Dr. Simrita Dhir
Adjunct Faculty, General Education
The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University
I feel very fortunate to have a diverse set of students with far-reaching life experiences who enrich discussions with their varied and very well-thought-out responses to the present day goings-on in the world. Dr. Simrita Dhir , Adjunct Faculty, General Education , The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University
Art has always been a part of my life. My mother is a professor of Applied Linguistics and a prolific painter and from the very beginning, she encouraged me to appreciate and make art. My father is a professor of American Literature. He introduced me to the wonderful world of fiction and very early on in childhood, I developed an admiration for the astonishing magnificence of stories and their infinite capacity to remake the world so to say, to fly us to parallel universes. Stories and the characters who inhabit those stories have always been very real to me and I knew early on that I wanted to be a storyteller. To me, storytelling is an invaluable art form, intrinsic to the human experience, changing forever the tellers as well as the listeners. Invariably overlapping with each other, our stories define us. There is a story behind everything from the way the world order sits to how everyday people live their lives and respond to situations. Even the way people choose to dress up is their way of telling their stories. I always have stories to share, in and outside of the classroom and my debut novel which tells a story very close to my heart will soon be published.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?
I make a conscious effort to thread in the current affairs into the curriculum of each class that I teach. We discuss famous and emerging artists - actors, poets, novelists, musicians, singer-songwriters, film-makers, journalists as well as political figures and their contribution to the great human story. We also talk about the role of artists in recording history and how some artists have successfully used their stories to awaken new consciousness about issues pertaining to race, gender, identity and politics. Even though narrative structures may differ, almost always, great stories branch out from being deeply personal to assuming universal significance. I feel very fortunate to have a diverse set of students with far-reaching life experiences who enrich discussions with their varied and very well-thought-out responses to the present day goings-on in the world.
Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?
In my Creative Writing Class, we write personal narratives, short-stories, poetry, plays and blog-posts. While each of these narrative forms has a unique creative pattern, every form empowers students to tell their stories bravely and proudly without inhibition. Besides offering creative channels, all forms enhance individual well-being serving as tools for applied psychology. In fact, psychotherapy upholds narratives to be equally as effective as medicine in treating mental illnesses. Every so often, students will confide that they had never spoken up about certain issues and traumas before sitting down to write about them in the Creative Writing class and that they feel so much better from having done that and were grateful for the outlet. To me, there could be no greater testimony to the power of storytelling and its ability to influence our perception of the world and of ourselves.
In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?
Be kind. It doesn’t take much. Help each other in the classroom, at the work place. The road to creativity is a long and tough one. Artists need to support one another, stand up and clap for each other. There is enough sunshine for everyone and no act of kindness is ever wasted. It has a ripple effect. What you give to the world will eventually come back for you so give your very best.
What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?
Collaboration opens new doors to creativity and I encourage students to work together and offer constructive feedback on each other's work. It is a great way to learn and grow.
Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?
I am excited that my debut novel will be coming out soon. It is my heartfelt tribute to the golden coast of dreams, California, which I am so lucky to call home.