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Interview with Yvonne Becker

Interview with Yvonne Becker

Becker reflects on her time at Augustana before her retirement at the end of this academic year

What inspired you to choose teaching as a profession?

I can almost remember the exact time when I thought I wanted to be a teacher, it was in my first year as a student here. I was in a basketball class in the gym with the person that was teaching the class. I just thought that she was doing the exact thing I would love to do. She was doing it so well, very positive and careful with the students and the things she said to us. From that point on everything I was doing was working towards that possibility.

What do you like most about being a professor?

The best part is the relationship with the students, and trying to create those meaningful experiences for students. Trying to create experiences that are not just about learning definitions or concepts but to have those things be meaningful, such as how to be engaged and helpful citizens in the world.

What don’t you like about being a professor?

I think it would be all of the evaluations and record-keeping, the steps that we have created in administering academic programs.

What are some accomplishments you have had as a professor that you are proud of?

It’s interesting because there are all kinds of ways that you can mark accomplishments. This was a really special week for me because I was able to give the last lecture this year. What’s special about that is that students decided on that. Since it was on the website I have had lots of students send me emails and responses saying they wished they could have been there. Having a sense of having created some sort of difference in students’ lives and being able to know that is rewarding.

What do you aspire to do after retiring?

I think I really want to write, take the time to be thoughtful and reflective, whether that be writing articles of public interest, or writing short stories. Writing has always been a challenge so I want to sort of meet that challenge in a different environment when I have more time and space to do that. Another thing I really want to do is work on fitness and wellness; do some cycling, do some hiking, and play some golf and tennis, things which are good both mentally and physically.

Are there any political or social issues you feel strongly about?

I am really interested in where we are in the world, particularly in North America, with respect to issues of equity and diversity and that sort of intersectional aspect of our social environment. There is a lot of inequity both in gender, race and class. We have increasing small groups of people who have most of the money in the world which is distancing itself from lots of people who don’t have resources. And I think that’s a big problem. We continue to have issues of gender and sexuality. Equality makes a big difference.

What’s your most memorable experience at Augustana?

There have been lots of memorable experiences. In the late 90’s we were successful in getting the 4-year Physical Education degree. So, when I look at that time to now here we have somewhere between 180-200 majors in physical education, that’s memorable, it’s a significant achievement. The work and effort of not just me, but the other people who taught in the area of physical education who worked hard, got involved, and created that degree program. It was the finger crossed time to see whether people recognized its value. Some of the kinds of things that started to change around us in terms of the healthcare environment, and the issues of occupational therapy, and physiotherapy were where our degree could fit in. We had tremendous groups of students over the last number of years that have undertaken our degree program and went on to successful endeavors.

How were you as a university student?

I think because I knew pretty early what I wanted to do I was pretty focused as a student. I don’t think I understood how hard I had to work until the end of my second year. In my third and fourth year I was a good student. I knew what I had to do in order to become a really good teacher. I was also a student athlete, I played on the university basketball team. I always had to be aware of time management and how to make sure that both my academic and athletic things worked out well.

How do you define a good student?

It’s about being engaged. Good students don’t just sit in class and expect that the material and kinds of things that happen are just somehow going to soak in. They don’t just write a test about it and then it’s done. Why do I go to the particular presentation or the speaker? Because it has something to do with what I am doing in class. It’s not a victory to just be in the class. To me a really good student is a student who wants to be an engaged student of not only this campus but eventually of this world.

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were my age?

I was pursuing my degree, playing on teams and so I was trying to manage that time and do well in all of that. It was to the exclusion of a lot of other kinds of opportunities like getting engaged and asking questions. When I was playing university basketball our women’s team had to practice in this little gym that was not the main gym of the university. We didn’t say anything about it, we just did it because we were told to do so. When I think about that now, I might have been a person who advocated for equity in those regards. To ask, “why do men’s team gets better facilities and better practice times than we do?” So it was just sort of allowing the traditions and power organization that happen in social life particularly. This is just how it is. It is the way it is unless we want to do something different about it.

Is there anything we have not talked about that you would like to share?

I have been very fortunate to have been in this place with the kind of colleagues that I have had the opportunity to travel on this journey with, to have the kind of support that I have had as a person working in this place. I have just been enriched by this experience of travelling from the early days of this campus to what it has become now and I will be forever grateful for this.

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