At 33, I don’t get many chances to tell “back in the day” stories to students—about how different things used to be when I was in school, or about glass ceilings and equal rights amendment votes—but because of my interest in Women’s Studies, a field that has struggled to establish and sustain a strong presence on university campuses nationwide, I do have a few, and one of them is that back in the day, when I was an undergraduate English major at West Georgia College (1991-1994), I enrolled in the very first course on Literature by Women ever offered at that institution.
The scholarly and personal passions ignited in that course sent me along a somewhat eccentric career route. In studying contemporary women’s novels and creative nonfiction, and reading them very much for the feminist philosophical questions they raise, I found that with each degree I completed in English, I moved a little further away from my identity as an “English” person and closer to my current institutional role as a “Women’s and Gender Studies” person.
The PhD program at SUNY Binghamton had given me the flexibility to develop an individualized curriculum and field, and I wrote a dissertation on American literature and feminist literary criticism, as well as a trade paperback on feminist sexual politics, a combination that eventually landed me a position as the Cultural Studies hire at Coastal Carolina University. At the end of my second year in that job, I took on the task of advising the Women’s Studies minor and developing feminist cultural events on campus. In this role, I developed the administrative skills—overseeing a budget, revising curriculum, establishing an advisory board, organizing and promoting campus-wide events—that I would need to become the Director of the Center for Women’s Studies at University of South Carolina Upstate.
Although administrative work significantly limits the flexibility of my schedule that I loved so much about being a university faculty member, this position gives me more resources through which to impact the campus environment, and I spend every day working on programs, speakers, film screenings, student organizations, and curriculum changes that will improve the social and intellectual quality of life at this school. This feels like meaningful work.
This year I am focusing on increasing the university’s commitment to supporting sexual diversity on campus, in addition to its historical commitment to supporting racial diversity. I am working with PRIDE Upstate to plan a National Coming Out Day festival on October 11, complete with read-out, pizza, buttons, music, and informational tables, and spring-boarding from that event into a discussion series called “Let’s Talk About It” that will provide a wide range of opportunities for Upstate students, faculty, and staff to have productive dialogues about sexual identity in a safe space. My hope is that the campus will become known in the region as an especially pro-active anti-homophobic educational setting.
I started the new job in July, moving from Conway to Spartanburg. That’s the other nice part of this story. Spartanburg is fantastic. I live in a 1924 Craftsman bungalow in a historic district called Hampton Heights. My neighbors in the 'hood have been so incredibly welcoming, inviting me over to dinner and taking me out on the town. The Hub City Writers Project is based here, and its new subsidiary project, Hub-Bub, is a very cool space in downtown Spartanburg that functions as art gallery, art theater, and a near-MTV-Real-World setting for four young artists in residence. Asheville is only an hour away, and even though people can’t seem to believe I moved away from the beach to come here, the mountains are breathtaking. I have stumbled into a hidden pocket of creative energy, progressive thought, and natural beauty. What more could an English major from West Georgia want?
Professors Davidson and Fraser Honored
Drs. Chad Davidson and Gregory Fraser, Assistant Professors of English, were recognized for their work in developing a creative-writing pedagogy when they were named the recipients of the 2005-06 Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award.
“This award recognizes the symbiotic relationship between teaching and research,” commented Davidson. “Over the past two years, Greg and I have worked closely together developing our like-minded pedagogies for creative writing. Our contention that creative writing need not be some alien in the English department but may instead borrow from critical classroom pedagogies is at the core of what we are trying to accomplish. Likewise, critical pedagogies may also borrow from the types of learning that go on in creative-writing classrooms. In fact, the entire notion that creative and critical inquiry are somehow completely separate entities is problematic for us.”
Fraser and Davidson’s collaborative work has produced a series of articles and conference presentations culminating in a full chapter in Continuum Books’ new Teaching Creative Writing (2006), and most notably Fraser and Davidson’s own text, Writing Poetry: Creative and Critical Approaches (Palgrave-Macmillan), forthcoming 2007.