Nicholas Monk, Director

smiling man in blue suit
Nick Monk

Brace Hall 305

Nicholas Monk is Director of the Center for Transformative Teaching at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Founded in 2019, the Center for Transformative Teaching is the university's teaching and learning center. I have the great honor and privilege to be the CTT’s inaugural director. I was lucky enough to inherit a talented and hard-working team committed to the ideas that teaching and learning should be inclusive, engaged and engaging, and that the practices that underpin it should be evidence-based.

I believe, too, that higher education must look outside itself in order to better service the needs of the students that we send out into the world. There are never certainties, but many would agree that the world of contradictory information, and large, complex, and urgent problems we face, is unlikely to change any time soon. In the meantime we have a host of resources at our disposal within our institutions to help us tackle these challenges, not least the creativity and commitment of students, faculty and staff.

In my view we should deploy our resources and concentrate our efforts in higher education on transdisciplinary, co-creation with students, and experiential learning. Yes, we must remain committed to helping our students become the doctors, historians, artists, musicians, scientists, engineers, and all the other professionals the world needs, but the ways in which these individuals are educated in their specific pathways must be informed by the need to collaborate widely, to understand and be accustomed to identifying and solving large and multi-faceted problems, and to have had practical experience of learning and applying that learning in environments where the passive reception of knowledge is not a feature.

Professional Areas of Specialty

My academic background is in literary and theater studies, so my interest in and understanding of teaching and learning is rooted in fiction, poetry, and performance. From this flows an interest in and commitment to embodied, active and experiential learning. My first job in higher education, after earning my PhD at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom in 2007, was as a postdoctoral researcher in a joint enterprise between Warwick’s Department of English and the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford. The project, entitled CAPITAL (Creativity and Performance in Teaching and Learning), sought to apply the principles of the theatrical ensemble to the learning space, and to analyze the results.

At the same time, at Warwick, the Reinvention Centre had emerged. Reinvention focused on research-based learning, redesigned the spaces in which students learned, and funded undergraduates to carry out research (£1,000), which it then published in the peer-reviewed journal Reinvention. The two centers – CAPITAL and Reinvention – merged in 2010 to form the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL). The focus at IATL, which I led from 2014 to 2018, was transdisciplinary teaching and learning, student engagement, student research, embodied learning, creative use of teaching and learning spaces, and a challenge to accepted hierarchies of teacher and student. From this partnership emerged the pedagogy of Open-space Learning (OSL).

Others areas in which I have taught and/or published are cultural literacy and communication, identity, laughter, and the use of videoconferencing technology to create a face-to-face experience in distance learning. With colleagues from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia I co-authored a book on identity and how to teach it titled Reconstructing Identity. This relationship with Monash University, and also Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, led to the creation of the International Conference of Undergraduate Research, which I oversaw from its inception in 2013 until I left Warwick University in 2019.

As a literary scholar I focus on the American West, and the Southwestern deserts in particular. The works of Leslie Silko and the novels of Cormac McCarthy have been significant for me in this context. Philosophically and culturally I’m interested in modernity, its representation, and the resistance to it in Silko and McCarthy. In terms of genre I’m captivated by the gothic and its multifarious subsets. I also have a long-standing interest in Willa Cather – indeed she was the principle author in my PhD qualifying exam while I was a graduate student at Rutgers. Another reason I’m excited to be here in Nebraska!

My research and teaching interests intersect in the essay, "Cormac McCarthy Made Me Do It" in which I look at feeling and embodiment in both literary work and teaching and learning. I am an invited peer reviewer for The Cormac McCarthy Journal, Cambridge University Press, Routledge, and Macmillan.

Selected Publications

"Cormac McCarthy and Modernity." Cormac McCarthy in Context. Ed. Steven Frye. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2021.

"Cormac McCarthy Made Me Do It." Approaches to Teaching the Works of Cormac McCarthy (MLA P). Ed. Stacey Peebles & Benjamin West. 2021.

"Desert Gothic: Cormac McCarthy, Paul Bowles, and Don Waters." The Cormac McCarthy Journal. 17.2 (2019): 171-86.

Monk, Nicholas, et al, eds. Identity: A Transdisciplinary Approach. London: Palgrave-MacMillan. 2017. Print.

Monk, Nicholas, Sarah McDonald, and Gabriel Ochoa. "Embedding Cultural Literacy in Higher Education: A New Approach." Intercultural Education. 27.6 (2016): 546-59. Print.

Monk, Nicholas. "Leslie Silko and the Native American Renaissance." The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the American West. Ed. Steven Frye. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2016.

Monk, Nicholas. True and Living Prophet of Destruction: Cormac McCarthy and Modernity. University of New Mexico Press. 2016.

Monk, Nicholas, et al. "Portal Pedagogy: from Interdisciplinarity and Internationalisation to Transdisciplinarity and Transnationalisation." London Review of Education. 13.3 (2015): 62-77. Print.

Monk, Nicholas et al. Open-space Learning: a Study in Interdisciplinary Pedagogy. London: Bloomsbury, 2011. Bloomsbury Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities.

Selected Presentations/Workshops

June 2019: "Desert Sublime: Leslie Silko and Cormac McCarthy." Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. UC Davis.

June 2016: "Desert Gothic: Cormac McCarthy, Paul Bowles, Don Waters." ‘Transgressions: Cormac McCarthy Between Worlds,’ Conference. Free University of Berlin.

May 2016: ‘“A Devil’s Batter by the Stink of it”: what’s Funny about Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.” International Society for Humor Studies Conference. Trinity College Dublin.

May 2016: Keynote. University of Derby Teaching and Learning Conference. "What's the Narrative, Minister? Learning, Teaching, the TEF, and the White Paper."

March 2016. "The Realities of the International Classroom: Culture, Technology, Space, and Pedagogy." "Next Generation Learning Spaces Conference." London.

June 2015: Keynote at the Norwegian Forum for English for Academic Purposes 2015 on "The International Classroom." Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences.

April 2015: Workshop on Intercultural Communication. "Cultural Literacy in Europe Conference," Birkbeck, London.

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