teacher at Johnson County Community College and I’m really excited,” Kunkel said. “It’s a very dynamic and favorable environment. In my interviews, I’ve talked about my enthusiasm for planning literary events and bringing writers to campus, as well as interdisciplinary collaborations, which I love to do.
Dr. Kunkel’s students are sad to see her go, but say it’s professors like her who make Missouri Western a good university. Principal Allyson Moore had Dr. Kunkel as a teacher for three years and spoke about his impact on her life.
“She honestly changed the way I think about poetry. I used to think it was too haughty, but she made me see how important it is to current events and how enjoyable it can be, ”said Moore. “I am excited about his new job. I am so glad that she found something satisfying, because I know that her work has been very important to her.
Missouri Western students wish Ms. Kunkel the best as her career continues at a new school where she will have a new pool of students to inspire and grow to their full potential.