Describe yourself without using any form of the words “to be,” “to have,” “to look” or “to seem.” Describe a body of water without using the letter E.
English Professor Julie Schumacher is a recipient of the Horace T. Morse - University of Minnesota Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education.
These aren’t ordinary brain teasers; they are eclectic writing exercises English professor and Morse award-winner Julie Schumacher uses in her creative writing courses designed to encourage imaginative, rigorous, independent thinking.
But Schumacher’s inventive teaching tools don’t end with brain teasers.
She introduces her students to guest speakers who are the essence of imaginative thinkers. Students find themselves in classes with Garrison Keillor one day, Newbury Award winning author of young adult fiction Kate DiCamillo the next week, then Walter Mondale…
Schumacher also developed the hugely popular “ArtWords” contest, for which students write poems, stories, or essays in response to works in the Weisman Art Museum’s permanent collection. The student writing is judged by a panel. The winning writers are honored at a ceremony, and their works are displayed next to the art that inspired them.
“Professor Schumacher’s work surely ranks as among the finest, most dazzling, most intellectually and artistically rich currently being done in undergraduate education,” says Geoffry Sirc, professor and chair of the department of English.
One of Professor Schumacher’s most outstanding contributions to undergraduate education lies in the way she redesigned the Introduction to Creative Writing course. Now more popular than ever, the course draws over 500 undergraduates a year from all corners of campus.
“This course deserves an award of its own,” says colleague and award-winning author Patricia Hampl. “I have visited the Introduction to Creative Writing course several times when Julie has been in charge, and each time I’m amazed—and grateful—to see the beautiful work she does and that she elicits from others.”
Schumacher served as director of the Creative Writing Program most recently from 2006 to 2009. Under her stewardship, the program catapulted in the rankings to become one of the top 10 creative writing programs in the country.
“Julie is uniquely attuned to the needs of undergraduates,” says creative writing coordinator Kathleen Glasgow. “She knows what makes them tick, what makes them happy, what they need that they can’t yet articulate. She’s invested not only in their undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota, but in their real world education: what they study now, and how they study it, will impact everything they do once they leave our leafy, green campus.”
Her students often testify that Schumacher’s advising doesn’t stop at graduation. She helps them apply for Fulbrights, draft book proposals, write letters to literary agents, apply to graduate school, and even craft book jacket blurbs.
Says one of her students, “Julie not only showed me how to improve my stories—she taught me how to read like a writer, which is ever more important. This gift is inexhaustible.”
The Horace T. Morse Alumni Award honors faculty who reflect the University's emphasis on the importance of high quality undergraduate education.