Author of three detective novels set in northern Nevada, Bernie Schopen, 61, was voted the best local author by RN&R readers two years in a row. Schopen is also a lecturer in the Core Humanities Department (formerly known as Western Traditions) at UNR. His abilities as a teacher are well-described by one entry at a Web site where students grade teachers, RateMyProfessors.com: “Makes WT enjoyable—believe it or not!” I spoke with Schopen in his cramped office at UNR, where the mounds of student papers on his desk marked the near-end of another semester. Schopen teaches about 150 to 200 students per semester.
So how does it feel to be named RN&R readers’ favorite northern Nevada novelist?
Well, I noticed that you changed that this year. Last year, it was Northern Nevada’s best local novelist with “living” in parentheses after it. I thought it was nice that you let me know I was living.
I probably did that. Maybe I thought it was funny.
What are you writing these days?
I don’t want to talk about it. That’s my standard answer, or “Leave me alone.”
Do you get a lot of fan mail from cult followers of your books?
Not a lot. Some.
Any stalkers? Death threats?
So what ever happened to Western Traditions?
It became Core Humanities.
Exactly the same.
What do we learn from Core Humanities?
Where we came from, who we are.
Do the Core Humanities offer hope for mankind?
Why? Does mankind need it? Do you mean mankind or humankind? I came up with a better word, by the way: Hu-person or even hu-per-child.
Do you think teacher evaluations should be made public so students can use the info to choose teachers and classes?
Seriously, I think students have the wherewithal to do that themselves. I don’t think the evaluations used to make real decisions—about tenure and promotion—should be made public. Would you make that information available for other public jobs, like the police?
Have you ever looked yourself up at RateMyProfessor.com?
(Laughs.) I fooled around with it yesterday, but I couldn’t get anything for UNR.
I read your reviews there.
Are they good?
Let’s Google them. (He pulls up the Web site, reads his “grades,” chuckles a bit and guffaws once or twice.) This is fine, but it’d be quite another matter to take official evaluations and spread them abroad. Though personally, I wouldn’t really care.
Anything you want to tell the fans of your novels?
I do have two writing projects. Neither are detective novels. But I’m spending most of my time doing what the people of the state of Nevada pay me to do.