Faculty of the Fortnight: Alison Bender

Journalism instructor and local writer takes the helm of the Eagle’s Eye staff


Journalism Instructor Alison Bender

Caroline Coughlin, Contributor

With less than a year of teaching classes under her belt, Alison Bender has more experience with college professors than you might expect.

“I’m from State College, which is the city where Pennsylvania State University is. I grew up there and both of my parents worked for the university,” Bender said. “My dad was a professor in the finance department and my mom worked for a long time producing and writing a news show.”

At Sierra Nevada College, Bender teaches the Eagle’s Eye journalism reporting and editing classes.

Taking inspiration from her mother’s job, Bender grew interested in journalism.

“I learned about journalism from watching her. I got to see her do these cool interviews and get to travel for work, and that’s where my interest in journalism began,” Bender said.

When Bender and her husband moved to Truckee in 2007, she landed a job as an editorial intern at Tahoe Quarterly magazine and has worked for them for the last nine years.

“It was a perfect way to get back into journalism. I had worked for my college paper at Penn State, but I took a break for a couple years while moving around the country,” Bender said. “This brought me back into journalism, thanks to a bit of luck and good timing.”

Bender started teaching at SNC in January 2016. “It’s just as fun as I thought it would be. The remarkable thing about this school is its size. At Penn State, there were 40,000 students. Most of the teachers had no idea who you were. Here, the teachers take such an interest in the students’ lives and education,” Bender said. “Everybody really wants the students to succeed. I don’t think you see that at any other university.”

According to Bender, growing up in the town of State College helped shape her future. “Having the university there definitely influenced my life. Award winning authors and poets would come to campus to talk, so I grew up realizing there are a lot of cool people in the world and everybody has a story to tell,” said Bender.

State College is “uniquely located,” Bender said. It’s in the middle of Pennsylvania, in the heart of Amish country. “Just 15 miles outside of town are Amish people with horses and buggies and nothing but rural farm lands,” she said.

After graduating from Penn State, Bender moved around the country and worked a handful of odd jobs, including serving as a stewardess on a cruise ship that traveled along the East Coast. While she doesn’t recommend that particular job, “it’s kind of nice to have no real path for a while and explore different things,” She said.

In addition to writing nonfiction articles for Tahoe Quarterly, Bender is also a fiction writer. “I write a lot for myself and would love to start getting published for my fiction novels. That has been my goal for a long time. I’ve written drafts of things that will probably never see the light of day,” Bender said. She has written in “almost every genre, everything from chick lit to science fiction…I try everything.”

Currently, Bender lives with her husband and two daughters on the Reno side of Mt. Rose. She is expecting her third child in May 2017. She loves being a mother and is grateful that she can work part-time at SNC, which allows her quality time to spend with her family.