Faculty Profile: Dr.Rebecca Martin

Profile by Grace Kadisha

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Dr. Rebecca Martin

Finding value in learning

Dr. Rebecca Martin has been an English major from start to finish. Growing up, she loved to read in school and on her spare time. Her family has lived in many parts of the world including Italy, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Louisiana. Her parents were devoted readers and, although they didn’t graduate from college, they instilled the importance of education to Rebecca. The values her parents taught have stuck with her. 

In high school Dr. Martin discovered that she was interested in archaeology, history, and environmental studies. When she started college in the 70’s, archaeology wasn’t a popular major. For her love of reading, she went into college as an English major. Surprisingly, she said she didn’t encounter people telling her studying English wasn’t a real major or there isn’t enough jobs to get with an English degree except for teaching.

Discovering her passion

While studying English, Dr. Martin imagined she would eventually be a teacher. She still continued to take courses she thought would spark her interest in other parts of studying literature. That’s where she found her love in 18th century gothic novel; it was literature she had never read before, and her professor made the class more intriguing. She got her undergraduate degree at the University of Oklahoma.

From there she knew her passion was to learn more. She went on to get her Master’s at the University of Idaho and her Ph.D. in English at the University of Iowa. Dr. Rebecca Martin came to Pace as an adjunct professor where she taught for twenty years. She became assistant dean for fifthteen years in Dyson College.

Her advice for students with English majors is to remember that college is a time to try out new ideas: “There’s not a high price to pay from taking a course you didn’t like instead of having a job you discover you didn’t like.” She also says that that “studying english is to get personal gain, substance, and increasing knowledge.” 

Teaching students

As Dr. Rebecca Martin continues to teach film and literature courses here at Pace University, she believes it’s important to teach students more than just the content in the class. Students should think critically, think analytically, and think more because it helps all of us. That way students can apply those skills outside of class, going beyond the most obvious meanings of what you see and asking “why are these images being used, why was this language chosen and why is it being told this way?”.

Dr. Martin wants to teach students to be more engaged in life and the questions we should be asking so that we can live to our fullest potentials.

 

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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.”

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.

 

 

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.