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.

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.

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.

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