Corey Zwikstra: Educator and mentor

Corey Zwikstra, assistant professor of English at Washburn, came here because of its reputation as a teaching-focused university.

“A lot of universities will say that, and it may be true to some extent, but it is actually the case here that our primary job as faculty members is to teach and mentor students in different capacities,” Zwikstra said. “I like those relationships. Students can benefit from them. I like being at a place where teaching matters that much, and it’s not just faculty who are here infrequently because they are off doing research every time.”  

He has been teaching at Washburn for eight years, and his objective has always been the same, which is to teach students to think critically for themselves. He stresses the importance of developing the ability to evaluate options and opinions.

“Some things are just better than others,” he said.

He wants the students to be able to produce original thoughts, as original as anything can be, that is.

He tries to instill that value in all of his classes primarily through modeling. In his classes, he plays the devil’s advocate, offering novel or offbeat arguments, and challenging students to criticize them.

“I try to show that it’s okay to have that sort of opinion,” Zwikstra said. “I am interested to listen to what a student has to say.”

Zwikstra sees the value in intellectually stimulating classes and he tries to challenge students to get into a critical mode of thinking.

His expertise is in medieval literature and the linguistic components that come with it. Initially, he wanted to write a dissertation on Leonard Cohen, Canadian poet, singer and novelist, but decided against it as he believed that academically dedicating himself to Cohen would take away the purity of enjoyment he found the artist’s works, so he moved to medieval literature.

Zwikstra said the learning curve was a little steep at first.

“The cumbersome things eventually turned into a kind of gravitas. It was weighty and momentous somehow,” he said. “Old English literature and Old English language, linguistically and substantively, seemed serious. I found that very attractive.”

As a student, he was dutiful and was academically inclined enough to enjoy every class he took. He was a high achiever but a quiet undergraduate.

“I usually kept to myself while I did intellectual work. It’s ironic because now, you can’t get me to stop talking,” he said.

In his years, Zwikstra has really focused on the educator aspect of being a teacher.

Rachel Alexander, senior economics and philosophy major and English minor, is a student of Zwikstra’s.

“Dr. Zwikstra is an amazing professor. His classes are challenging and rewarding, and he does his part to ensure his students can learn and succeed,” Alexander said. “I love talking to him about different issues because of his perspective. His insight nearly always offers me a view I haven’t considered before. He has really helped me grow intellectually.”