Pace Profile: Dr. Beth Gordon

Profile by Paige Touse (’20)

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Dr. Beth Gordon

“English Majors can do anything”

Pursuing a Passion

Beth Gordon always knew what her passion was and what she wanted to do with her life. Even in her younger years, Beth enjoyed reading and writing. She liked making connections with themes and books and to the current events in her world. Despite the fact that it was popular to be an undecided major at the time Beth entered college, she already knew she wanted to be an English Major.

Beth attended Binghamton University for her undergraduate degree. She took any and all classes pertaining to literature while in college whether it be the “Psychology of Literature” or the “Literature of World War Two.” Beth then moved on to University of Albany for her Masters in an English-focused Education degree. After graduation, she made her way to Mahopac to teach.

Trials of Teaching

At Mahopac High School, Beth taught an array of English classes from normal Regents levels to the more rigorous Honors courses. Oddly enough, Beth found that teaching wasn’t always about the material. She stated that it was “much less about the literature and writing and a lot more about the social issues they are facing today.”

Beth easily saw a connection to the skills she learned from her English major to how she should teach her students:

“Learning how to teach is basically learning how to negotiate and motivate and communicate.”

These are skills that she sees as being integral to the English degree and very transferable to other fields.

From Teaching to Tech

While teaching her students, Beth noticed that there wasn’t always a strong connection between the material she taught and the interest of her pupils. There was only one instance when she felt they were invested in their work:

“I found that when I was able to get the kids most engaged in their writing was when I brought them to a computer lab.”

This became the turning point in her career as she “saw the power of what a computer could do for teaching.” It was then that Beth decided to return to school in the hopes of receiving a Ph.D. in Academic Technology.

With this new degree, she wanted to work in a college environment. Pace would soon be her home for her Academic Technology career. While attending Walden, an online university, Beth worked many jobs throughout Pace. She started as an adjunct and then moved on to teach writing courses and work in Admissions. Eventually, Beth settled herself in Dyson College at Pace as an Academic Advisor while finishing her Ph.D.

After receiving her Ph.D., Beth become incorporated in the Dean’s department as director of Academic Technology.

Benefits from Books

Despite the jump from an English and Teaching degree to Technology degree, Beth still uses more aspects of an English Major than one might guess. As the director of Academic Technology, Beth is constantly researching in order to find new teaching techniques with technology and persuade faculty to use such technology or even try to get funding for certain projects. In order to achieve theses requirements of her job she must use her “ability to read critically and write thoughtfully and extract themes and create proposals,” all of which comes from her English background.

Beth described the benefits have having an English degree not only in her current job but in her everyday life. The skills both taught and learned from an English Major opens the door to many fields. It’s a versatile major:

 “I feel like my English Major has been a real asset to me in lots of different fields…What I learned as an English Major about how to communicate, analyze, problem solve, has been completely transferable to my work in IT.”

Ultimately, the only advice Beth had for those of us who are currently working on our English degrees is something that isn’t specific to us but is to be said to everyone. Her advice is that it is, “Important to follow your passions and study what motivates you but continue to stay open minded about your career and opportunities ahead. I think that English majors can do anything.”

It is because of her passion for English that Beth finds herself in a career she thoroughly enjoys and would never had expected to be in.

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Alum Profile: Nora Rugova (’13, ’14)

Profile by Jamie Soldinger (’20)

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Nora Rugova (’13, ’14)

Nora Rugova is a Pace University Alumni.  She earned her Master’s in Special Education from Pace in 2013.  Nora was also part of the Women’s Volleyball Team, where she set records for both Pace itself and the NE10 Conference.  Nora is in her 3rd season as Assistant Coach for the Pace University Women’s Volleyball Team.  She is also a Special Education teacher at Church Street School, which is a public elementary school and part of the White Plains City school district.

Why Pace? 

