Five Questions: A Student Becomes the Teacher

Mike Olson teaches a ceramics class at Casper College

Mike Olson (AA, AAA, '93) has been a full-time ceramics instructor at Casper College since August 23, 2005, and currently also serves as the department chair for the visual arts department. Little did he know when he first started classes at CC that he would wind up returning to Casper, Wyoming, to teach and raise a family.

Question: How did you come to attend classes at Casper College?

Answer: My uncle, Tyghe Wittke (AS, '89), was passing through Casper on his way to the West Coast and decided he liked it here and stayed. That was in the early 80s. He then attended Casper College and had such a good experience that he encouraged my sister, Kirsten Olson Southard, to come to Casper, help with his girls Meagan (AAS, '06) and Marlee ('02), and attend Casper College. My family had often visited my uncle and his family over the years and it was during those visits that I fell in love with Casper. So, following my discharge from the U.S. Army I moved to Casper in 1991 and began classes at CC in January 1992.

Q: You lived in a variety of countries while your parents were U.S. government workers. Did this experience of living in other countries help steer you into art?

A: We lived in Taiwan and India, where I had an awesome experience in art classes. I got to throw my first pot in first grade on a large stone hand wheel with the help of a traditional local potter who came to the school once a semester. My mom is also an artist and was always drawing, painting, and taking photos around us.

Q: You consider former ceramic instructor and art department chair Lynn Munns your mentor. Can you elaborate on that?

A: Lynn reignited my interest in clay and encouraged me to pursue advanced degrees, both my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of North Dakota and my Master of Fine Arts degree from Wichita State University where I met my wife, Amber. He also started me teaching by giving me an adjunct position here at CC between my B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees. I taught the night photography and ceramics classes and continued that when I returned from Wichita. When he retired, I had three to four years of teaching under my belt, mostly here at Casper College.

Mike and Amber Olson

Olson and his wife Amber visit Budapest Castle Hill Funicular in Budapest, Hungary, last spring.

Q: What are you involved in outside of Casper College?

A: My wife Amber is also a ceramic artist and we both work and sell our art locally at the Nicolaysen Art Museum, Scarlows Gallery, Art 321, and at our private studio, Dusty Road Studio.

Mike Olson ceramics

Photo courtesy of Bruce Nichols.

Q: How would you sum up working at Casper College?

A: Working as a teacher at CC has been a dream job for me. I love being in the classroom sharing and playing with my students. So cliché, I know, but it's the truth.

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