Q&A With Dr. Mark Looney

CATEGORIES: March 2015

How did you decide to become a University professor?

To be honest, I’m not sure that I ever decided to take this path. In many ways this work is a good fit for me because it allows me to do things that I like and am passionate about. I love reading texts of all kinds, examining them, and discussing them – this is the core of what I do here. I also enjoy working with students because they keep me on my toes both intellectually and practically: it is always a creative challenge to wrangle a diverse group of people into a learning outcome and I like to re-think and re-tool what I do in the classroom to match each semester’s batch of students. My new job this year, which has me working on student recruitment and retention, has me doing much more creative, design-oriented work. With this component, I am wholly engaged when I enter Pearson Hall each morning.

What do you consider to be your most notable professional achievement?

I don’t care much about awards but it was really great to receive the 2014 LAS Award for Outstanding Teaching By a Lecturer. I care very much about my students’ learning because I believe that education is the basis for better individual lives and also a better shared society. So this award makes me think that I am – in some small way – making the world a better place. Some might say that this is idealistic but that’s okay!

What has been your most memorable international experience?

When I was 16 years old, I won a scholarship to study in Germany. Those four months were more transformative than any other time in my life; I truly came back a different and better person. I was more confident in my abilities and more engaged with the world since I had received a first glimpse at how big and exciting it is. I started a study abroad program in Berlin to facilitate a similar experience for ISU students and it is definitely the most rewarding bit of my work here.


With ISU Students in Berlin, 2014


Also, I should probably say that the absolute best non-academic experience was marrying my wife in her hometown of Bologna, Italy in 2013. But that goes without saying, right?

What is the last foreign country you visited? Is there a place in that country that you recommend anyone to visit?

Over the winter break of 2013-2014 I went to Paris, France and then Bologna, Italy. My wife’s family lives in Bologna and I love it there. The Italians are an amazing people with a pace of life that I miss when I return to our busy and hectic country. If you can make it to Bologna, arrive hungry! The food and conversation will make you satisfyingly-full but wanting more.

What has been the most interesting or unusual course you taught at ISU?

I really enjoy my International Studies courses and 350 is the one that most reflects my personal interests. I’m really interested in how the study of culture (literature, film, visual art) helps us better understand and operate in the political realm. In the course we examine how narrative is not only the basis of literary expression but also the creation of cultural/historical norms, which in in turn inform and influence societies’ discourse on issues ranging from terrorism, to gender norms, to the organization of shared urban space.