Academically, Nora explained,  “I liked the five-year program.” Nora was also on a volleyball scholarship to come to Pace. Pace became a perfect location for Nora, being close to home and also in the neighborhood she later wanted to teach in. It seemed like the perfect fit.

Nora explained that teaching was definitely her first choice of majors. Even though at times she started to second guess teaching, “In college, especially before student teaching started, I thought about changing my major to some sort of business, because all of my older friends were getting these super cool internships.” However, she knew teaching was for her once she began her student teaching.  Student teaching also became the most influential part of college for Nora:

“There’s so much you can learn in the classroom.”

Overcoming Obstacles    

When picking a major, students will always have outsiders trying to persuade them to switch their major. Nora explained, “At times it was very, very difficult. However, once I got into the classroom (for student teaching) and actually started working with students, I was so happy that I wasn’t even thinking about what others were saying.”  Nora said that her favorite part of being in the classroom where all of the “light bulb” moments, where “it becomes very easy to realize you’re in the right profession and you’re helping children grow.”

Mentors

Even though Nora was an Education Major, her concentration was in English.  Throughout her experience at Pace she had two wonderful professors, who she still keeps in contact with today.  These two professors are Dr. Maxam and Professor Walker.

“Being an educator is about molding minds and always being there.  These two individuals did and still do exactly that.”

Nora also said that these two taught with such “heart and passion” and that their teachings made you want to become a teacher to teach just like them.

Advice to Future Teachers

 As you go through your college career, teaching seems to be a lot of work, Nora explained.  “At times, it’s more work than you think you can handle but it is absolutely worth it.”  Nora stressed the fact to stick with teaching.  Many teachers do not realize that they “have the ability to turn a student’s day, week, even life around.”

Faculty Profile: Dr.Francine Falk-Ross

Profile by Amy Venusio (’19)

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Dr. Francine Falk-Ross

Who is Dr.Falk-Ross?

Dr. Falk-Ross is a literacy specialist who fell in love with being a speech therapist. She preferred to work in the education setting and got a full time job with speech and language for 8 years. Most of the work she was doing was literacy: helping with the language, how to read, the language when reading books, and how to write.

After getting her Master’s she decided that she wanted to know and do more. She then went to get her doctorate in curriculum with a concentration of reading. In 2008 she came to Pace and became a full-time professor. She is in charge of the literacy specialist graduate program.

Who influenced her?

Dr.Falk-Ross was influenced by her graduate teacher, Christine Pappas, who was in the doctoral program. Dr. Pappas drove Dr. Falk-Ross to understand classroom discourse. She learned the way you ask questions is very important to how students respond. Dr. Pappas showed Dr. Falk-Ross how to write and more of what she knows today.

Career highlights?

Instead of having students get pulled out of the classroom to support their literacy needs, Dr. Falk-Ross wanted all students in the class. Even students with different backgrounds and especially second language students belong in the same classroom.

Dr. Falk-Ross wrote a book called Classroom-Based Language and Literacy Intervention: A Programs and Case Studies Approach. She also worked as a research professor in Illinois and was an assistant professor in Northern Illinois.  

Advice she has for future teachers?

Dr. Falk-Ross says to find something that you really like to do, and find a focus within that field.

For future educators, she said that when you’re in a regular classroom to keep a focus because the school may need your perspective and expertise to do programs. She also recommends getting your graduate degree: “You learn a lot more in grad school than undergrad.” From there you will be able to understand more and move forward successfully. 

 

 

 

Faculty Profile: Dr.Jane Collins

profile by Jaquay Dee-Hardmon

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Choosing English

Dr. Collins loves to read. As a child she wanted books for any special occasion like birthdays and Christmas.

She went to high school in New Brunswick, NJ and attended Rutgers University as an undergraduate. Before choosing English as a major she studied biology, political science, pre law and pre med. In her junior year of college, Dr. Collins decided English is what she enjoyed most. She then double majored in English and political science:

“I decided to follow my heart on it and do what I loved most rather than what seemed most practical.”

