Valerie Weingart is a second-year MA creative writing candidate. She writes primarily fiction and creative nonfiction; her work can be found in the Tributaries literary journal. Originally from Salem, Ohio, Val graduated summa cum laude from Ball State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. She is the Managing Editor of Beautiful Things, an online flash creative nonfiction journal, and she is the Student Intern for River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative. In addition to writing, teaching, and working for literary journals, Val sings in the Muncie Masterworks Chorale and serves as its program editor. She’d like to thank Coralee Young for all of her assistance during the SHC years.
Why did you get involved in the Honors College?
My older brother, Carson, attended Ball State before I did, and he had a fantastic experience in the Honors College. I remember talking with him about his humanities classes, in particular, as well as the Rome & Florence colloquium taught by the late Dr. Jim Ruebel. As a young student, I was excited by the idea of taking discussion-based courses filled with classmates from a variety of majors, so I knew I wanted to apply to the Honors College. After I was accepted and began attending classes, I enjoyed the supportive Honors community. I met some of my closest friends in DeHority and Student Honors Council; likewise, I met some of my most influential mentors in my Honors classes.
What were your most memorable Honors experiences/classes?
There were many, but I’ll limit myself to mentioning four!
The first Honors classes I took were the Humanities Sequence and Dr. Ruebel’s Rome & Florence colloquium. These courses opened my mind to many different ways of viewing the world and interpreting literature, and they formed the basis of my college learning experience. I became a better writer, a more critical reader, and a more confident classroom participant. Additionally, the Rome and Florence colloq ended with a field study in Italy. I’ll never forget walking into the Roman Forum with Dr. Ruebel, a classics scholar, after having spent a year preparing for that very moment. Some of my best friends were also on that trip, as well, and it was wonderful to explore the country with them. What a way to begin a college career!
Dr. Tim Berg’s Honors 189 class, focusing on East Asian texts and philosophies, changed my outlook on life. I was a rather nervous, high-strung person (especially when I was singing), and Dr. Berg’s class enlightened me to alternative ways of being and knowing that helped calm my mind. I began to view life as a series of opportunities, rather than a series of tests and tasks. Whenever I’m feeling the pressure to be perfect, I think back to Honors 189 and challenge myself to view my situation in a different, more constructive way. (Okay, I’m still somewhat high strung, but I’ve improved remarkably!)
I took a colloquium called Eastern European Perspectives in Context with Professor Jeff Frawley, and wow, was it a challenging class! The course was a fascinating blend of literature, history, and cultural studies. We read several books by Eastern European writers that pushed—and eventually sharpened—my literary analysis skills. When I applied for a Fulbright scholarship, I thought a great deal about this enlightening course; it played a key role in my decision to apply for a grant to teach English in Poland.
And last, but not least: for my Honors creative project, I designed an Honors 202 course that integrated opera history into the humanities sequence. While this would have been wonderful in and of itself, I also had the opportunity to teach the course I designed with Dr. Jason Powell. I also worked with Professor Beth Dalton, teaching opera history in her Honors 201, 202, and 203 courses. It was exciting to have the opportunity to teach alongside my mentors and to share my love of opera with Honors students. I am so grateful to Jason and Beth for their generosity, kindness, and pedagogical insights—it was an immersive experience that I’ll never forget!
What was your job right after graduating?
I’m currently a graduate student in the English Department. I’ve taught ENG 103, ENG 114, and a few creative writing classes. I’m also the Assistant to the Director of Creative Writing, as well as the Student Intern at River Teeth and the Managing Editor of Beautiful Things.
How did being in the Honors College impact you personally/professionally after graduation?
My experience in the Honors College fostered my love of continuous learning. When I was part of the Honors community, I was constantly absorbing different ways of thinking, communicating, analyzing, leading, and collaborating. As a graduate student, I continue to seek out new information and skills to challenge or broaden my current beliefs, ideas, and capabilities. I don’t think I’ll ever say, “Well, I think I know all there is to know about x, y, or z,” and I know that this is thanks to my Honors education. Though I haven’t entered the workforce quite yet, I’m looking forward to a life and career filled with unending curiosity and enthusiasm.