Pace Pleasantville poets showcase impressive work

During the spring 2018 semester, Professor Olivia Worden taught ENG 308 Creative Writing: Poetry, which she described as follows:

Poetry Outside the Lines.Through this course we will explore the ways in which poetry challenges traditional ideas of form, content, language and voice. With a focus on workshopping, writing prompts, and in-class discussion of readings, students will consider the artistic benefits and craft of “drawing outside the lines” of the genre. In addition, students will create a chapbook of their work, learning how to edit and compile a collection of their own poems.

When Professor Worden announced students would be presenting their chapbooks at the end of the semester, I knew I wanted to be there.

I was not disappointed.

I began the evening visiting a couple students and seeing their work up close.


Jaquay Dee-Hardmon held up a black box with a chain around it. Pills, broken glass, and bandaids were scattered on the surface, and a label announced that it was “My Soul’s Asylum.” Jaquay said with a big smile, “My poems are all about pain.”

Jaquay pulled the chain open (it was attached with a velcro fastener!) and revealed the inside of the box, lined with gauze. A poem was scrolled inside of a syringe, another was in a box of bandaids, another was in a rubber glove, and so forth. Wow. I felt like I was actively prying, reaching to read the words that were hidden, exploring space that was even more private than the inside of someone’s medicine cabinet. Reading poetry wasn’t simply reading; it was actively seeking a person’s words, holding them in my hands, respectfully returning the words to the place where I had found them.

That’s how the night began.


Elise Dietrich


Elise Dietrich shared a table with Jaquay, and her poetry was placed in an album of artwork and scrapbooking. I was blown away by Elise’s watercolors, mostly of women’s bodies, simple and strong despite the gentle wash of the watercolor medium. It’s worth zooming in on the photo to the left to see the juxtaposition of the visual art and the poetry.

Well. That’s as far as I got before we were all asked to take our seats so we could hear poems or “Why I Write” statements read aloud for the audience. I won’t try to recapture these performances, but I will tell you that the work was impressive, and sometimes it was so haunting or desperate or painful that I cried. I cry easily, it’s true, but I was not alone in shedding tears. Later I said to some of the students that we don’t always expect to experience strong emotions when we are in academic spaces, but sometimes we do. And that’s not a bad thing.


After the readings, we all had more time to explore the poetry chapbooks. I saw almost all of them. Here are some glimpses of the projects and the poets for you to get some small sense of the night.


You and I both know these photos do not do the poets and their poetry justice. Their work was creative, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and interactive. Their words were not 2D or even 3D but something more—something that asked the reader to be there, too, to take part, to witness, to delve in, to experience.


If you have an opportunity to take part in such a night when it occurs again, be sure you don’t miss it. Whether you are a poet or someone who appreciates poetry, this is the kind of night that you will not forget.

And if you are one of the poets who shared work and you’re now reading this, I have two words for you:



Classroom Dynamics

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!

Alumni Profile: Sarah Niez (’12)


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. Leslie Soodak

Profile by Carly Wood (’19)


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.


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.

Shared Stories

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.