After being asked if she was discouraged by anyone with her choice of majors she mentioned she was not discouraged nor encouraged. She went to a large state university where she felt students were on their own. Neither of her parents went to college so they did not have much advice to give her.

Finding Her Path

Dr. Collins did not go to graduate school right away after completing her bachelor’s degree. She was more interested in taking care of herself financially and figuring out what was next for her.

One of her first jobs was with publishing. She then went on to teach in public schools for two years in New York City. While she was teaching, she studied Chinese. She looked for a teaching job in China because she had a love for traveling. She was given information about traveling to Japan to teach by a coworker. So she applied to teach in Japan and went there to teach for a year. After a year in Japan, she went backpacking around Asia for six months. Some places she visited were India, Thailand and China. After six months she came home to take a break and began waitressing and bartending job in Manhattan.

After waiting tables, she continued on to graduate school, entering the doctoral program at the City University of New York and earning a Ph.D. Right before she completed her Ph.D., she started teaching at Pace University.

Life at Pace

Dr. Collins has now has been teaching at Pace University for twenty three years and enjoys staying current and innovative:

“What I most want to teach students is a love of reading and a love of words.”

One of the things she loves most about reading fiction, non-fiction, and poetry is the way it gives access to the lives of people who are not the same as you.

“Emotional access that literature offers is something that is a gift for everyone to be able to imagine the lives of other people.”

Words of Encouragement 

Dr. Collins reminds us:

“The most important thing to remember is that being an English major helps you build a flexible brain that asks questions, that sees connections, that uses language to make sense of the world, and those are really valuable skills and practices….You’ll find the way to use them to make your own way and figure out your own path in life.”

Faculty Profile: Professor Katelynn Liberatore

Profile by Sophia Avella (’20)

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Professor Katelynn Liberatore

Learning about Liberatore

Professor Liberatore is the mother of an adorable one and a half year old, loves to cook, and enjoys hiking with fellow mothers when she has some down time. She absolutely loves to read literature where she, “can enter that other world” and loves to uncover the hidden meaning behind the writings, like piecing together a puzzle.

At Pace, Professor Liberatore teaches courses such as English 110, 120, and 201. In these classes, she teaches her students how to write formal essays and critically analyze formal pieces of writing. She assigns journal style homework assignments and multiple readings from the textbook that are due each class to strengthen her students’ reading and writing skills.

Professor Liberatore was always fond of English classes. She always enjoyed reading and took a couple of AP/ honors classes in High School. But, believe it or not, going into college, she enrolled as a biology major! In fact, Liberatore did not switch her major until the end of her sophomore year in college when she realized her heart was not set on going to medical school. She simply could not see herself working in that field for the rest of her life.

“So I took a couple of English classes and ended up switching majors, then I got a Master’s degree in English, and here I am!” Liberators says with a smile.

Greatest Accomplishments

In the fall semester that Professor Liberatore changed her major, she was enrolled in a course called Eighteenth Century Novels. Liberatore says that this class is her best memory of English, although the course was the most challenging she had ever encountered. “She (her professor) was tough as nails… the class was not an easy A and I had to hold myself to a higher standard,” considering the extremely strict and “brutal” grading policy. Even so, this most certainly did not discourage Liberatore. The teacher’s harsh way of grading motivated her and she was “determined” to work diligently throughout the class. In the end, she did not ace the course. However, it really showed her how dedicated she was to declaring an English major.

Along with that fond memory, her all-time favorite class she took in college was a Narcissistic Literature Seminar. “That absolutely affected me and I ended up doing my Master’s thesis on that,” Liberatore says proudly. Her thesis was forty-seven pages long and it is obviously a prominent piece in her career. It truly was a work that she is triumphant about and it gave her a sense ,of empowerment in the major she chose. She tells current English majors to,

“stay passionate about it because, it is really easy to feel boggled down in the analysis and the really rudimentary parts of it, but always remember why you gravitated towards it.”

