As I step into John Wingard’s office, he immediately starts to interview me about my life after every question I ask. With his outgoing personality, it’s easy for anyone to see how he became Assistant Director of Student Services. Wingard started teaching in the Department of English and then advising English majors, which gave him experience working with students outside the classroom. Now that he works for Student Services, his primary focus is recruiting incoming students. However, he also works with student staff, sits on scholarship committees, and advises students when necessary.
When I ask Wingard what his dream job was when beginning college, he laughs and says, “I wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a firefighter, because that’s what I thought you did.” After figuring out that he loved English, he realized that he wanted to study it abroad. Wingard found the opportunity to teach English in Korea for a year. He then moved to Brooklyn to work as a tech consultant for two years, and later became a librarian here at UA, before being accepted into the MFA program. “I never really had a dream job,” Wingard explains. “I just kind of sniffed around and saw what my opportunities were and how I could grow.” He, his wife, Molly, and their three children are happily established in Tuscaloosa. Wingard is still growing in his position, having been Assistant Director for two years now. Eventually, he foresees new opportunities and is also mulling the question of returning to school for his Ph.D.
Reflecting on his extensive time at UA, Wingard remembers having only one out of state student when he began teaching in the Department of English. He recalls his astonishment and remembers asking the student, “How did you get here?” By contrast, the University now has more out of state students than in state. Wingard notes that the University now serves a larger and more diverse student population, and as a result, the campus has expanded to meet students’ needs.
Despite his busy schedule at UA, Wingard still maintains his writing and has worked with forms ranging from the novella to children’s picture books and enjoys living in the breadth of these worlds. Although Wingard feels the tug of writing, he sometimes also experiences the guilt of not following up. However, with all the hats he wears, there’s no telling what Wingard will accomplish next.