John Galligan – Employee Profile

John Galligan

To say that a lot has changed since John Galligan started teaching at Madison College in 1987 would be an understatement.

We sat down with the author and writing instructor on the eve of his retirement to talk about some of those changes, legacy and inspiration.

Twenty-five years is a long time. Tell us about the changes you’ve seen during your time at Madison College.

The college has really transformed in great ways since I started as a temporary replacement teacher back in 1987.

When I started, the college was not digital at all – it was 1987. We didn’t have computer labs or word processors. So that has obviously evolved as well as the whole culture around teaching. Now we have resources such as CETL to support, inspire and teach the teachers and bring best-practices into the classrooms.

I’d say that the college has evolved to be much more about teaching and learning and figuring out more and innovative ways to support students. We are now better equipped to serve all students and be much more aware of the vulnerable students and how we can get them the resources they need.

We also have more opportunities for students than we used to. The clubs they can join or programs like the Yahara Journal enrich their experience here.

What about the role of the teachers and instructors, how have you seen that change over time?

The whole nature of the faculty has changed. Just look at today’s faculty and the kinds of degrees they come in with and the types of experiences they have. I think we’ve evolved toward finding the right instructors for the right jobs.

Within my area of writing, we now teach writing from the inside out. Many of the writing faculty have degrees in composition and rhetoric which means that they are trained to teach writing. I was a writer who learned teaching on the job. I started teaching the way I was taught – I stood in front of the room with a set of lecture notes, and I quickly learned that wasn’t going to be effective. I had to learn how to teach.

What inspires you about the college?

I’m inspired by the transformative power of Madison College to change people’s lives. It’s really visible here and I’m moved to be able to play a role in that.

What kind of legacy do you think you’ll be leaving at Madison College?

I hope I’ll be leaving a legacy of teaching writing from the point-of-view of a writer. What it’s like to be a writer and what it takes to master and be effective at writing.

Writing is a creative process and if I can get my students to understand that and make improvements in the process, then the product – the writing – will take care of itself.

John Galligan book cover and blurb
“Galligan unfurls his story with ease, breathing life into every character.” —The New York Times.

What will you miss about the college?

I’ll miss being able to move students. I’ll miss that a lot.

I’ll also miss my colleagues and I wish them the best of luck in the future. We’ve seen a marked increase in student trauma and new programs related to equity. Couple these factors with additional classes and more work for the faculty - it’s not getting easier.

Last question. What does the future look like for you? More novels? Downtime?

I’m looking forward to slowing down. Between writing and teaching, I’ve been juggling two careers for a while and I’m looking forward to focusing on just one.

I’ve had to be extremely disciplined and I’m looking forward to being a little less disciplined and also making more time for family and friends.

We know whatever the next chapter brings for John, it’s going to be a good one. For more on John and his writing career, visit The Clarion to read a 2021 article about what inspires his writing.