Ask a Professor


Professor Mark Silvia

Mark Silvia, Professor of English

Mark Silvia , Professor of English, teaches at San Tan Campus.

If you could change one thing at CAC, what would you change and why? -Dylan Messmer


This is both an excellent question and a difficult one to answer. I think anyone who spends a considerable amount of time in his or her working environment finds certain parts of the place’s culture and the institution’s policies and procedures to sometimes be difficult to understand. That being said, I really do enjoy CAC. I have great colleagues, excellent students, and I think that overall the administration does a good job supporting all of us in this endeavor.

However, there are two things I would try and fix if I was made CAC King for the day…

The first change I would make, if possible, would be to fix a common misperception about community colleges: the idea that community colleges are not as valuable nor academically as rigorous as a university education. Whenever I hear community members or students refer to CAC as “not a real college”, I cringe. It’s as if some people have the idea that CAC is just a “thirteenth grade” of sorts. The reality could not be any different. On a daily basis I am surrounded by extremely intelligent, extremely motivated, and extremely passionate faculty members who have earned advanced degrees in their fields and who have shown deep understanding of effective teaching practices. At community colleges, students get the best of both worlds- accomplished content experts who know interesting and effective ways to share this expertise- and faculty members whose job it is to focus on sharing that expertise.

The second change I would make is more specifically related to the San Tan Campus where I keep my office. I feel as though we have some of the best facilities in the CAC system, but I also feel that we are missing out on opportunities to use space more effectively. In my opinion, the campus needs a dedicated Student Union (or least a better developed lounge area). We have enough unused space here that could be converted into a place where students can better congregate and socialize outside of the classrooms. There is a lot of valuable learning that takes place in college settings outside of classrooms, and I believe a more dedicated space would also allow further personal interaction between students and faculty outside of office or classroom settings. Plus, I like big screen TVs, comfy chairs, relaxed atmospheres, and sometimes I wish I could show students how awesome I am at ping pong.

Does pineapple belong on pizza? -Jarren Heiken


Um, yeah.. not even debatable… next question.

 Is getting a degree difficult when trying to also raise a family?  -Kaitlin Gapen


I love this question. I have previously shared with many of my students my own college journey. I was what is commonly referred to as a “non-traditional” student. When I was eighteen years old, I was told that college was the proper path to take, but I really wasn’t ready emotionally, and I wasn’t really mature enough to know what being a successful college student entailed. So, I didn’t do so well at the beginning. The result was that I took an extended period off and tried to “find myself” through a series of different jobs- over twenty in all. I worked as an exterminator, a roofer, as a tire-changer, and I even worked at a Dunkin Donuts for a day (I quickly realized I didn’t have the short-term memory for that job. I remember I took a person’s order, and they told me they wanted four different coffees of various sizes and with different amounts of cream and sugar. I honestly couldn’t remember the order ten seconds later).

It wasn’t until I met my wife, and we realized a child was on the way, that I concluded that college was, in fact, my proper path to take.

So, I found myself working during the day and going to school full time nights while trying to stay attentive towards my family at home.

It was hard. I won’t sugarcoat.

But, the truth is, I am glad that I worked as hard as I did. Having a family helped ground me in many ways. I had a certain sense of purpose because my education wasn’t only about me anymore. I had to learn how to properly manage my time. I had to reprioritize what was important in my life, and I had to learn the value of sacrificing short term wants for long term goals. Sure, there were times when I was bitter that I had to study for a Biology test instead of watch the TV, but through the struggle came enormous growth. I learned college is a marathon- not a sprint.

It has also given me a much more profound appreciation for my current non-traditional students. I am much more empathetic now than I probably would have been otherwise. I also know that it is possible to be successful and stay focused when things seem to pull me in a multitude of directions.

There was a holocaust survivor named Victor Frankl who I think said it best, ““He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” And although I in no way compare my individual experiences with Frankl’s, I do think my family gave me my “why”.