Talk with Rick Dennison

Rick Dennison

Rick Dennison, assistant professor of English, teaches mythology to adult learners during summer session and teaches college writing to on-campus freshmen during the academic year. He is also the director of The Academic Center and The Writing Center, and coordinates the Advanced Placement Summer Institute.

How do you accomplish all that you do?

I'm Type A. I like to be busy.

What do you like about teaching older students?

They're fun and motivated ... they even ask for more work sometimes. Or they'll research a topic on their own and bring it in.

What do you like about teaching freshmen?

I like their enthusiasm. I'm a teaser, and I like bantering back and forth. They're fun to talk to. Students find me open, and they come in and talk to me about roommate problems or what they are going to do with their lives.

What are the differences between adult learners and college freshmen?

The younger students need more specific guidelines, and I'm in more of a counselor/advisor role. I can give the older students more freedom on the assignments ... with broad direction. Also, I hear from the older adult learners that they get so much more out of the readings now. For example, one told me that when they read "Death of a Salesman" in high school, it was just another assigned reading, but that when they read it now for a course, they could really identify with Willy Loman and what he was going through.

You teach mythology. Are there any modern-day myths?

"Star Wars." George Lucas consulted with Joseph Campbell (who wrote The Power of Myth). Darth Vader was the force of evil, Luke was the white knight and so on.

What's your favorite myth and why?

Prometheus, one of the Titans, who stole fire from Olympus and gave it to mankind. I like the selflessness he exhibited that benefited others.

What attracts people to myths?

People like stories, and that's what myths are. They're an attempt to explain what was happening, to seek truth ... without science. There's interpretation involved, not just facts. And people can identify with the characters. For example, people can understand Hera's jealousy (because Zeus fell in love with another woman).

- by Charmaine Daniels