Get to Know Your Professor: Student Teacher, EJ Merenstein


Simone Spilka
Public Relations Manager

What class do you teach? My class is all about the author David Foster Wallace; we’re reading a good portion of his books – 2 non-fiction and 3 fiction.

How did you choose author David Foster Wallace? Because I really enjoy his material and I realized at the end of last quarter I had read every book he has written. It was the perfect time to teach the class. My favorite book right now, by him and in general, is Infinite Jest.

How many students are enrolled? 15.

And how many of those 15 are your friends? Well…I’d like to think all of them.

What are the class requirements? The only thing that I require is that students give a 5-10 minute presentation having to do with the readings we cover. One student wrote an essay in which he compared what was going on in mainstream media, in particular how we view celebrities, and he’ll present what he found from writing the essay and hopefully stimulate class discussion.

How do you generate class discussion? Oh, any number of ways. I thought I got a good class discussion going after watching a David Letterman interview, we’ve also opened class by talking about a science paper about depression. I often simply ask them what they’ve enjoyed about the book and go from there.

Are students responding to the class as you expected? Yes, I was expecting some kids that were familiar with David Foster Wallace to a certain capacity – either reading about him, or having heard enough that they were eager to learn. From there, I expected them to keep up with the readings and stay engaged in the material and for the most part they have been.

Do you feel you have a general mutual respect with your students? Yeah, I definitely see a different dynamic when it’s me teaching them from an older professor. In comparison to regular classes it’s a little more relaxed and informal; we kid around, they’ll talk over me and I allow it. They’re not expecting to be getting such important knowledge from me so they give off a different feeling.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? I like to be able to give them some of the knowledge that I’ve found…plus I’m only 22 and haven’t read everything so it’s dope when kids surprise me with a reading I hadn’t thought of.

What made you decide to apply for a student professor position? I woke up and realized I really wanted to talk to people about his material and the opportunity was available through the CCS program.


Do you hope to be a professor in the future? Yeah, I would like to teach again – and probably another literature course. I intend on continuing to write and read fiction as I’m pursing doctoral studies. I don’t know if I could ever do both types of work simultaneously, but I would love to come back to CCS as a visiting professor.

What do you hope your students will take away from the course? I hope that students develop an appreciation for the depth and importance of reading.

What advice would you give other students who want to teach at UCSB? Make sure that you really like the material because you’re going to be talking about it for the next 10 weeks…and hopefully you have some idea of what you want to discuss because even if you do, you’ll get a hole bunch of blank faces.

What motives you as a teacher? Hopefully not seeing blank faces.

Do you feel that this experience has been rewarding for you? Yes, because it’s given me the opportunity to teach and see what it’s like, how difficult it is. It’s also been an opportunity to talk about an author who I really enjoy reading.

One word to describe how you feel when you’re teaching? Excited

What’s your favorite college experience? Going to Paris to study abroad. Cheese and wine and Cuban cigars -that’s what I literally brought back, but it made me realize that I want to move to Europe at some point in the future.

What are you going to do when you graduate? Let’s go party – let’s go to Brazil.

Concluding thoughts? I’m about 6 feet tall, blue eyes, I like long walks on the beach, and sunsets. Oh, and she has to be able to cook well – very well – and has to like dogs.

EJ Merelstein is a CCS-David Foster Wallace professor who perspires to be a future doctor. He isn’t off limits and is looking for a dog loving woman.