August 26, 2019
Erica received her undergraduate degree in History of Art & Architecture from Harvard University and MA in Buddhist Art History & Conservation from The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She told us a little about herself and her experience in writing and teaching.
- Can you tell us a little about your background?
I mostly grew up in San Diego, California. I started studying Japanese when I was a high schooler, and I eventually went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in History of Art & Architecture from Harvard, where I focused on the relationship between art and imperialism in Japan. After that, I did my MA in Buddhist Art History & Conservation at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Part of what got me interested in Central Asia was the cultural history of the region I encountered in my art history classes in college and graduate school.
- Why were you interested in coming to AUCA?
First of all, I had heard many positive things from several friends who had worked or done research here. After I saw the job position advertised, I read more about the missions of the WARC and AUCA, and the idea of working at an institution that actively sought to impart values like critical inquiry and rigor of thought appealed to me. In April, I also had the opportunity to visit the campus because Dr. Shamshiev extended an invitation to me to give a lecture about the Buddhist art of Central Asia. Everyone I encountered was thoughtful, generous, and helpful––I thought it would be a wonderful place to work.
- What is your background in writing?
When I was an undergraduate at Harvard, I was a writer for the arts section of the campus newspaper and eventually became the section’s chair. I also took several creative writing classes; one of the things that interested me about those workshops was that they were so student-driven and taught you not only to write but also to analyze and give constructive feedback on others’ work in a structured way. I began to submit my writing for publication when I was still a student. This is something I’ve done more seriously since graduating, when I became more serious about writing professionally. Right now, I juggle fiction, creative nonfiction, and more journalistic writing. One of the things I love about writing is that it gives me a way to dive into many very different fields of interest, from Japanese cinema to Hindu architecture to the politics of nature conservation. I hope that in my role at the WARC I can be of assistance to students as they find their own voice in writing and develop their ability to express themselves.
- What is your previous experience with teaching?
I’ve worked as a tutor for post-Soviet high school students, mostly focusing on English grammar and essay writing. I also spent two years working at an education start-up called Gakko, where I helped run project-based learning summer camps for students from around the world. Classes I taught there ranged from American Sign Language to photojournalism to surrealist art. One of the things I took away from my experience there was that no matter what concerns we had going in––would the students understand? Would they be bored? Would they be too shy to engage fully with the task at hand?––our campers always not only met our expectations but far outpaced them. Seeing this was always my greatest joy as a teacher. At AUCA, I’m looking forward to watching our students and tutors rise to the challenges they face as the semester goes on.
- How has the year started?
Mariya and I have hit the ground running in terms of new tutor recruitment and preparing for the WARC to open this year. I’m very excited to get to know both the experienced tutors and the new candidates, and based upon what I can glean so far, we will have a stellar team.
- What has been your favorite part about Kyrgyzstan so far?
It’s difficult to pick one moment, but I’ll give some highlights: the view of the beautiful mountains! Spending my birthday learning about Kyrgyz art history at the Gapar Aitiev Museum of Fine Arts. Taming a Soviet-era oven. Learning about the history and culture of Bishkek as I walk through it, thanks to Mariya. I am sure there will be many more learning experiences to come.