by Destinee Martin

English Professor Brendan Todt’s academic journey began at the Illinois Math and Science Academy with aspirations of becoming an astrophysicist. However, it was an influential English teacher who rerouted his path towards the humanities. Todt pursued English education at Knox College, hoping to shape young minds as a secondary school teacher until a semester of teaching middle schoolers prompted a pivot to creative writing, complemented by a minor in English Literature. A few years later, he furthered his studies with a low residency MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

While working as a stay-at-home dad, Todt’s professional path took a new turn when he began taking his children to lunch-and-learn events hosted by the Sioux City Symphony. His interest and the subsequent connections  eventually led to a short stint writing copy for the Sioux City Symphony program. His writing and Siouxland art blog caught the attention of Dr. Leslie Werden, head of the humanities department at Morningside, leading to Todt’s original role at the university: as an adjunct creative writing teacher.

While Todt’s initial love was for writing, his experiences with the Symphony and visual art —-  notably an encounter with Jackson Pollock’s mural — broadened his appreciation for the arts. His teaching philosophy emphasizes the value of workshops as safe spaces for candid feedback, distinguishing between a critique of the work and a critique of the writer. Inspiration in his writing and teaching career is driven by curiosity—the pursuit of the unknown rather than the familiar.

Todt’s teaching and writing philosophies echo a compelling perspective on the art of writing. To explain, he quotes the visual artist Franz Kline: “if I paint what ‘you’ know, then that will simply bore you. If I paint what ‘I’ know, it will be boring to myself. Therefore I paint what I don’t know.” Therefore, he encourages his students to explore territories unknown to both of them. This approach underlines the dynamic process of writing and learning. Todt notes that as students begin with a clear intent for their compositions, the act of revising and deeply analyzing their work often leads to unexpected discoveries. It’s in this exploratory process that both writer and educator can fully engage in exploration. “I encourage venturing into writing with an open curiosity, ready to uncover what I didn’t even know was there to be found,” said Todt.

Please join us in welcoming Professor Brendan Todt to the campus and the humanities department, a distinguished addition who brings a rich tapestry of experiences and a vibrant approach to teaching and creativity.

Destinee Martin is a senior secondary English education major with a marketing minor