Cool Course: Odyssey Online with Andrea Tate

If you thought this profile was going to be about ancient Greek epic poetry by a long-dead entity called Homer, you were absolutely incorrect. Or maybe it was just me?

 Instead, we find a fresh slice of contemporary media coming out of Antioch University Santa Barbara, which runs on student interests and passions. Odyssey Online is a digital student journal, which covers a wide range of topics— from literary to local pieces to lifestyle to mainstream current events like the #metoo movement. A recently featured piece was written by the student Editor-in-Chief at the time, Marissa Miller, who volunteered to write about her family’s harrowing experience last December of losing their home in the Thomas Fire.

Affiliate faculty in the BA in Liberal Studies Professional & Creative Writing and MFA in Writing & Contemporary Media programs at AUSB, Andrea Tate teaches the Odyssey Online course for students who are majoring in, well… anything!

You do not need to be inclined toward literary or journalistic pursuits to participate in AUSB’s online journal, but it’s also cool if you are.

Tate received her MFA in Creative Writing degree from Antioch University Los Angeles. Before beginning a job as adjunct faculty at AUSB, she assisted another AULA alum, Meryl Peters (who also teaches at AUSB and is a former faculty advisor for Odyssey), in her composition courses at Santa Barbara City College. Tate’s previous background is in theatre as an actor, acting teacher, and director. A published creative nonfiction writer, Tate said that teaching writing has helped her grow as a writer. “You don’t master something until you’re able to teach it,” she says, paraphrasing the quote by Yogi Bhajan:

“If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.”

The Odyssey Online class is run like a newsroom and the students choose the topics they write about based on their interests. For example, the journal has recently had a high percentage of students concentrating on business and marketing in their studies, and they write about subjects related to their career paths. “Think about what you will specialize in when you graduate,” Tate tells them, “and write pieces you can link to in your C.V.”

It sure doesn’t hurt to be published in one’s chosen field.

Students are also encouraged to build their interviewing skills as a part of their work on the journal. It’s a useful skill for those interested in journalism and freelance writing careers, and it’s also helpful to be on the other side of the interview dynamic— hello, job interviews! Because in the world after graduation, well-honed communication skills and the ability to be incisive and articulate never go amiss, right? “Interviewing sources for articles pushes them,” said Tate, “It encourages them to work outside of their comfort zones, which allows for real growth.”

Andrea Tate, MFA

One of the things that Tate loves most about the class is the combo of collaboration and peer support that is applied to each piece as they go through the journalistic process; from the written pitch to publication. Each pitch is reviewed as a class, and suggestions are made by students about possible changes, resources, and improvements. The editing process is similarly collaborative and supportive. This is where the class perhaps differs from the traditional newsroom, in that it is supportive rather than competitive, and everyone contributes to (and learns from) each piece.

All staff on the journal especially appreciate the opportunities for various forms of engagement outside of the class (through interviews, news coverage, and other outlets) both in the larger community of Santa Barbara and within the community of AUSB. The university faculty and provost receive the Odyssey online in their inbox each week, which Tate says creates a personal connection amongst community members who might not ordinarily cross paths. Some articles are shared on the Antioch Common Thread, which is shared across all of the Antioch campuses. Additionally, Odyssey students often have opportunities to intern with Curious Coast through a partnership with KCRW, Santa Barbara’s NPR station.

Whether students use their time in the class to create an article, a video, or a podcast for the journal,  by the end of the course they have succeeded in recording something of value for their own posterity and that of the university. Odyssey Online may not be 12,110 lines of dactylic hexameter, but I think Homer would have been pretty impressed. Don’t you?

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Malia Gaffney

Malia Gaffney

Malia Gaffney holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. She lives in LA.
Antioch University

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