Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

Prof. Kieran (AMS): Challenge Yourself

by Amanda Loh '13

One professor can truly make all the difference in a student’s educational experience. For Professor David Kieran of the American Studies Department, Professor Evans from Connecticut College is that mentor.

As a model student, Professor Kieran was used to cranking out papers and succeeding with ease. But Professor Evans wasn’t going to let him off so easy. After his first two papers came back with the same unsatisfactory grade, Professor Kieran had to learn that the only way to truly succeed academically was to break all his bad writing habits and slog through an essay instead of churning it out on autopilot. His next piece, about Robert Browning’s “The Bishop Orders his Tomb,” earned him the elusive A, and from then on, Professor Kieran knew writing was an all-consuming process rather than a perfunctory procedure.

And he keeps up the hard work. Starting early to leave lots of time for the work to simmer, Professor Kieran is a huge proponent of multiple drafts. (He actually handwrote his latest book on a yellow legal pad in order to really immerse himself in the material.) After handwriting the first draft, Professor Kieran uses a tip from the Chronicle of Higher Education and types his draft up and prints it in size 16 Comic Sans so the words appear fresh on the page. Finally, after more individual revising, Professor Kieran asks a colleague for a new set of eyes to ensure his points are properly conveyed.

With such an intense and intentional writing process, Professor Kieran holds his students to similar standards: “One of my pet peeves is when students fail to see writing as an opportunity to challenge themselves." With this pet peeve in mind, Professor Kieran reminds students to embrace a positive, hardworking attitude in order to succeed. He knows from his own experiences that breaking bad habits can be tough, but if you take advantage of the opportunity to improve, you can grow as a writer and student. 

  • Amanda Loh