Program: PhD in Literary Studies, Department of English
Previous Education: BA in Journalism, University of Georgia (1977) and MA in Literary Studies, Georgia State University(2017)
Research/Professional Interest: The immigrant experience in literature
What inspired you to attend Georgia State?
For many years, I have wanted to be a teacher. I started working with young people at my church in the late 1990s, and realized it was my passion. I helped lead a trip to El Salvador to build a school, and to the Yakima Indian Nation in Washington State to rehab homes. Working side by side with young people changed me profoundly. My grandmother was a teacher who touched many lives – including mine – and I want to follow in her footsteps. This, coupled with my life-long love of literature, led to my decision to earn a Master’s, and now a PhD. I knew Georgia State catered to non-traditional students, and that it was the place for me because I work full-time, and I’m older. GSU has been the perfect choice – I cannot imagine a more supportive, encouraging environment.
How has studying abroad impacted your personal, professional, and/or academic goals?
Thanks to study abroad (I’ll be going on my fourth trip during spring break in March 2019), I’ve been able to earn credits in flexible, accommodating ways. But it’s much more than that: I’ve formed connections with people who love the same things I love: reading, writing, and learning. You really get to know people when you’re with them 24/7. Honestly, I thought I would feel weird because I’m old. But I’ve not just been accepted, I’ve been embraced. The brilliant young people I’ve gotten to know are not just my classmates, they’re my friends. We share dinners, lunches – we text and talk. They have made me truly believe age doesn’t matter. Also, learning from our guides in other countries has helped me learn so much about our country; for example, last year, in Scotland, the overwhelming national pride and solidarity made me painfully aware of the destructive divisiveness in today’s America. Also, I’ve become fascinated and drawn to immigrant populations, and am researching the immigrant experience in literature as I work toward my dissertation.
What are some of the benefits of going to school after gaining experience in the work force?
So many! I am not afraid to ask stupid questions in class. As an undergraduate, I didn’t want to sound dumb, but now I don’t care. My main objective is to learn, and I’m not concerned about what my classmates or my professors think of me. Also, having run my corporate communications business for more than 30 years, I’m accustomed to managing my time, juggling many tasks, meeting deadlines, and burning the midnight oil. Mainly though, I appreciate school so much more now. I’m not just trying to get by – I’m savoring every class.
What are some of the challenges?
As the main breadwinner in our family, going to school while continuing to run my business has been tough. I pretty much have had to work seven days a week, with lots of late nights and early mornings, since I started grad school in Fall 2014. My career has been successful by any measure, but I want more: I want to give back, through teaching. That’s what keeps me going.
Can you speak a little about your MA thesis and the paper that evolved into your thesis?
I have always loved Willa Cather’s work and was excited to re-read My Ántonia in Dr. Audrey Goodman’s Fall 2015 Modern American Fiction class. A paper I wrote in that class – about the tenebraic qualities of Cather’s writing, and art’s profound influence on her work – evolved into my thesis. I was awarded the 2016 Louis Owens Award by the Western Literature Association for that paper.