Faculty Profile: Professor Musti

by Steven DeMartis (’19)

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Professor Shobana Musti

Coming to America

Professor Shobana Musti began her education in India, where she grew up. She finished her undergrad with a major in Zoology and went on to receive a Master’s degree in Special Education.

She is a Professor of Education here at Pace University, specializing in teaching those in the graduate program pursuing a Master’s degree in Special Education. When she is not educating the future educators of America, she loves being outside with her dogs and playing tennis.

Early Educations’ Influence on Future Career

During her high school career, Professor Musti took English language classes, which were composed of analyzing literature, grammar, vocabulary and spelling. Professor Musti shared that “English was the mode of instruction in schools in India.” It is important to note that every student entered school speaking a variety of different languages. Although she does not have a degree in English, taking these classes provided a better understanding of the foundation for the English language. Despite not truly utilizing these skills until her doctoral program, Musti added

“The dissemination of research requires me to use academic vocabulary that is different from the conversation and casual writing skills that I may have acquired previously in my K-12 schooling experience.”

Finding her Passion

As previously mentioned, Professor Musti started her education pursuing a career in Zoology. In India, there was no option to take a “gap year” after Hhgh school therefore she had to make a quick decision about which subject area she would study. It was not until she volunteered at a center for children with disabilities that she discovered her passion for teaching, specifically Special Education. Her father was not fully supportive of her decision to change career paths to Education because it was not seen as a practical career for her culture. Professor Musti explained, “Since I am Indian, it was expected that I become a doctor.” Despite her not being supported in her career choice by her father, she deiced to stand her ground and pursue her passion to educate those with disabilities.

Why Pace

Professor Musti highlighted various aspects of Pace that sets it apart from other universities in this country. She spoke specifically about our small class sizes, which provide a more intimate class experience, as well as Pace’s ample amount of resources. She said students get extra attention here, which was not something that was available to her during her school career.

 

Advice for an Education/English Major

“Find volunteer opportunities to work in you perspective field now. Get as much exposure as possible! Affirm this is what you want to do before you waste too much time.”

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Alumni Profile: Sarah Niez (’12)

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Sarah Niez (’12)

Profile by: Katie Bevilacqua (’20)

Who is Sarah Niez?

Sarah is a teacher’s aide in the Bronxville school district where she is doing what she loves every day.

Sarah has known she has wanted to be a teacher since she was young. Therefore, she decided to studied Childhood Education with a concentration in English during her time at Pace:

“Literature was always open for interpretation and had the ability to spark great dialogues….I enjoyed writing and being able to express what was on my mind or arguing a point with research and evidence.”

After undergraduate work here at Pace she went on to complete her masters here as well while teaching in a school as an aide. In her free time Sarah enjoys reading, cooking, spending time with friends and family, spending time at the beach, and traveling.

Why Pace?

Sarah started her schooling at the University of Massachusetts but they did not have the program she was looking for. She liked the childhood education program Pace had to offer. She also liked the size of Pace and the location. She was close enough to home but also still close to the city and other areas of interest.

Sarah has had many accomplishments but is most proud of keeping her grades up and being on the Dean’s list each semester. This showed her that she could do anything she set her mind to.

Benefits of an Education Background

Having a background in education not only helps you in a classroom but also helps you understand and work with all types of people outside the classroom as well. She states she has learned to understand that every kid is different and as a teacher you need to work through this with them in order to get through to them. In the case of interacting with adults, this background can also help you. Sarah states

“Adults are big kids, so understanding how different and unique their life experiences are, mixed with the diverse ways they learn/ interpret information, is key in being tolerant and having patience towards others.”

Sarah is currently working as teacher’s aide in the Bronxville school district. She hopes to move on and hopefully have her own classroom soon so she can continue to grown and flourish as an individual. Sarah loves her profession so much because it is truly rewarding every day. She plans to continue to grow as an individual and get as much experience as possible so she can soon move onto her next stage in her profession.

Advice to Future Educators

Sarah stresses the idea that getting experience in many different settings can be very helpful to the growth of an individual studying to be a teacher.

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: 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.

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.

 

Faculty Profile: Dr. Robert Mundy

Profile by Anthony J Caputo (’17)

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Dr. Robert Mundy

Background Check

Robert Mundy is an Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program Administrator at Pace University.  He has previously worked at SUNY Old Westbury as a Writing Center Professional. Robert attended Stony Brook University, CUNY Graduate Center, and St. John’s University, where he studied both Comp/Rhetoric and Gender Studies.  His research focuses on composition, writing centers, and gender/masculinity studies.

Rob is currently working on a coedited/coauthored book project that considers the relationship between public controversies and private identities in the Writing Center.  Some of his recent publications include “’I Got It’: Intersections, Performances, and Rhetoric of Masculinity in the Center” and “No Homo: Toward an Intersection of Sexuality and Masculinity for Working-Class Men.”

