Jack of all trades

PROFile: Shawn Moi, Instructor, Department of Rhetoric, Writing and Communications, U of W

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For Shawn Moi, becoming an instructor for the University of Winnipeg’s (U of W) Rhetoric, Writing and Communications department was not something he planned from the start. 

“My first degree was in English,” he says. “I have five in total. I went to university for a long time.”

In fact, Moi was a student for 16 years. In addition to his English degree, he earned his doctorate in philosophy, as well as an education degree at the U of W. As a result, Moi is an incredibly versatile educator. 

“I’m a public school teacher as well,” Moi says. “I’ve taught in a number of schools in town here. Last job I had was at Sisler High School teaching English literature, so Shakespeare, poetry and novels.”

With expertise in multiple fields, Moi enjoys exploring the overlap between two (if not more) areas of study.

“In a broad stroke, I love the intersection of literature and ideas,” Moi says. “Well, mostly philosophy and literature.” 

Specifically, Moi appreciates the freedom that comes with interpreting a poem and philosophical thinking. 

“No idea is too absurd, or often what people call, ‘deep,’” he says. “I don’t really like that word very much.” 

Despite the distaste for the word (or the stigma attached to it), Moi likes deep ideas, especially if they’re outrageous or weird. 

Funnily, Moi will deliberately ask his students questions to really make them think. Questions like: “what is a thing?” that he asked his students just this year. 

“I guess I like getting carried away in class,” he says. “I like to bring that about in an audience of people, and that’s when I feel really successful and good about what I’m doing. People start wondering about questions that have not occurred to them or reconsidering concepts that seem simple at first, (but) turn out to be nebulous – mysterious, really.” 

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

“People come from all different places in the world, and they have different needs that they might not articulate on their own right away, and you can’t expect them to, and you’ve gotta be very empathetic.”

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? 

“Time travel.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“I bought an electric surfboard this summer, and I’m out on that for hours every day now.”

What was one of the best answers a student gave you when answering a philosophical question? 

“When I ask them what a world is, sometimes they’ll tell me it’s the earth plus the human spirit. I thought that was a pretty clever answer.” 

Published in Volume 75, Number 05 of The Uniter (October 8, 2020)

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