Meet Dr. Tyler Fisher, UCF’s first Rhodes Scholar
Dr. Tyler Fisher (B.A. English Literature, 2002; B.A. Spanish, 2003) became UCF’s first Rhodes Scholar in December 2002. The scholarship enabled him to undertake a Master’s in European Literature at the University of Oxford. Originally from Fort Myers, Fisher also is an author, poet and musician. He will visit the UCF campus the first week of April to participate in some of the university’s 50th anniversary activities. To find out why he once carried a tribal bow and arrows across the UCF campus, or what he now is looking forward to, keep reading this Q&A:
Please bring us up to date on your career.
After continuing at Oxford for my doctorate in Medieval and Modern Languages and a postdoctoral research fellowship in Spanish literature, I currently teach Spanish language, literature, and history at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford.
Who inspired your achievements at UCF?
My UCF professors, without a doubt, were the inspiration and catalyst for what I achieved at UCF and beyond. I am especially grateful to my mentors, Dr. Barry Mauer, Dr. Jayashree Shivamoggi, Dr. Alberto Villanueva, Dr. Kevin Meehan, and Dr. Richard Tucker.
- On fieldwork expeditions that involved mapping oral histories via GPS, Dr. Mauer not only taught me hands-on interviewing and editing skills, he also demonstrated patterns of creative thinking and a true readiness to engage interdisciplinary subjects. His example continues to shape my approaches to research.
- Dr. Villanueva was officially my professor for Latin American literature, but outside of our class schedule he was a model of pedagogical patience, spending hours correcting my mangled Spanish descriptions of tropical plants. I strive to show the same level of patience when guiding my students in their extracurricular projects.
- This view of undergraduate education as the sort of learning that transcends a schoolday and spills beyond semester calendars translates readily to sustained, lifelong learning. Dr. Tucker introduced me to UCF’s Learning Institute for Elders.
- Their friendship, active interest in my work, and enduring encouragement have strengthened my belief that learning should be a lifelong endeavor. It is an attitude I am also trying to impart to my own students.
Where have your educational travels taken you?
My educational travels began at UCF, where generous scholarships from The Burnett Honors College enabled me to pursue my language studies in Spain twice and chamber music studies in Normandy. In more recent years, I have had the opportunity regularly to conduct research in British and Spanish archives and to give academic talks at universities as far afield as Portugal, Ireland and Kuwait.
What other activities were you involved in at UCF?
I was most involved as a resident assistant in UCF’s Libra Community. Resident assistants don’t simply oversee security and discipline in their buildings; they also cultivate an on-campus educational community beyond the university classrooms. My residents and I built wooden rafts on Lake Claire, launched a recycling program and held philosophical discussion groups.
I also value the experience I gained from teaching after-school classes through the Honors Elementary Reach Out program.
What are your fond memories of UCF?
Perhaps the experience that stands out most fondly and vividly in my memory is that of carrying an enormous bow and arrows across campus for one of Dr. Allyn Stearman’s presentations. Dr. Stearman, then dean of the Honors College, conducted anthropological field research among the Yuqui people, an indigenous tribe unknown to the wider world until they were contacted in the Bolivian lowlands in the 1960s. It was my task to transport the samples of Yuqui hunting equipment (arrows the size of javelins!) from Dr. Stearman’s office to the auditorium.
I was only a freshman, in my first semester at the time, and weapons from the Amazon seemed to have nothing to do with my major. But as I paraded across campus with these artifacts — naturally attracting many curious stares — suddenly the world seemed much more open, a distant tribe much more tangible, a topic of research from another discipline much more within my reach. The experience impressed the idea upon me: I can access the world here at UCF!
What do you like to do for relaxation on your own time?
England has a wealth of ancient, well-preserved footpaths, and one can simply follow them from town to town, village to village, stopping at quirky old pubs along the way. I love going on long walks with friends. In fact, I can proudly claim to have walked the entire length of the River Thames, from its source in the Gloucestershire hills to the Tower of London. I also continue to write poetry and folk songs. Doing so provides me a refreshing perspective on creative texts. After long stretches of analyzing poetry in my teaching and research, it is invigorating to see it from another angle as a practitioner.
What are you looking forward to in the years to come?
I am looking forward to completing some major book projects in the next couple years. Specifically, I am working on a book about early modern devotional customs in Spain and their relationship to the literature of the period, and another on the question of why giants loom so large in Hispanic cultures, from Don Quixote’s windmills to Goya’s colossus.