The Lingua Franca

Q: So, what sparked your interest in English?

A: Hmmm, where to begin?  I guess I have always been creative and outspoken.  I mention both characteristics because that is how I understand myself as a writer and the writing I try to develop—equal parts creativity and voice.  Entering college, I wasn’t all that sure what I was supposed to be doing—what was the purpose of this venture.  A bit lost, I gravitated to what I knew—the stories I had written in my journals, poems I had penned to girls I never had the nerve to talk with, my fears and sorrow.  Looking back on those days, I studied English because something inside of me said that these were my people—that they felt what I felt, saw what I saw, and had neuroses like I have.

 Q: How did you find your passion?

A: Much of my desire to write extends from a need to challenge the status quo.  From the beginning, though, I wrote as a means to figure it all out—to discover who I am and why I feel the way that I do.  As a researcher, I have taken up conversations my brother and I have had over the years to better understand the complexities of gender.  Although I often think about the larger sociocultural and socioeconomic issues we as people face—I tend to start with me.  Man, that sound narcissistic.

Q: Which leads me to my next question.  Do you have any advice for students who are very unsure of what they want to do with their lives?  When did you decide to commit your life to teaching and what passion or circumstance drove that commitment?

A: I wish I had a profound story to tell.  I write and teach because that is what I do.  In truth, I am a one-trick pony.   This is all that I am really good at – all I ever really wanted to do.  I think Bukowski said it: “Find what you love and let it kill you” – that has always been my approach.

Q: That’s an interesting outlook that I hope not only I can learn from but others as well.  Knowing your passions, did people discourage you in your choice of majors?

A: My parents were just happy we, my brother and I, went to college.  I’m not sure they understood the whole design (as I just noted about myself), either.  All they understood was that we needed to go if we were to be successful.

Q: Was English/Education your first choice, or were there other options you considered?

A: As an undergrad – yes.  As I graduate student, I wanted to paint.  Mom said no.  She couldn’t imagine how I could survive as a painter.

Help Along the Way

Q: So, passion is certainly a factor but what helped you along the way?  Do you have any idols?

A: When I started to identify as a writer, as a much younger man, I remember replacing my Michael Jordan poster with one of Jack Kerouac.  So, I tend to turn to old Jack for such an answer.  As a man and a writer, he spoke to me in way few others have.  Musicians have also inspired me – the Joe Strummers, Patti Smiths, and Jim Carrolls of the world.  Richard Hell is pretty cool – and my inner 7-year-old wants to say Paul Stanley from KISS.

Q: What’s your best memory of an English class? Why?

A: Missy Bradshaw – Stony Brook University – “Deconstructing the Diva.”  She first introduced me to Michel Foucault (French philosopher, theorist).  His work blew my mind, and I suddenly realized, as I noted before, that English is bigger than I had ever imagined.  For the first time, I was beginning to see the sociological side of writing.  English was no longer the “classics” for me.  Looking back, that was a big moment, as I never returned to the “traditional” English that first brought me to the college.

Q: Was there a particular faculty person who influenced you? In what way?

A: Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with some truly brilliant people.  I noted Missy before – but Harry Denny, my dissertation director, really influenced me as a man, teacher, and writer.  Together we have published a bunch of writing together – the book I mentioned and a book chapter called “No Homo.”  Presently we are working on an article about masculinity and sexuality.  Harry was my greatest teacher and supporter.  He taught me just about all that I know about my job – from how to be a leader to how to be a good colleague.

Adding Character to Context

Q: We tackled some of the reasons you decided to pursue English in education and in life, but let’s add a little more context to that.  What are some interests and hobbies you enjoy?

A: I play a good amount of basketball.  Recently, I got involved in Krav Maga, an Israeli fighting style.  I’m not so interested in the fighting, per se – but I need to get into better shape – and walking on the treadmill bores me to tears.  Beyond that, I paint, play guitar, bike…

Q: Favorite ninja turtle?

A: Splinter (hope that is acceptable).

Q: (Laughs) Good answer.  What are your favorite things to read and to write?

A: I write predominately about gender – namely masculinity – and composition/rhetoric and writing centers.  As a reader, I get stuck looking at texts for work most of the time, but when I am free to read for myself, I tend to explore memoirs and graphic novels.

Q: What are some of your greatest accomplishments?

A: I recently coauthored my first book—a text that looks at public controversies and private identities.  I could talk about my writing all day, but that is boring.  As a kid, I threw a nine-pitch inning once.  That was pretty incredible.  Three strikes in a row to three consecutive batters.

Q: What is something commonly accepted that you wish would be different? 

A: Sexism – homophobia.  Man, this could easily turn into a manifesto.

Q: Switching gears, what do you find peaceful or soothing?  What eases your mind?

A: I wish I had an answer for you.  I would benefit from some peace.  I really enjoy watching college basketball, particularly St. John’s University.

