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English instructor discusses how UNF has impacted his life

Dr. David MacKinnon, associate instructor of English and director of the UNF Writing CenterDr. David MacKinnon, associate instructor of English and director of the UNF Writing Center, is an alum who enjoyed both chemistry and English in high school. However, he choose to major in English because chemistry proved to be more of a challenge and he was better at writing chemistry lab reports. Today, as director of UNF's Writing Center, he says much of his work is built around and motivated by his desire to support students.
What led you to enroll at UNF as a student and remain on campus throughout the years?
I was an Army brat who ended up in Jacksonville with family after high school abroad, unsure what to make of Jacksonville. Before that fall, I hadn't lived anywhere longer than four or five years and sort of figured it would be the same in Jacksonville — a story and a feeling I've learned many of my students echo. But, the experiences I had in the UNF English program and making friends in and out of the classroom had a profound effect on me. Before I knew it, I had been in Jacksonville for five years and completed two degrees. And now, much of my work builds around and is motivated by my desire to support our students find a place at UNF.
What are your duties as director of the UNF Writing Center?
It's very much an "other duties as assigned" kind of role, if that makes sense. On paper, directing the UNF Writing Center entails managing a budget and hiring and training student staff to call on their knowledge, talents and personalities to help other writers learn more about their writing processes and the role writing plays in their academic work — and sometimes beyond. But there's no "regular" day for me. In any given week, I'm reaching out to various faculty or departments to ask questions about how writing works in their classes and programs. Also, I'm visiting other student- and faculty-facing offices to learn more about their ongoing projects and collaborate where we can. I'm discussing Writing Program initiatives with the director of the Writing Program, Dr. Linda Howell, and I'm creating reports on student visit data and analyzing student traffic and need for patterns, among others.
Why did you choose to major in English?
I had a lot of fun with both chemistry and English in high school, but when I got to college, I ended up not having a great time with chemistry. However, I found I was pretty good at the labs and writing chemistry lab reports, so I talked with my advisor and worked out the big switch.
What are your current research interests/previously interests?
Writing Center Theory, Administration and Leadership Theory has been my focus the past few years, but I am interested in models of faculty job satisfaction and self-efficacy across the various roles that comprise that position.
What courses do you currently teach/previously taught (if applicable)?
For the past few years, I've been teaching, Professional Communication for Engineers. Before that, I taught a variety of English composition courses.
How do you motivate your students/colleagues in the Writing Center?
I have the good fortune of working with all kinds of Ospreys in the Writing Center: students, student staff, graduate assistants, professional staff and English faculty officed in the Writing Center, among others. In my  role, I do my best to involve everyone to maintain a relaxed, inviting environment where visitors and staff/faculty can be comfortable being their best selves.
What do you enjoy most about working at UNF?
For my first two years at UNF, I only knew where Buildings 2, 8 and 10 were because that's where my classes were. In the time since, I've fallen in love with the campus and try to find new ways to get from meeting to meeting, or just to get lost and see what new things I can find. We have an amazing campus rich in natural splendor and a wealth of art installations that simply wow.
What other profession(s) did you consider before choosing a career in education?
Straight out of high school, I thought I wanted to be a pharmacist. I liked math and chemistry, but that path didn't quite shake out for me.
As a three-time UNF graduate and current faculty member, how has this institution impacted your life?
Immeasurably, indelibly and universally. I've spent just over half my life in Jacksonville now, and as a third culture kid, to find a place where I can feel at home when, there are no words for that feeling. Across my roles at UNF — student, grad student, staff, adjunct, visiting faculty, instructor and now director of the Writing Center, I continue to find new reasons to appreciate UNF.
What book(s) are you currently reading or recently read?
Depending on the day, I'm flipping between Kenji Lopez-Alt's "The Food Lab," Gabriele & Perry's "The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe," and de Lisle's "The White King: Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr."
Who/what inspires you to be your best?
UNF is full of hardworking, talented and compassionate folks, and as many challenges as I encounter in my roles at the University, I see those around me making everything around me possible and feel compelled to contribute and be my best in return.
What do you like to do for fun (hobbies)?
Running has been something I've enjoyed the past 20 or so years, from 5Ks to the marathon, and more recently I've taken up learning more about the ins and outs of cooking. Outside those two hobbies, I'm an avid traveler, appreciating both the magic of the short-course and cross-country road trip as well as international destinations. More recently, my wife and I have taken up the New York Times crossword puzzle, but the majority of my time having fun is spent with my wife and our 4-year-old and 4-month-old, exploring Jacksonville and various parts of Florida.
What is one thing people may not know about you?
I played Johnny Casino in my high school production of Grease, and I can still do the hand-jive.