ITA 2017 Course Design Winner: Baker Lawley Posted on May 14th, 2018 by

This is one of a few interviews conducted by Ellyn Adelmann ‘18 with winners and previous nominees for the Gustavus Innovative Teaching Award during the 2017-2018 academic year.

Baker Lawley, Department of English, began developing what turned into his ENG-350: Editing and Publishing course 3 years ago. He started by collaborating with a student and in 2015, they founded a new nationwide online journal, Razor Literary Magazine. The creation of this publication transformed into a January term course, and is now a semester long English course where students edit and publish Razor and Firethorne, the campus literary magazine. With technology advancing so much, this course enabled students to get a taste of what publishing is like in the real world. Lawley described the course as an internship hybrid, “the students take on the role of editors for what is like a small business, taking soft skills and transforming them into a final product.”

He encourages colleagues to be cognizant of change around them; the way students are growing and the way the world is transforming. In Lawley’s case, advancement in technology called for a change in the way editing and publishing was taught at Gustavus. Although altering a course curriculum is a daunting task, he says to go for it. “It is a lot of work upfront, but when a course is innovative, students’ responses are much more enthusiastic, and we as professors feed off of that eagerness.” Lawley knows that even at the moment when he is not sure what future changes will be made to the course, he knows there will be plenty. He mainly finds inspiration for these alterations through working together with students. For example, some students suggested changing the dimensions of Firethorne magazine to show more art on each page. Lawley pushes his students to take what their predecessors created but make it newer and fresher so the theme is different every time. When it comes to improving previous courses, he says, “if you innovate with the students, there is always something new.”


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