Aside from teaching at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Douglas Haynes has spent many years dedicated to his passion—researching social and environmental injustice in Nicaragua.
Haynes, an English professor at UW Oshkosh since 2008, believes his research experiences have an impact on his students when integrated into his classroom back at UW Oshkosh—3,000-plus miles away from his research site.
“In the classroom, my research provides me with first-hand accounts of the contemporary public issues my students read about in many of my classes, such as urban inequality and the disproportionate impacts of climate change on the world’s poorest people.” Haynes said.
Additionally, Haynes has taken his experiences and shared them directly with his students through study-abroad opportunities. For three years, he has led the course “Writing Across Cultures in Nicaragua,” in which the Oshkosh students travel to learn about poverty and environmental justice first-hand.
“While teaching all of my classes is rewarding in different ways, without question my most rewarding teaching experiences to date have involved leading UWO study-abroad students in Nicaragua” Haynes said. “Each time, I’ve felt privileged to be able to facilitate life-changing experiences in low-income Nicaraguan communities for my students. Most of my students from these courses have worked on campus events to raise awareness about poverty and environmental justice issues in the global South after returning to UWO, and several have returned to Nicaragua to visit and volunteer there.”
His teaching clearly impacts his student in ways that open their eyes and hearts, he said. Being the English teacher, researcher and writer that he is, Haynes also wants to inform a larger audience through the power of written stories. His book Every Day We Live Is the Future: Two Nicaraguan Families & Tomorrow’s City, is a nonfiction narrative which highlights the lives of individuals who live in poverty with shocking environmental dilemmas.
“I’ve seen men shoulder-deep in the water casting nets, despite the risks of alligators, skin diseases and mouthfuls of diarrhea-inducing water,” Haynes recalls. This is just one shocking example of how impoverished people in Managua confront environmental risks to survive. His book illustrates many more deep-rooted and overwhelming experiences.
“My favorite part about both my teaching and work as a writer is witnessing the power of story to transform people. Humans are hard-wired to make connections with each other in the form of stories. Well-told stories provoke empathy and understanding in ways information alone cannot. By teaching and writing true stories, I receive the gift of witnessing students and readers meaningfully connect with people they will never meet and places they will never go,” Haynes said.
Haynes expects to finish Every Day We Live Is the Future in 2016. To learn more about Haynes’ work and see a photo gallery of his book’s characters, visit his website.