Before Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin “caught the teaching bug,” she was a career journalist: editor of Chicago Parent magazine, senior editor of Vegetarian Times, a radio producer for WGN, and a freelance writer for a variety of publications. In 2000, she began teaching a magazine editing class at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and a new phase of her career was launched.
While teaching at Medill, she became familiar with another Chicago journalism school. “I was invited to guest lecture at Columbia College, and I found the students inquisitive and eager to learn,” she says. When she learned the Journalism department was searching for a full-time faculty member to, among other things, teach the College Magazine Workshop that produces Echo, Columbia’s student magazine, she applied. “Long story short,” she continues, “I’ve been here for seven years.”
Bloyd-Peshkin’s work with the magazine workshop allowed her to mentor seniors with a passion for magazine writing and editing. She also teaches various other magazine writing and editing classes, Grammar for Journalists (which appeals to her “inner geek”), and two new courses: Travel Writing, a course she created that has taken her and her students to Honduras; and Advanced Interviewing, which she co-created and co-taught with her colleague Suzanne McBride.
Her dedication to the dual disciplines of journalism and teaching gained her a new honor recently: Bloyd-Peshkin was appointed 2010-11 Critical Encounters Fellow. Critical Encounters is a campus-wide program that integrates programming and curriculum across disciplines under a broad theme each year. As overseer of the program, Bloyd-Peshkin will focus on the theme of Image & Implication, examining how images—visual, verbal, and virtual—shape public perception and influence events and policy.
The inquisitiveness and integration inherent in the structure of Critical Encounters fit well with Bloyd-Peshkin’s approach in the classroom. “The need to explain what you do and why you do it can cause you to question and revise your approach to your work,” she says. “It’s been wonderful to share what I know with students, but I’ve learned from them, too. That’s one of the wonderful aspects of teaching; often, we instructors are learning, too.”