Jenny Sanborn ’17 admits that when she was in high school, she dreaded going to English class. “I used to hate it,” she said. “I never really liked writing.”
She began to think differently when she saw one of her options for first-year English classes at Randolph: You’re Going to Laugh and Also Die, taught by Gary Dop, a new Randolph English professor.
Using humor and a personable approach, Dop made the mechanics of composition more accessible and interesting to Sanborn and others who may be intimidated by the writing process. His commitment to students extends beyond the classroom, too; he supports his students by attending many of their athletic competitions, music performances, and other extracurricular events. “I definitely think my writing has changed,” Sanborn said. “He’s really good at working with us.”
Whether Dop is teaching a class or writing a poem, connecting with his audience is important. “I want to create something for someone to enjoy,” said Dop. “I always think of the reader, the audience, and the performance of the work.”
Dop wrote and acted while attending North Central University, and he and some theatre classmates were able to take a semester off for a tour, which the university funded as an admissions outreach program.
His conversion to poetry came when he pursued an MFA degree at the University of Nebraska. There he studied poetry under Ted Kooser, a professor who was serving as poet laureate of the United States.
Dop later taught at North Central University for eight years before moving to Lynchburg this past summer with his wife, Liz, and their three daughters.
“In the writing world, it’s the dream gig to have this kind of job,” he added. “I feel incredibly blessed.”
Dop’s time at Randolph started on a good foot: On his first day of teaching, he published three poems in literary magazines. In addition, Red Hen Press will publish his first book of poetry, Father, Child, Water, in 2015. “It’s a wide collection of poetry that deals with everything from my life as a father to some seriocomic poems that are meant to make people laugh and think,” Dop said. “I like to bring in humor and the struggle of life as well.”
Dop really enjoys helping students find their way through the writing process. Small class sizes at Randolph help students spend more time with the craft, he said. “As a result, they end up far more prepared for the next level of the writing life,” he said. “The model here for teaching creative writing is far superior to what they’re going to get in a large university.”