Lecturer/Director of the William & Virginia Darr Honors Program
BA, English Studies, Missouri State University
MA, English Studies, Missouri State University
What made you decide to specialize in English Studies?
I kindled a strong love for philosophy while studying at the West Plains campus, but I didn’t really want a degree in the field; however, while taking a science fiction course in Springfield, I learned that philosophy truly lives within literature, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries. In Springfield, I was introduced to critical theory within contemporary literature, and those studies changed my worldview and produced a new passion for cultural criticism and social philosophy.
What was your favorite course in college and why?
This question is tough for me, because grad school introduced me to a wide range of concepts that brought me passion; however, three courses always stand out to me when I reflect on my time at college. I will never forget Honors. The books in that course continue to affect my life, and I believe they always will. The instructor of that course showed me the potential of an instructor becoming a life mentor. Honors also showed me that education wasn’t about grades; instead, I learned that education was a moral value.While in Springfield, I found a new mentor who had a crucial impact on me and my worldview concerning multiculturalism, gender, and the power of contemporary and postmodern literature. Her class, Ethnic American Literature, allowed me to see past my own world. Her class was tough, and the instructor had no qualms with intellectually correcting me. At first, I was intimidated by the pedagogy; however, her style allowed me to increase my self-criticism. The books in that course, much like in Honors, continue to weigh in my mind year after year.The final course that I continually use and reflect upon is Critical Theory. In the courses I teach, I still use a vast array of essays I read in that course. It solidified my position that philosophy, literature and society were all connected. The course gave me tools to look at social issues in a variety of ways, which has helped me construct a more complex view of my world and its history.There are many other classes that also shaped my life. I am not sure if this answer will ever end if I continue to reflect on how important the courses at college have been to me.
What do you find most rewarding about teaching?
The students. Academia shaped my world and taught me many valuable lessons; however, the students continue to teach me more and more. I am often humbled by their abilities and their passionate connection to our world. Our students often work one to two jobs, remain active in University organizations and events, and take on large amounts of credit hours. At the end of each semester, I am always thankful that these students will help lead the world for my children. They give me hope almost every day.
What advice would you give current students or prospective students?
Students need to continually develop their grit, and they need to see past grades when it comes to education. Some classes will be boring and some lectures will be dull; however, that doesn’t mean we cannot gain important value from the course if we choose to do so. The more we understand the importance of a liberal education, the more power the student will have over their inner world and their external world. They need to understand that history isn’t just made, but that we are the ones making it, and education helps us make a history we can all be proud of.
What would you say to a student interested in pursuing a career in English Studies?
Just like any other field, English Studies is work. It takes mental strength, and students will feel that fatigue. Do not see the field as insular, but understand that social connections between writing, reading and researching. Always read and write for a social purpose.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I try to spend it with my family when I can; however, as an introvert, I also need my recharge time. When I get a chance to be alone, I read, play disc golf, garden and play video games. Lately, I’ve been practicing for the International Rocket League tournament, and preparing an essay to be published for the 40th anniversary of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior.