Undergraduates writing about LGBTQA+ identities, issues, realities, life, and love: Consider submitting your work by April 15, 2018.
See details below.
Undergraduates writing about LGBTQA+ identities, issues, realities, life, and love: Consider submitting your work by April 15, 2018.
See details below.
As you get ready to start a new semester, think positively! Four students use metaphors to describe the classroom dynamics in their LIT 132 Introduction to Literary Studies class, and they definitely give us ideas of what we should aim for.
Tell us what you think of their metaphors, and give us one of your own!
by Steven DeMartis (’19)
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.
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.”
Profile by Christina Keenaghan (’19)
Jen Kelsey began her college career at State University of New York at Cortland where she spent her first semester beginning to study education. She really enjoyed her classes there but later decided it wasn’t the right school for her. She came home after one semester and the next began studying liberal arts at Westchester Community College. Studying liberal arts allowed Jen to finish up her prerequisites so when she transferred to another school she would only have to take education classes. She then decided after finishing up a few semesters at WCC that Pace was the right school for her. It was close to home so she had the freedom to stay with her job as a babysitter and go to school at the same time. Going to Pace allowed Jen a close commute and the option to study and become a teacher.
Education as a Major
Jen chose her major based on the fact that she grew up watching her grandfather, her mom, and her uncle as teachers. She loved the idea of being able to do what her mom did and her twin sister who graduated from SUNY Oneonta in May of 2016, also with a certificate to teach.
“There’s always something to talk about regarding education and definitely good suggestions and advice being given in our family.”
Jen chose Pace’s education program because of the idea that you get experience in the field while learning about it as well.
“The most beneficial part of the Education program at Pace is the fact that the Clinical Fieldwork experience starts so early in the program. The fieldwork experience gradually gets you into the classroom for a full day, once and then twice a week. You have the chance to get your feet wet without jumping right, which leads you up to Student Teaching which is 5 days a week. This allows you to form relationships with mentor teachers and other staff at the schools, along with the students.”
One class that Jen took here at Pace is something she will take throughout her career. “When I took TCH 302 – Educational Psychology, Dr. Joan Walker was the professor. She is definitely one faculty member who left a lasting impact on me and in my development as a teacher. She was always giving us feedback and suggestions on ways we could improve individually but also in just sharing her experiences as an educator, and tips and tricks we might find useful in our own classrooms.”
Jen graduated from Pace in December of 2016 with a certificate in Childhood Education grades kindergarten through sixth grade. She passed her edTPA and is waiting to hear back from a few jobs that she applied for. Outside of school, Jen enjoys cooking, spending time with family, and coaching a third and fourth grade basketball team.
Advice Jen would give to future education majors is “to put yourself out there and do the best work that you can. Each class is so informative one way or another and it allows you to take bits and pieces from each that you may want to incorporate into your teaching one day. Also to keep everything! You never know when you might need an old lesson plan.”
Profile by Samantha Dexter
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.
Profile by Carly Wood (’19)
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.
Profile by Anthony J Caputo (’17)
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?
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.
Communities are built on shared stories. That may be especially true for a community dedicated to reading and writing! The Department of English & Modern Language Studies at Pace University in Pleasantville, NY, is committed to growth through the power of story. This blog will thus be a place for students, faculty, and alumni to share their stories publicly, where they can resonate within and beyond our local community.
We invite you not only to listen but also to join us! Let Pace be the place where you shape your own story.