Since 2004, Melinda Fields has been an invaluable part of the First-year Writing Program, serving as a liaison between students, teachers, and the Director. One of her many tasks includes helping students register for 100-level courses, a duty that she balances with her work as a Well Bama Ambassador. When I first walk into Fields’ office for this interview, she has heated her lunch, and the aroma of chicken and steamed vegetables fills the room.
“Sorry I have to eat during our interview. I am taking a yoga class at the rec center and won’t have time to eat afterwards,” she tells me. “As an employee, I get to take one class free per semester, and I like to take exercise classes. This semester, it’s yoga.” Fitness has always been important to Fields, who is also a certified personal trainer. She recently became a Well Bama Ambassador and helps organize, and also participates in, the “Crimson Couch to 5K” run each year.
Fields explains that employee fitness has “a lot to do with insurance. If employees are healthier, they will be able to work better. If they are healthy, they will also be happier and insurance costs will decline.” Fields discusses staying fit at a mostly sedentary job: “Much of my job requires me to sit at a desk, so I recently got a FitBit that reminds me when I need to get up and move around,” she smiles.
With the significant expansion of the student body in recent years, Fields has been doing much more work at her desk than usual. “The biggest change I’ve seen in the department over the years is the size,” Fields explains. “Enrollment takes much more time during the summer than it used to, and we now do three orientations per week, during most weeks in the summer, and inevitably have to open more sections of First-year Writing courses.” To meet the needs of the growing student body, the FYWP has increased the number of writing instructors and graduate assistants. Although such expansions require more work, Fields claims that the most rewarding part of her job is problem-solving.
“The Assistant Chair, David Ainsworth does a great job with scheduling classes each semester,” enthuses Fields, “and I enjoy helping students find available sections of composition courses and also figuring out classroom assignments.” After thirteen years in the Department of English, Fields has worked under four different First-year Writing Directors. “Each director took the program in a slightly different direction, and I’ve been fortunate that they’ve all been great,” Fields remembers.
If she had a magic wand, Fields would create more space for teachers and students. Currently, offices and classrooms are scattered across campus. She explains that it “would be great to have a new English building, one where we could all be housed together. That’s probably a long way away, but one can dream!”
In the meantime, Melinda Fields’ hard work and dedication make teaching in the FYWP a dream come true for the English faculty. Batter up!