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Honors College professor offers students total immersion—in Miami and abroad

Honors College professor offers students total immersion—in Miami and abroad

May 5, 2019 at 8:40am

FIU is home to scores of Worlds Ahead faculty members who utilize their expertise and experiences to mold the lives of future generations. One such faculty member is John Bailly, who has devoted 12 years to the Honors College and has led class after class of students on study abroad excursions throughout Europe. With a unique storytelling approach to his classes, Bailly hopes to pique students’ interests through his immersive style of teaching.

Bailly’s path to FIU has been all but linear. After being afforded the opportunity to attend the Art Institute of Chicago, doubt from his family regarding his dreams of becoming an artist resulted in the cessation of his funds for school. Bailly took to Europe, where he traveled and worked construction until he returned to the United States to care for his sick mother. He eventually enrolled in Miami Dade College and then FIU , where he earned his bachelor’s degree in painting. Furthering his education was always on his mind, he learned that one of the best schools for painting was Yale University and, after applying for the second time, he began a Master’s of Fine Arts in painting and printmaking.

“From minimum wage to Yale,” is how Bailly chooses to refer to that period of time in his life. Yale afforded him the opportunity to grow as an artist as his professors pushed him past just the bare minimum; they practiced a tough love approach to learning, sometimes to the extreme of ripping up paintings and asking students to push themselves. 

After graduating from Yale and not wanting to work in art full-time, he ventured into the construction field once again and entered a different world altogether. He was working as a roofer when a friend suggested that he work for FIU. He began his career at FIU as an adjunct professor. Soon after Bailly started to work at the Honors College. Many of the courses he taught dealt with a lot of history and culture so he decided to take a nontraditional approach to classes. One of the main things Bailly incorporated into his teaching and still does today is venturing outside of the classroom.

“For certain classrooms, you need a lab or classroom but with not with Honors,” he says.

Bailly has utilized the uniqueness of the Honors College to create a unique classroom atmosphere where students can mold their education in a way that goes beyond the four walls of a classroom with an emphasis on study abroad, which offer true immersion. On trips to France, for instance, Bailly’s students have the opportunity to hear a French resistance fighters talk about the torture they experienced in the very room that they experienced it. Another group also gains insight into the Holocaust  when they sit right at the prison where survivors they meet were tortured during WWII.

Despite having traveled to Europe for more than 10 years, there are still so many treasures and experiences that Bailly has yet to take advantage of. A discovery one summer could very well be part of the lesson plan for the next summer. Just as Bailly enjoys making his study abroad courses truly interactive, such is the case for his non-study abroad classes. Hosting excursions into Miami into places such as the Deering Estate or the Vizcaya Museum has allowed students to have a study abroad experience right here in Miami.

It is from this notion that the idea of a class focused on the ins and outs of Miami came from. Bailly himself a Miami native, knows that Miami is a treasure in and of itself and is interested in showing students the gem right before their eyes.

“My goal in honors is to make Miami classes look more like my study abroad classes.” Starting in the fall, Bailly will teach a new course,“Miami in Miami,” where students will find the Miami in Miami and discover the hidden richness in the city. Bailly adds that his classes is focused on seizing the moment.

“We often tell ourselves, ‘I’ll do better next time,’ or “we’ll get it next time,” but opportunities and experiences present themselves on a one-time basis and that’s why we need to seize the moment, seize the day and live life completely. That’s how I live my life, and it is how I teach my classes.”