Alumna Profile: Justine Porcelli (’09)

Profile by Jessika Charvis

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Justine Porcelli, ’09

Who is Justine Porcelli?

Justine Porcelli is a Pace University alumna. She enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, restaurant exploring, being with loved ones, and jet skiing!

She majored in English and Spanish but then changed to Childhood Education and specialized in Literacy. She has always loved school as a child. Her little sister, who is twelve years younger than Justine, would always struggle with school. Justine loved being around her when she was a little girl, and that’s one of the many reasons why she went into the education field.

When asked about her experiences in the English field she had said that she traveled to Cambridge, England over the summer and she was able to study Shakespeare. She shared with me that English is everywhere (for example, movies, books, people, etc.). She also said that education has helped her see what people need instead of just judging them first hand. And another benefit of going into the education field is enjoying a snow day or two!

Her Career

Justine praised Pace University because the school set her up with her student teaching position. The school that she taught in while she was at Pace University ended up hiring her.

Today, Justine is a  literacy specialist specifically for the dual language & bilingual classrooms in her school. She has taught a total of seven years in her district. She teaches children the skills they need to succeed.  She also teaches them about themselves—their strengths and weaknesses. She believes that  knowing about yourself is important in life. That is the most important thing that she teaches her students. She shared with me that she loves all her students and whenever they smile they make her feel good about her work.

Her Advice To Future Teachers

Justine shared with me one of her experiences as a student. She said that she had a Professor that made her feel great about her work. He cared about all students as people and he really impacted her life. He was dedicated and passionate.  She said that she is sure that he taught his students when he was a public school teacher with the same care and love that she received in her higher education. Justine is inspired by him daily and has benefited from his presence in her  life at Pace University tremendously.

Justine’s advice to students in the education field is simple: get a lot of experience working with students. She said to pace yourself and give yourself a break sometimes because it is better for the students if you are less stressed, well rested, and prepared!

 

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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.”

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.

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: Rebecca Italiano (’16)

Profile by Maria Snelling (’20)

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Becoming an Education Major at Pace

Rebecca Italiano (’16), former member of the Pace University Women’s Volleyball team, was not always encouraged to choose an Education major. Her aunts and family members who were already teachers discouraged her dream to teach because of the heavy workload and low salary. Her number one supporters were her parents who saw Rebecca as a good fit for teaching young children. Rebecca believed, “If Education really wasn’t right for me, there are still many opportunities that I could work with kids.”

Because Pace University offers many opportunities to work with children, one of the main reasons she chose Education at Pace was to be able to “impact kids directly.” In addition, Rebecca’s main reason why she chose Pace to pursue her degree in Education was the five-year combined program. Within the four years of Undergrad, Rebecca received her Bachelor’s degree and is currently completing her fifth year to receive her Master’s degree in Special Education.

Time in an ICT Classroom

 Now, Rebecca is a teacher in an Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) fifth grade classroom teaching both general education and special education children.

Teaching fifth graders with disabilities and speech and language impairment, Rebecca sees the benefits to her English courses at Pace. Although Rebecca does not have a concentration in English, she says that reading and writing are very important in the daily classroom.

Rebecca find her work inspiring: “Teaching in an underprivileged school, I can see immediately how I’m really changing these kids’ lives.” By noticing the way the children are speaking, Rebecca encourages them to speak with confidence: “I teach my kids everyday to believe in themselves. If they say ‘I can’t,’ then I make them resay everything they just said with no negativity.”

As one who balanced academics and collegiate athletics, Rebecca’s advice for Education majors is “stay ahead, always stay ahead.”

Bookmaking Workshop

Reflection by Jaquay Dee-Hardmon

I attended a bookmaking workshop this past Thursday on Pace’s campus, and the instructor made it clear that trash can be valuable.

At first, I thought,

What is the use of things that have already been thrown away?
And what does this have to do with bookmaking?

She went on to say the books she makes are hand made. Things that are made by hand can be worth so much more. All the materials we used were things she picked up from the street and recycled resources. The materials consisted of cardboard, buttons, ribbons, stickers, recycled paper, crayons, glue sticks, magazines, scissors, little trinkets, rubber bands, fake plants, yard and beads. We then were instructed to pick out things that we wanted to be a part of our book. The purpose was to think about what we wanted our book to portray.

With the recycled paper, we had to cut out words that stood out most to us. I cut out words like family, poetry, and excellence. These words pertain to my life. I try to strive for excellence with the support of my family and the use of words are important to me because I write poetry. I used yarn, stickers, dried plants and pictures. My objective was to have my book represent who I am as a person.

As we were working we had a time limit on each part of the book we were working. The purpose behind this was not to spend too much time dwelling on decisions which would consist of taking too much time on one thing.

This whole experience helped see things differently as far as bookmaking in general. My expectations with this experience was to put together a hard a cover with pages to go inside. I was expecting my book to look as standard as they come.

However, I was impressed at what I came up with in a short period of time. This workshop brought out my creative side, and allowed me to see a book can be however you want it to be.

This experience helped me step away from thinking about stressful things that come with being in school and enjoy creating. I can honestly say this experience calmed me down and put me in a good mood. It was suggested that it makes someone feel good knowing that you made something for them. However, it feels even better when you make something for yourself.