In the classroom:

Liberatore loves to challenge her brain when she reads works of literature: “I get a satisfaction from figuring out what I read… lately I have been reading the classics, greek mythology, Dante’s Inferno.

She also brings this aspect of solving problems and dedication to all of her classes. Liberatore states that she taught a Literature 102 class at Westchester Community College, where the students hardly showed up, were not connected, and could not care less about the due dates of assignments. “This was a real struggle to me as Professor… because they would show no enthusiasm for pieces of literature that I loved- I started to dread the class because it was like pulling teeth,” she stated, but then she went on to explain that this is why she loves teaching:

“I like all my classes for different reasons and every group of students is like a new combination.”

Liberatore enjoys figuring out and connecting with students to share her love of writing with them. “My students make the experience- not me as much,” she humbly states.

As one of her students, I must say that Professor Liberatore does in fact do everything in her power to motivate and push her students to get the best grades possible and get them involved and intrigued in what she is teaching in the classroom. She makes the class interactive and leaves it up to the students to take what they can out of this course—a truly inspiring professor.

Alumna Profile: Melissa Capozzi

Profile by Samantha Dexter

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Melissa’s time at Pace
Melissa found herself at Pace University because of its proximity to her home in the Bronx, and also because of a scholarship that she had been granted. During her time at Pace, Melissa enjoyed the quaint atmosphere of Pleasantville and exploring the many surrounding towns with her friends.

Melissa majored in film and English with a concentration in creative writing. She speaks highly of her time in classes taught by Professor Poe, and valued the creative freedom that the classes provided. Her desire to be more engaged in a person’s story combined with her interest in psychology led Melissa to consider a career in social work.

Melissa graduated from Pace in 2012 and decided to take a year for herself, when she enrolled in creative writing classes around Westchester county. She then attended graduate school at Fordham.

What Melissa is doing now
Melissa found her niche in social work. Currently, Melissa is working for a company that places social workers in high schools and middle schools, where they provide therapeutic services to adolescents and children.

As a therapist, Melissa prides herself in being able to provide a safe space for each individual to share their story. She connects this to her background in English and creative writing. Using narrative therapy and her analytical skills, Melissa seeks out patterns and helps her students make sense of their actions. During our interview, Melissa stressed the value and the relevance of the skills that she gained in English classes in her profession.

In the future
Melissa hopes to acquire her next license and become a clinical therapist, but she is content with her career. She admits that she has not been able to write much in recent times, but she intends to change that.

From her own experience, Melissa says that English degrees are more versatile than one might think. For Pace students who are approaching graduation, Melissa offers her advice:

“It’s okay to not know what you want to do.”

It’s a common fear to not know exactly which path to take, but she wants to reassure graduating seniors that it will soon become clear.

Cell phones in the classroom!

Dr. Jane Collins led a workshop for writing teachers suggesting that instead of framing cell phones as devices that interrupt learning, we instead find ways for cell phones to enhance learning.

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Dr. Jane Collins leads a workshop for writing teachers

Here are notes I took during the discussion portion of the workshop—lots of good ideas for how faculty might use cell phones in their writing classes.

  • Use phone for audio recording of an interview or video; used to collect data and then analyze it; reflect on this process and what it means to review the data*
  • Poll Everywhere used to get everyone involved, often with T/F or Y/N responses and a follow-up—did you enjoy the reading? why?
  • Poll Everywhere also used for reflection
  • Use Poll Everywhere for students to survey the class and use that research as data to analyze
  • Students who don’t have laptops use cellphones
  • Use phones for quick searches when class wants to know info
  • Taking photos of peer review feedback that was provided so the writer and the peer reviewer both had the peer review work
  • Use camera to frame a situation (to get ENG 120 students to think about essay on framing race and class in the news, how framing is achieved visually vs. in written text)
  • Create audio recording of peer review to discuss, create some distance from the peer review
  • Use Pace’s access to New York Times to help students follow news stories based on their interests, generate topics for scholarly research
  • Breaks down idea that what we do in our daily lives is separate from our scholarly interests and research—can recognize that we use phones to engage in discourse communities, to construct versions of ourselves to present to others
  • In minutes, it’s possible to find a scholarly article on Pace’s library site and create an MLA or APA citation using an EasyBib app

*Forgive my lack of parallelism in the bulleted list. These are my actual notes with minimal editing.

