Q&A with UM Creative Writing Professor Michael Rands

Q&A with UM Creative Writing Professor Michael Rands

Emily DealFaculty Q&A, News

In the future, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take over most jobs, predicts Michael Rands, professor of creative writing at the University of Mobile.

“But who wants to read a novel written by a robot? No one, that’s who,” says Rands.

“Well, maybe you might read one just to see what it’s like,” he adds.

Artists and writers have a vital place in society, he says. Creativity is a uniquely human faculty, and we should develop and treasure that creativity. 

We asked Rands for an inside look at the College of Arts & Sciences and what it’s like to teach and learn in this Christ-centered academic community.

Q. Why did you choose to study and teach Creative Writing?

A. Starting in school I was obsessed with writing. I knew I wanted to pursue this passion of mine, however, like many, I was distracted by questions like, “But what are you going to do with it?” when I told hardened realists with jaded looks in their eyes that I wanted to study English and Creative Writing. 

So I studied law for a while…

However, I spent all my time in the computer lab writing stories. Eventually, I came to my senses and switched majors. I had an amazing writing mentor at university who was an established novelist and a professor. I dreamed that I could one day do the same thing — create my own work, and teach and inspire younger writers. 

Q. Tell us about your background and how you came to UM?

A.  I was born and raised in South Africa. I completed undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Cape Town.

Aside from writing and publishing fiction, I have written features for various publications and worked for several years in television. I’ve taught English as a foreign language in Japan. I first came to the United States in 2012 to participate in writing residencies in various parts of the country.

In 2015 I was accepted to Louisiana State University and graduated from there with an MFA in 2017. I was enormously lucky and blessed to start working at the University of Mobile later that same year. 

Q. Why should someone choose to study Creative Writing at UM?

A. Some people feel a powerful pull toward creative writing, and nothing can deter them from pursuing this calling. If you feel such a calling, this is the place for you.

The University of Mobile’s Creative Writing program is small enough that everyone gets individual attention, and we have a strong community.

Majors and minors will have the opportunity to try their hand at various genres. Students will complete a major creative project ready for submission to competitions, graduate schools or literary publications. 

Students complete internships with desirable employers who are looking for graduates like ours. There are many opportunities for talented creative writers and powerful communicators.  

Q. What courses do you typically teach? 

A. I teach a wide range of English and Creative Writing courses. I equally love all the Creative Writing courses that I get to teach — short stories, novel writing, creative non-fiction, writing for screen and television. Every semester I am genuinely amazed at the quality of work that students submit. 

Q. We say UM is a place where students can “Know and Be Known.” What does that mean to you?

A. UM is a small university, with small classes. We get to know students as individuals and see them as full people with lives that go beyond the classroom. As professors, we get to work with students on a one-to-one basis. We help them master skills and plot paths beyond graduation. 

At the University of Mobile, I am privileged to work with many talented young writers. I do my best to inspire them, and I know that they do motivate and inspire me.