2013 Faculty Awards: Q&A with John Morillo

April 24, 2013
By Bill Krueger

The Alumni Association is honoring 21 NC State professors with the 2013 Faculty Awards for their outstanding work in the classroom, in the laboratory and in the field. We talked (via email) with some of the recipients about their work and the keys to being a successful professor.

Today we’re visiting with John Morillo, an associate professor of English literature in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Morillo is one of seven professors being recognized as Alumni Association Outstanding Teachers.

johnmorilloWhat prompted you to become a professor? Several things probably combined to guide me toward becoming a professor. First, both of my parents were professors (English and Philosophy), so you could say it was in my blood. Second, while I remember both of them sitting with stacks of bluebooks to grade, I also remember that they rarely complained about their jobs and how well they used the great degree of freedom both had in terms of scheduling their time, especially compared to my uncle who worked for a large corporation and was on always on the clock. I am grateful to them for always using their summers for family travel, a crucial kind of education itself. Third, I had enough outstanding teachers as part of my own student experience, and at every level from high school to graduate school, to cause me to admire their work and want to emulate them (thank you Diego Gonzales, Ed Segel and Michael Murrin). Fourth, when I finally started teaching as a doctoral graduate assistant, I really liked how it was as rewarding as it was difficult. That fourth stage also coincided with my realizing that I was much less of an introvert than I thought I was, that I liked talking with people, and how I liked the performance high of teaching as a kind of live theater.

What are the keys to being a successful teacher/professor? I think some keys to being successful at teaching are knowing how to listen, and knowing how and when to change. I think at the university level it also has a lot to do with what I absorbed from my parents, a lesson in using time: to be willing to spend time first on others, then yourself, and to find reward in that hierarchy of values.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a professor? My greatest satisfaction is in helping my students see that the interdependent skills of thinking, reading and writing well can help them not only to do good work, but also to live good lives.

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