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Faculty & Staff Corner

Faculty & Staff Corner: April Oettinger

April Oettinger

Faculty & Staff Corner: Meet April Oettinger, Visual Arts and Materials Professor

Keep up with your favorite Goucher professors! The engagement of alumnae/i like you helps professors explore educational paths with new students year after year, as well as further innovative research in their fields.

For this faculty highlight, we connected with Visual Arts and Materials Professor April Oettinger.

What initially drew you to teach at Goucher College?

The students, all the way, and I mean that! I came from a large university, and before that, an ever larger one; I didn’t even know my students. I was drawn to the small, intimate learning communities. The students’ curiosity is so impressive here that they are willing to risk their grades and are more interested in the process of exploring, which leads to such an amazing classroom environment. Geographically, we are located in a wonderful part of the country to study visual and material cultures.

How do you try to embody Goucher’s values of critical thinking and a multidisciplinary liberal arts perspective in your teaching?

My teaching engages objects and images; my goal is not to give all the answers but to have the students return with more questions. I love helping students find connections in my classes and in their own lived experiences. I aim to help them hone their critical eye for images, objects, and media during and after college.

How do you aim to build strong mentoring relationships and support students during their time at Goucher? 

My door is always open, and I love to have conversations with my students walking to and from class, making them feel comfortable and welcome. I love connecting my students to life outside the Goucher bubble and bringing them off campus. My college mentor has remained a lifelong mentor, and I want to do the same for my students.

How do you see today’s Goucher students carrying the spirit and skills of their education forward into their future careers and communities?

Goucher students today are experiencing collaborative projects more than ever. On the faculty side, we have promoted project-based learning and pushed students to challenge themselves with hands-on, in-person, collaborative projects.

What has changed at Goucher in recent times within your department?

My favorite change has been the rediscovery of the Art and Artifacts and Natural History collections that date back to the time and travels of Dr. Goucher. Does anyone remember the horse skeleton? (Yes, it’s still there.) These pieces were a part of the nationally known museum at the Women’s College of Baltimore, which, of course, became Goucher College. When Goucher moved here, the museum was packed up but never displayed as a collection. The natural history collection is still in the basement of Hoffberger. In 2018, we decided to start a new academic program called the Visual and Material Culture Program, with the idea that Goucher students are the acting curators of the rediscovered collections. Visual and material classes, along with classes in other departments, could integrate these pieces to create exhibitions. This idea is one that I’m trying to promote in my program, and I hope it catches on with other colleagues. To support this vision, Goucher was awarded its first grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in over 20 years, which went toward a new exhibition space for these student-curated exhibitions that are developed in a classroom setting, called the Collaborative Humanities Lab. We were one of only six institutions to receive this grant.

How can alumnae/i give back and stay engaged with Goucher’s academic community after graduation?

I love every opportunity to bring alums back to my classes—alums with any interest in museums, cultural organizations, the visual arts, historical societies, or nonprofits—to share their experiences with my students. If you want to learn more about our new program or want to tour our collections, please reach out, and I can have our exceptional current students show you around!

Fostering strong mentorship and enhancing career support is essential to our current students and young alumnae/i; how do you recommend building these areas of support and connections? 

I want to see more alums sign up for micro-internships or allow students to shadow alums at work. Anything as small as having lunch with students, or attending one of the end-of-semester exhibition openings in the Collaborative Humanities Lab, has such a significant impact on our students.