The fluctuating prices of courseware are a common concern among college students. The University Store (formerly El Corral Bookstore) sells books ranging from $1.25 used and $1.50 new to a textbook package that comes with books and workbooks costing more than $400. The University Store website provides students with the ability to look up which textbooks will be required for their classes.
Students sometimes find that their required textbook is written by their very own Cal Poly professor.
Graphic communication junior Andrea Hernandez said this is helpful.
“When professors write textbooks in the graphic communication department, they relate to exactly what we’re studying,” Hernandez said.
If students have a question pertaining to the textbook, they can go right to the source of the material: their professor.
In order for books written by Cal Poly professors to appear in the University Store, courseware division manager Cindy Giambalvo said typically the faculty or staff member will let them know when they have a book published.
“If an in-print book is available for us to purchase, we will carry it,” Giambalvo said. “Textbooks may also be found in the courseware area if the book has been requested for a class.”
In the Cal Poly authors section of the University Store, Giambalvo said the staff tries to include as many in-print books as possible for current Cal Poly faculty and staff.
The section includes textbooks of various subjects, novels, non-fiction books, books of local interest as well as others, Giambalvo said.
English professor Kevin Clark, who has written two full-length poetry volumes and three small poetry books, wrote a textbook titled “The Mind’s Eye: A Guide to Writing Poetry,” published in 2007.
“In terms of the textbook, I’ve been a teacher for creative writing since the ’70s,” Clark said. “I started out at (University of California), Davis.”
When Clark was a graduate student at UC Davis, he was asked to write the syllabus for poetry writing for all incoming teaching assistants, he said.
“I think I have a way of approaching the writing of poetry which is a little different,” he said. “There was not a book that was specifically created for the college classroom.”
While Clark doesn’t require his students to purchase his poetry books, he does require them to purchase his textbook whether it be at the University Store or other outlets.
Clark said he used to have a kind of courseware packet for his textbook that the University Store published that was almost an outline for the textbook.
“(With my textbook), I want (students) to understand how to go about writing contemporary poetry,” he said. “There’s so many options, but there are plenty of avenues where you can go wrong. There are so many ways to do it right. I hope the textbook helps people avoid heading down the wrong paths and rather helps them find what’s best in their own imagination.”
In regard to whether his textbook is the best poetry book for college students, Clark said it’s the only poetry writing textbook on the market designed explicitly for college terms.
“(It) speaks to college students and emerging writers in a way different than some of the other books,” Clark said. “Frankly, I think it’s a progression of steps that is better than others.”
Even if a professor doesn’t write his or her own textbook for a class, they still require their students to purchase a textbook or two.
Giambalvo said the bookstore doesn’t tell the instructors what books to request for a class. In other words, there’s no way of knowing whether or not the textbook requested for a class is indeed the best for the specific course.
“It’s really up to them and the department,” Giambalvo said.
Another professor who has a textbook for sale in the University Store is ethnic studies associate professor Kathleen Martin.
Martin was an editor and contributor for the textbook “Indigenous Symbols and Practices in the Catholic Church: Visual Culture, Missionization and Appropriation.”
“(I) had some family members who were part of the Catholic Church and worked in part of the missions in South Dakota,” Martin said. “When I was there, I noticed some of the images and presentation of native-themed Catholic churches.”
The images were different than what she recognized as Catholic symbols, she said.
In collaborating with other colleagues, Martin realized there were a wide array of positions to take when looking at the issue.
“That’s how we ended up coming up with the book,” she said.
Martin requires her class to purchase the text for her Ethnic Studies 321 class (Native American Cultural Images).
There really are no other books on that subject, she said.
One of the important things to take away from “Indigenous Symbols,” Martin said, is that it’s wrong to appropriate other cultures’ ideas and images.
“The other aspect of it is we have a very Eurocentric way of looking at and approaching the world,” Martin said.
Like Clark, Martin’s textbook is available via Amazon and Chegg.
With the books of Cal Poly professors available on Amazon and other websites, it opens the door for universities other than Cal Poly to use their textbooks.
Martin doesn’t doubt other universities are using “Indigenous Symbols and Practices in the Catholic Church.”
“I suspect they are just because of the number of sales,” Martin said. “I actually think there’s more universities or graduate students in particular in other parts of the world that are looking at it. It becomes an issue that’s not just localized just to the United States. I’ve had students from Africa contact me about it.”
While the University Store is a place where these textbooks and general books are sold, the bookstore does not receive commission for the sales.
Architecture freshman Prabhjot Sutti said he is in favor of professors writing their own textbooks.
It’s easier to ask them questions if it’s about their book, Sutti said.
“I think overall it is a good idea,” he said. “They know what they’re talking about.”