Q: Favorite art-form? Song? Movie? Book? Comedian? Actor?

A:

Art:            Dadaism

Song:         Age of Consent

Movie:       Raging Bull

Q: How do you feel about our social and political climate in regards to English majors? Or in regards to college and education in general?  Are they under attack?

A: Well, we could talk about that all day, so I’ll just say this: Art seems to be under attack given the present climate (see cuts to the NEA and NEH).  And, for me, that is all right.  I think that tension was what brought me to the arts.  Art, writing, etc. keeps culture honest.  When art is at its most vulnerable is when it is most powerful.

Q: “When art is at its most vulnerable is when it is most powerful.”  That’s quite a profound statement and one I’ll certainly remember. 

 Finally, any advice for current English majors?

A: Well, I am not much of an advice guy, but I would say to cast a wide net.  I went into my studies thinking that English was “X” and only “X” – but eventually learned the field is much larger than that.  Think about what you value and what moves you—how powerful this major truly is.  Hmmm – ask questions.  We are here as a department to help and support you.

Alum Profile: Ashley Linda

Profile by Jackie Coughlin

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A Courageous Move

Ashley Linda originally graduated with a BA in Communications with an Advertising concentration and an English Writing minor from Marist College in 2009. She began her education at Pace University when she ended her career at NBC in the Integrated Marketing Company. She became inspired, excited, and eager to seek out different ways to use her brain. She made phone calls to explore different graduate programs, later connecting with the superintendent of her high school. After convincing her to choose Pace, Ashley quit her job in the city and enrolled in the program in Pleasantville. Today, Ashley is a Pace School of Education alumna and current English teacher.

New Directions

Pace’s program helped shape Ashley’s teaching philosophy. Dr. Joan Walker, Beth Kava, Mary Horgan, and Dr. Christine Clayton were women who helped to shape how she thought about the profession as a whole. Having a strong teaching philosophy and a deep rooted passion for the aspects of her job that she loved allowed her to stand up for what she believes in. Ashley became confident and passionate about working towards a common goal with colleagues, especially against tough obstacles.

An Influential Career

At the end of Ashley’s first year teaching at her current school, she was approached by two students who asked if she’d help them start a Women Empowered club at the high school: “Just the fact that they thought of me was an honor, but since then we have worked for three years and have turned the club into the most attended club at the high school.” They discuss issues of equality, welcome guest speakers, and write letters to representatives in government. Ashley has witnessed these young men and women grow and become leaders in the school. She has seen them face the backlash and bullying that comes with this responsibility and supported their efforts. She conveys that it’s been a fulfilling challenge.

“I truly believe that empathy and social justice are two things that we need in society. And nothing teaches you to be empathetic more than reading; you are literally walking in someone else’s shoes. And learning to communicate your thoughts and ideas is a power that no one can take away from you. And you can stand up for others using your voice.”

Inspiring Faces

Other than her professors, Ashley is inspired by her boyfriend: a Pace graduate and teacher for AP and Regents US History. He supports her drive in being the best educator she can be. She additionally admires the work of her Department Chair, a teacher involved at all levels of the school, and a natural leader.

Learning Inside and Outside of the Field

Ashley’s work in literacy, research, and writing changes every year based on personal learning goals and initiatives within her school. This year, she worked with her Department Chair to incorporate an Independent Reading program into curricula based on research conducted last year, mainly by Penny Kittle (Readicide) and Chris Tovani (Do I Really Have to Teach Reading?).

At the end of every year, she finds herself reflecting on ways she can improve the program for the following year. Sometimes it’s a conversation for the department; other times it’s more personal.

Ashley emphasizes her first job as a lesson for the importance of life balance. She loves getting outside, exploring, and taking her dog Penny for hikes and long walks. She advocates for exercise and visiting the gym as ways to clear the mind.

Ashley loves to read, particularly about strong women and what it means to be a woman today. She claims to be a sucker for anything 1920’s and highly recommends Live By Night by Dennis Lehane. Ashley is also currently involved volunteering with the Peekskill Democrats.

Advice for English Majors:
“An audience is always warming but it must never be necessary to your work.” —Gertrude Stein

Success? This Way –>

Career Night featured three alumni and a Pace employee. Highlights from their panel talks will be shared in the future. For now, check out what they had to say at the end of the event when asked,

If you were to give one piece of advice to English majors today, what would it be?

Thanks to:

Amanda Cody, BA in English Literature, Pace University, 2009
Assistant Director of Communications for Portsmouth Abbey School

Beth Gordon, BA in Literature, Binghamton University
Associate Vice President for ITS, Pace University

Kathryn Bohan Hurd, BA in Literature and Communications, Pace University, 2001
Senior Instructional Designer at SUNY New Paltz’s Teaching & Learning Center

Gianna Sandri Antolos, BA in English and Writing, Pace University, 2009
Penguin Random House freelancer, marketing and web writing