Coffins and Classrooms: Professor, vampire enthusiast maintains a warm heart with students
Jeffrey Weinstock leaves a lasting impression on students and faculty at Central Michigan University, and with good reason.
Upon entrance to the English professor's office, the first noticeable features are the two large illustrations drawing inspiration from Bram Stoker's "Dracula," complete with a human heart and an ominous coat of arms.
Scrawled in stylized script reads a line from the novel, “Welcome to my home, come freely and leave something of the happiness you bring.”
This encapsulates Weinstock in a way that is fitting for his reputation among his students.
Underneath his long ponytail and interest in unconventional Gothic lore lies a very open and nonthreatening professor who tries hard to keep his students engaged with a simple philosophy.
"I try my best to treat students in my classes as people," he said. "People tend to treat you the way you treat them, and if you belittle your students or infantize them, then they are not going to like you, but if you treat them respectfully, as people with lives, it is reciprocated."
And it shows.
Weinstock has been awarded the CMU Honors Program "Professor of the Year," as well as two Excellence in Teaching Awards from the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Science, voted by a faculty committee.
He said he tries to be accessible and responsive to student concerns, while admitting he is a difficult grader.
On RateMyProfessors.com, he receives high marks in clarity and helpfulness, although students perceive him as very demanding, despite courses with names like "American Ghost Story" and "Vampires in Film and Literature."
Primarily rooted in 19th and 20th century American literature, Weinstock has been interested in supernatural works of fiction from a young age and has adapted some courses to teach on the subject.
"It's just always interesting for me to consider the ways that pop culture media reflects larger ideas that permeate a culture," Weinstock said. "So you see in a vampire film underlying anxieties related to sex and sexuality, and related to issues of race. They find expression in a sometimes-veiled way in pop culture."
This interest has led to some prolific personal research.
Last year, Weinstock was the winner of the CMU President's Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity and, by the end of this year, he will have published his 16th book, an encyclopedia of vampire fiction.
His zeal continues with involvement in a laundry list of presentations and invited talks, including the recent open forum, "Zombies 'R' Us."
"My wife says I'm a workaholic," Weinstock said, smiling. "The problem that I find is that I get sort of halfway through a project and I'm impatient to start the next. I just have a lot of interests and I enjoy the freedom to be able to pursue them, to be able to think in a creative way about something"