Faculty Spotlight: Randy Bates


Photo courtesy of Randy Bates

Jack Waguespack, News Editor

Randy Bates is a professor at UNO who has devoted 20 years to his students here. Bates bounced back and forth between institutions in his teaching career until he started working at UNO in 1999 and fell in love with the nonfiction Creative Writing Workshop. When Bates is not teaching, he’s spending time with his family, working out in the park, or catching up on one of the many books stashed in his office. He sat down with us and walked us through his journey in teaching and shared some of his favorite stories from when he was a student himself.


R: Randy Bates / J: Jack Waguespack


J: How did you end up choosing to teach at UNO?

R: “Immediately before here I taught at Xavier for five years. The reason I came here was because I was invited to be a part of the Creative Writing Workshop for the graduate program. But before Xavier, I had an opportunity to teach at Harvard, and it’s funny because I believe Harvard employs a lot of people who they would not have admitted as students. I was teaching freshman writing, which I loved, but I found out I was more connected to New Orleans than I realized, so I came back after two years and got the job at Xavier. Before that, I taught at Tulane, Loyola, and Dominican college when it was still here. But some of the best teaching I’ve ever done was at NOCCA, which is the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.


J: What is your favorite piece of literature to teach?

R: “I actually brought it up in class today. “To Autumn” by John Keats. “The Canterbury Tales” and “King Lear” are some other pieces that the class seems to really enjoy, and so do I.


J: You write a quote on the board in the beginning of each class. How do you pick which one you’ll use that day?

R: “I have a box full of quotes that are sayings that just stick out to me. Once a graduate student tried to catalog it all for me, and she did, but I kept adding to it. My freshman English teacher, James Woodfin, came in every day and wrote a quote on the board and usually never explained them. He helped me a lot; he kind of inspired me to want to write and teach. I’m really grateful for that, so partly it’s a tribute to him. In those days, teachers could smoke in class, and he would come into class with a pipe in his mouth and smoke all over.”


J: What is your favorite part about teaching?

R: “Students. When they get inspired by what’s maybe inspiring me and what inspired the writers we are learning, that’s my favorite part. Also, the opportunity to keep reading things. I’m teaching freshman English this year, and it’s very challenging but also great to see when they start to catch on [to] some things. Seeing them grow into graduate students we have some this year who write better than I do, and really it’s an amazing thing.”