Hope you like some of the ideas. If you implement any, give feedback on what worked and what didn’t in the comments below. Also consider adding your own ways of using cell phones in the classroom. We love crowd-sourcing ideas!

 

 

 

 

 

Faculty Profile: Dr. Leslie Soodak

Profile by Carly Wood (’19)

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Dr. Leslie Soodak

Educational and Career Path

After graduating from college with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and English and a minor in Education, Doctor Leslie Soodak knew she wanted to work with people and policies. Right after graduation she obtained her masters in special education.

Dr. Soodak’s first job was with United Cerebral Palsy where she worked to deinstitutionalize Willowbrook Developmental Center, a housing institution for individuals with mental disabilities. The fight to deinstitutionalize was because many children living at Willowbrook were recommended by doctors to be placed there despite not having any significant disabilities.

After 10 years Dr. Soodak returned to school to get her doctorate in Psychology. Dr. Soodak currently works as a professor in the School of Education where her favorite course to teach is one on special education. She loves that through this course she is able to “discover people’s perspectives on individuals with disabilities and hopefully enrich their knowledge in that area.”

 The Importance of Reading and Writing

Reading and writing are two very important things in Dr. Soodak’s life. She can distinctly remember her favorite expository writing course she took during her undergraduate studies. She said the course required her to write constantly, and by doing so she was able to really understand herself and her writing. The class was small and a safe place for her to truly open up and express herself. She shared her opinion that “if you cannot comfortably relay information and express yourself then you are really at a disadvantage.” Dr. Soodak holds the firm belief that reading and writing are key in almost anything we do.

Dr. Soodak’s Words of Advice

In terms of the English path, Dr. Soodak’s first piece of advice is to stay on it! She expresses the need to look at information on a broader sense and consider more ways of communicating.

Dr. Soodak recognizes that the field has gone much more in the way of nonfiction and factual information; however, she has hopes that this generation will be able to bring back the love of reading and writing for pleasure.

 

Alum Profile: Michael S. Spinner

Profile by Francesca Ferreira (’19)blog-photo-5

Perfect Fit

Michael chose Pace University for his undergraduate studies for a multitude of reasons. Through a long college search, Michael was tirelessly looking for a school that was the perfect fit, as many other students struggle to do when transitioning from high school to college. But when he came in contact with Pace University this exhaustive search was over: “Pace University was the right balance because of the location, size, classroom size, etc.” Pace made him feel academically comfortable and secure.

Personal Touch

It wasn’t only the physical appearance of the school that reassured him of his decision, it was the people, the faculty, and the guidance. Michael said, “I knew I wanted to be a Political Science Major, and during the application process, Pace University made sure I had a chance to speak with the Political Science Chair on the phone, and meet him in person. Knowing I wanted to [also] be a journalist, Admissions arranged for the Newspaper Editor to call me.”

The Pace University faculty went above and beyond to provide him with connections to real people in his field. Not only did faculty go beyond in academic success, however; they went beyond their duty as good people. Michael shared a personal story of an instance where at a Pace Open house, his mother, who is diabetic, needed something to help boost her blood-sugar level; a simple bottle of juice or candy would have been sufficient. But instead a registered nurse came, insisted on getting her checked out, stayed with her for a long time, and even got her number and called her afterwards. Michael went on to say,

“This faculty member went way above and beyond the call of duty to help somebody else out. The personal touch really resonated with me, and made Pace University an easy decision.”

