Arthur (BJ) Best, Carroll University faculty

B.J. Best

Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English, Modern Language and Literature 262.951.3071 awbest@carrollu.edu MacAllister Hall 002B

TEACHES IN THE FOLLOWING PROGRAM(S)

English and Writing

Education

  • Washington University, M.F.A.
  • Drake University, B.S.

Areas of Specialization

Poetry, fiction, interactive fiction, composition, videogame theory

Scholarly and Professional Achievements

Poetry Books and Chapbooks

Yes.  Madison: Parallel Press, 2014.
But Our Princess Is in Another Castle. Brookline: Rose Metal Press, 2013.
Drag: Twenty Short Poems about Smoking. Milwaukee: Centennial Press, 2011.
Birds of Wisconsin. Moorhead: New Rivers Press, Fall 2010.
State Sonnets. Buffalo: sunnyoutside, 2009.

Children’s Nonfiction Books

How It Is Made (a six-book series). Cocoa to Chocolate, Fat to Soap, Flour to Pasta, Peanuts to Peanut Butter, Pulp to Paper, and Wax to Candle. New York:  Cavendish Square Publishing, 2017. Grades K-2.

Migrating Animals (a six-book series). Butterflies, Geese, Humpback Whales, Penguins, Salmon, and Sea Turtles. New York: Cavendish Square Publishing, 2017. Grades K-2.

The Economics of Energy: The Pros and Cons of Wind Power. New York: Cavendish Square Publishing, 2016. Grades 6-8.

Primary Sources of the Abolition Movement: Abraham Lincoln, The Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th Amendment. New York: Cavendish Square Publishing, 2015. Grades 6-8.

First Glance Finance: Investing Your Money. New York: Cavendish Square Publishing, 2015. Grades 3-5.

Poems

Recent poems have been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, Ninth Letter, and Pleiades, among many other places.

Flash fiction

Recent stories have been published in The Cossack Review, Moon City Review, and Pleiades, among many other places.

Service to Carroll University and Profession

  • Co-chair, Higher Learning Commission Steering Committee (2015-present)
  • Founder and Faculty Advisor, Portage Magazine (2014-present)
  • Co-chair, Planning and Budget Committee (2014-15)
  • Advisor, Century (student literary magazine) (2011-present)
  • Vice President, Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (2010-2013)

Honors and Awards

  • Benjamin F. Richason Jr. Faculty Award for “excellence in teaching, research, and educational innovation.” Carroll University, 2015
  • Outstanding Achievement in Poetry Award for Yes. Wisconsin Library Assocation, 2015
  • Outstanding Achievement in Poetry Award for But Our Princess Is in Another Castle. Wisconsin Library Association, 2014
  • Outstanding Achievement in Poetry Award for Birds of Wisconsin. Wisconsin Library Association, 2011
  • Winner, Many Voices Project (MVP) competition for Birds of Wisconsin. New Rivers Press, 2009
  • Thrice a finalist to serve as the poet laureate of Wisconsin: 2008, 2012, 2014

What is your teaching style?

Business casual. I believe strongly in wearing solid colors.

Why do you do what you do?

I enjoy helping students think and write deeply about fundamental philosophical questions that are unanswerable in a single sentence, such as this question.

How do you make learning engaging?

By asking that students plan to marry their words to their ideas and beliefs.

What should students know about you?

On my Facebook profile, I list my official position at Carroll as “Associate Professor of Awesomeness.” Admittedly, that’s somewhat geeky, but so is the fact that I think things like sonnets and semicolons are, in fact, awesome. I view it as my job to convince my students they can view the things I teach as awesome, too.
 
My undergraduate degree is in actuarial science, so I’ve crossed a rather wide metaphorical chasm in order to become a teacher and writer. I love working with students from all majors to help them strengthen their writing skills and perhaps find new talents they didn’t know they had. Since my career in actuarial science failed so spectacularly, I am genuinely excited to be teaching, and I try to bring that enthusiasm into the classroom every day.
 
I teach most of my courses in one of the classic “what are you going to do with that when you graduate?” subjects: creative writing. I want to be clear: creative writing will strengthen who you are as a person. When studying creative writing, students learn how to write and speak more eloquently, to distill disparate thought into piercing precision, and to turn the unsayable into the deeply said.
 
These are not skills everyone possesses. Facility with and clarity of thought and language empower students to become leaders in whichever career paths they choose. These skills are crucial not just to students’ successes, but to our culture’s success as well. I agree wholeheartedly with this warning from Dana Gioia in his seminal essay “Can Poetry Matter?”: “A society whose intellectual leaders lose the skill to shape, appreciate, and understand the power of language will become the slaves of those who retain it—be they politicians, preachers, copywriters, or newscasters.”
 
In my classes, we do lots of reading, lots of thinking, lots of writing, and lots of revising. By the end of the semester, I hope all of us—students as well as myself—have become just a little more…well, awesome.

pano of main campus