Loving What You Do

Friday, June 4, 2010

For six years, Dr. Alison Umminger, associate professor of English, has been helping UWG students understand the value of subjects like literature, creative writing and critical theory. A popular educator among students and peers alike, she has made the most of her time here at the university, teaching numerous classes, co-authoring two novels and mentoring future writers with tough but realistic guidance.

Natalie Brooks, a senior from Douglasville, commented on how Umminger has helped her progress as an English major and aspiring writer. “I’ve had her for several classes now and she’s one of the more interestingly quirky and motivating professors I’ve been privileged to experience while attending UWG,” she said. “She not only instructs in the classroom, but is always open and willing to advise her students beyond class hours. Dr. Umminger has truly pushed me to begin to break through as the writer I am under all of my convolution.”

Shelley Decker, a graduate student from Newnan and budget and personnel coordinator in the Department of English, agrees. “I really enjoyed her class on film noir,” she said. “I appreciated how excited she was about the subject. She was always willing to answer questions, brainstorm with you or just chat. She is a great teacher who thinks beyond assignments to how her class can move students toward their long-term goals.”

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in Arlington, Va., Umminger graduated from Harvard University in 1992 and went on to earn postgraduate degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and Indiana University. While at Harvard, she also served as president of the influential Harvard Lampoon, the undergraduate humor publication and social organization founded in 1876.

Notable Lampoon alumni include John Updike, Conan O’Brien, B.J. Novak and numerous writers for television shows like Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, The Office and 30 Rock.

“Being in charge of that organization makes any student I’ve had at West Georgia not a challenge,” she said. “Once you’ve had Seinfeld writers giving you their best when they hate your guts, you can deal with anything students throw at you.”

The opportunity to teach at UWG brought Umminger to the Atlanta area, where the warm atmosphere the institution provided for both students and educators took her by surprise.

“I really like West Georgia and I think the students here are great,” Umminger said. “I’m impressed by the demographic. It’s a diverse school and I like that there are a lot of first-generation students because they’re really interested in learning. You go to some schools and all the students look the same. That’s not the case here.”

She also had extremely positive things about her peers at UWG. “I don’t know exactly what I expected, but I’m constantly surprised by the caliber of my colleagues,” she said. “The other professors here are so good. I appreciate how committed the other people in the English department are.”

While continuing to teach at the university, Umminger also has some projects on the horizon, including two novels that she is working on. “Writers are always writing,” she said. “I’m constantly throwing stuff out there and seeing what sticks.”

And what advice would she give to students or recent graduates who are looking to break into the publishing world? “Do something else!” she said with a laugh. “I’m kidding, but it’s a really tough business right now. You have to love the craft of writing, but you also have to be willing to do something else at the same time. Fortunately, there are a lot of professions where good writing comes in handy.”