How would you describe your students’ strengths?
DePaul seems to attract a lot of students who want to connect—with the city, with the world, with strangers, with each other and with parts of themselves that they barely knew existed when they arrived on campus. I’ve had great students from the city, from the suburbs, from small towns and from countries as diverse as Italy, Colombia and Rwanda. The two things that all these amazing young people had in common was that they were outward-looking and passionate to learn.
Why would you encourage an undergraduate to major in English?
Literature puts you in intimate contact with the past and the future. It takes you to places you’ll never go and makes you see familiar settings with new eyes. It enables you to understand how language shapes the world and how human beings give meaning to their lives. It enables you to discover and test your own ideas. It gives you tools that will never lose value and will never be replaced by machines. Oh, and it also provides you with practical skills that employers find useful. What could be more interesting and important than all that?
What makes our department special? In other words, what does DePaul’s English program offer students that they won’t get somewhere else?
My fellow faculty members include a lot of wide-ranging intellects–people who think, study and write about a broad range of topics. One of my colleagues writes brilliantly about both Shakespeare and funk music, for example. Another produces scholarly work about James Joyce and award-winning short stories, essays and poems about his experiences in Vietnam. Another explores topics as diverse as Lord Byron, graffiti and jazz. As someone who had a long career as a working writer before becoming a full-time professor in mid-life, I love being around a bunch of smart people who are interested in more than just their small area of academic specialization. And I think that because so many teachers in the department have such varied interests, we are particularly well-equipped to help students discover their own unique paths.