By Caroline Gordon
What is your role at FSU?
My role is as a teacher of writing, and I dare say, linguistics as well as literature. So, this rather small university has allowed me to span my interests very well. For some 40 years, I have been teaching what is called the Introduction to College Writing. I enjoy this class because the classes are restricted to no more than usually 15 at most 20 and I like to be able to work one on one with the students. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing individual development. The course also thrives from being able to be flexible with the speed at which students are picking things up because you get quite a range of capabilities in a course like that.
What is the best part of your job?
Walking into the class and the students are there. Most of the time, there are students who respond in a new way when finding new ideas every time I walk into a classroom, practically.
What is your educational and professional background?
B.A. from Harvard and a Ph.D from the University of California Berkeley. I took a fellowship with the American Scandenavian Foundations to Iceland for a year. This was supported by something called The National Defense Education Act. It was a full ride – they were paying for my tuition as well as my rooming and food. With that kind of support, I felt like the university had committed themselves to me. I certainly was fortunate to have that.
What was your experience as a student at Harvard like?
I was really lucky to be in a place where I could pursue academics. They do have things set up so you can be with a tutor. It is broken down, so you can have a large lecture, but also smaller seminar groups where you can have discussion. When I got into my major, I was able to be with maybe one or two other students majoring in English and we would meet periodically with a tutor. Those conversations were very on point and reciprocal. I enjoyed reading novels. I was taking practically every course I could find on novels. I thought about those students that have to be in the chem labs in the afternoons while I could be at Harvard Cemetery wrapped up in a book. I was working in the admissions office, so I got to be closely associated with the dean of admissions and the staff, and they were such great people. I still remember their names and everything from that time. I found it so rewarding that they sent out certificates of admission that looked like diplomas. Because I enjoy calligraphy, I was the one writing their names on the admission certificates. It was a very positive experience!
How has COVID-19 impacted your job?
I was interested in going completely remote for safety reasons. I thought also, being remote, I would at least be able to see faces on students. A number of students seem to prefer not to show their faces, but when the faces are there, and even when they are not, concentration is possible when you are in a Zoom session. One person is talking, and everyone is able to hear them, and the breakout rooms, so here are a lot of ways Zoom meetings are superior to a regular classroom. I certainly miss the regular classroom and I am looking forward to going back in the fall. My son is a park administrator in New York City and he thinks after COVID-19, Zoom is going to remain.
What are your favorite aspects of FSU?
The size of the school is number one. It permits students and faculty to interact at very personal levels. The diversity of the students. At Harvard, everybody is, for the most part, qualified. At Framingham State, you are giving the opportunity to students who may be the first ones in their family to go to school.The motivation of these first-time students is very impressive. My wife and I are helping out with a student who is graduating with honors this spring. She is an older woman and she has a handicapped child at home. She is doing so many things and yet she is dedicated to being a student.
What has been your most memorable moment at FSU?
In my Comparative Mythology class, we were dealing with Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” where people change into animals and trees. On April Fool’s Day, a student shows up with a rabbit mask on. It really blew my mind. She was one of the outstanding students in the classroom and it was just amazing to see. It suggested to me the possible informality that is still productive.
What advice do you have for FSU students?
Take advantage of the proximity and availability of the faculty and each other. Get to know people. Participate in the range of activities that are offered. The spirit here is contagious – it’s great. The pandemic has been something we have to recover from. Framingham offers as much as you can give out and it will be reciprocated. I am biased toward a liberal arts education that prepares you along the lines of your interest rather than what you think is a job lying out there. My advice is to pursue a major that captivates you, that you enjoy, and not to worry about what you are going to do with that. Framingham State is going to prepare you well for whatever job you might be interested in afterwards.