Opportunities

Michael went on to pursue a Political Science and History degree with a focus in writing. The reason he chose to have a major focus in writing was because of the opportunities he was given during his years at Pace University. He said, “I became Sports Editor of the Campus Newspaper (then called the ‘New Morning’) as a freshman, and then spent three years as Editor in Chief.” As a sophomore, he helped to start a publication, “Inside Lacrosse” which is the biggest lacrosse publication in the sport.

As a junior he had the opportunity to intern with the New York Times and as a senior he interned at the United Nations in their official communications office. All of these opportunities helped Michael to not only improve in his writing, but also helped him decide that writing was something he wanted to focus on.

Light at the End of A Tunnel

After graduating from Pace, Michael Spinner went through a struggle to find himself. He enrolled in the Pace Law School and although he was a good student, it was not his passion. He said, “While at Pace Law, I accepted a position as Assistant Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse Coach at nearby Manhattanville College, and loved every minute of that experience. By the time lacrosse season ended, I was convinced that I should leave Law School and become a coach … and the rest is history.”

A Coach and A Writer

No matter what occupation a person is in, they must perform, in some way, the important skill of writing. As a coach, writing plays a big role in Michael Spinner’s life. He said, “As coaches, we are always recruiting, and electronic communication is a significant part of recruiting. I have a form letter I send to every recruit, and I e-mail with recruits constantly.” Although writing an email might sound simple, it is not. This use of writing connects player to coach while showing the coach’s character and intelligence. An email in the world of coaching could be the difference between gaining a new player or pushing one away. Without refining his writing and editing skills through the help of Pace University faculty and opportunities along the way, he would not be able to be the best coach he can be.

Alum Profile: LeeAnn Reynolds (’16)

Profile by Jessica D’Angelo

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LeeAnn Reynolds (’16)

LeeAnn Reynolds is a Pace University alumna who graduated in December of 2016. She earned her degree in English with a minor in Creative Writing. While attending Pace, she was an animal caretaker at Pace’s Nature Center. This allowed her to take care of animals, create informational packets, and give tours. She currently has a job as a personal assistant and is writing a novel.

Life at Pace

While at Pace, LeeAnn was influenced by several professors—Dr. Poe, Dr. Collins, Dr. Kirschtein, and Dr. Martin were just a few. She strongly believes that the English department was a positive influence in her experience at Pace. She said,

“I think the English department at Pace is really unique, because you get the sense that the whole department cares about you and wants to help you.”

When she started at Pace she was originally an Education major. She wanted to double major but then eventually dropped Education entirely when she decided that being an English major would give her more job opportunities. She did have some discouragement from others about her choice in major at first. People told her that there were no jobs for English majors, but she feels differently:

“I feel that being an English major has really helped to give me a diverse set of skills that I can apply to a wide variety of jobs.”

Role of Reading and Writing

Currently LeeAnn has a job as a personal assistant, which consists of many different things. She never really considered becoming one, but she saw a job opening, and she decided to apply. She saw that it would be a great job that included writing, learning  more about businesses, and cooking and cleaning. There were over 75 applicants, and she was chosen for the position. Her job consists of context writing, website maintenance, childcare, cleaning, and errand-running.

Her job consists of writing in financial language which is not easy for her, so she has to do a lot of research beforehand.  However, LeeAnn explains, “Because I was an English major, I’m able to pick apart things and understand them relatively quickly.” She writes two articles a week, so reading and writing play an important role in her career.

Her favorite things to read and write about are Young Adult literature, especially fantasy. Some of her recommendations would have to be Tithe by Holly Black, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, and Howl’s Moving Castle by Wynne Jones. She also insists that the Harry Potter series is a must!

Accomplishments

While at Pace LeeAnn says her most memorable moment was her thesis reading. She had to write and edit a novel, so it was very personal to her. Currently, LeeAnn is in the progress of writing a book. She has been working very hard on it, and she even said, “It seems like the editing will never end!” She is about 86,000 words in, and she is very proud of her work.