For many people, education is a value, an issue, or an obstacle. In my experience, however, education is a way of life and a means of empowering and inspiring people to live fuller lives. I strive to live out this belief in education through my roles as both an academic and artist. I am currently a second-year English Graduate student and Teaching Assistant at Stephen F. Austin State University, where I am pursuing an emphasis in literature. My main interests include drama, medieval and biblical literature, fairy tales, film studies, and superheroes. When I am not working on academic writing, I also write scripts for plays and continue creative work on my long-term passion project—an adaptation of the Biblical David and Bathsheba story that uses the conventions of ancient Greek drama. I am currently preparing to teach Freshman composition in the 2019 Fall semester and conducting research for my thesis, which will examine the presence of elements from Medieval Arthurian literature in the 20th Century genre fiction of fantasy author C. S. Lewis and Raymond Chandler, the master of hard-boiled detective fiction.
I received my undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University-Texarkana (or TAMUT), and my experiences there laid the groundwork for my current educational philosophy and work-ethic. My coursework in various types of literature, film history, and popular culture studies helped me to understand the ways in which ancient cultures continue to influence their contemporary descendants and the importance of cross-cultural discourse. I also minored in Drama and took classes in playwriting, drama history, and American musical theater. These experiences were particularly formative for my ability as a playwright, and I received creative writing awards from TAMUT’s PLACE writing competition for two one-act plays: “The Children Market” (a contemporary fairy tale involving an unwanted child facing a goblin) received third place in the 2016 competition, and “The Brier Patch” (a fantastic examination of Joel Chandler Harris’s relationship with Br’er Rabbit) received first place in the 2017 competition.
While in Texarkana, I was involved in several dramatic productions as an actor. I premiered roles in two of playwright Dr. Brian Billings’s plays: the Hobyah in The 51 Percent and Warren Glass in Bernie Wolf. I also performed the role of Frank Sweeney in the TAMUT production of Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney. I continue to employ these skills in community theatre productions, and I have recently appeared in a production of Yes, We Deliver, a play by SFA English professor Dr. Ken Untiedt.
I also had the privilege of working as a Writing Tutor at TAMUT. Within this position, I worked day-to-day with students on various writing projects that originated in many different classes. I assisted Composition I and II students and students from business, psychology, film studies, drama, sociology, and history classes. I also worked with other tutors to create workshops that were open to all students and focused on topics such as general writing skills and popular culture’s impact on society. Additionally, I served as an editor for the Aquila Review—the campus literary journal which I helped revive from hiatus.
During my senior year, I also won the second-place award for undergraduate presentations in Humanities and Social Sciences at the 14th Annual Texas A&M University System Pathways Student Research Symposium for “C. S. Lewis’s Conception of Eros in Ouran High School Host Club,” which explored cross-cultural dialog between English and Japanese thought and between academia and popular culture.
My final years as an undergraduate also introduced my to the joys and challenges of working with freshmen as a First Year Experience Coach. In this position, I helped freshmen transition from high school to college by co-teaching sections of the orientation class with a faculty member. I provided academic and social mentoring to each of the students in my sections of the course and worked with the FYE program to plan, implement, and coordinate events for all freshmen. The program eventually sent me and four other coaches to the 2017 NODA Region IV conference to give a presentation on our mentoring methods.
I began graduate studies in the fall of 2018, and the experience has allowed me to dig much more deeply into my field, push my writing abilities to new heights, and present at two graduate conferences—the 29th Annual Mardi Gras Conference at Louisiana State University and Stephen F. Austin State University’s Graduate Research Conference. At the LSU conference, I worked with colleges from my institution (Melissa Hutchens, Andrew Markus, Skylar Woods, and Sarah Johnson) to create a panel on horror film adaptations of literature, and I presented a paper on “Neoclassical Imitation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Revision Style in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Film Trilogy” for the SFA conference. This paper would also win both the award for best paper at this conference and the one for Graduate Literary Analysis at the campus Literary Awards.
After having spent five years investing in education as a student and peer instructor, one might feel confident in one’s working knowledge of the vocation. One of my experience’s greatest lessons, however, is that education is more than a simple definition or multiple-step plan. I once behaved as if the sole goal of education was to increase knowledge. Working in long-term tutoring and watching my society actively tear itself apart ideologically and spiritually (despite access to the resources of the internet and higher education) have changed my ideas. I now know that knowledge alone is of limited value—the goal of education must be to empower individuals to become effective processors of knowledge through learning skills that promote healthy thinking processes, moral strength, and effective communication. Though this process will, of course, involve the transfer of knowledge, increasing knowledge is not the only goal. Rather, education is a process of sharing skills that will improve the personal lives of the students. Skills such as writing, discoursing, and public speaking allow them to become better consumers, citizens, and leaders. To take an example from my own field of English, explaining basic grammatical rules to a student is a transfer of knowledge. The student can do little with this knowledge, and the information will probably have little impact on their character and interpersonal communication. Creating an environment in which students can learn to craft effective writing that properly employs grammatical rules through clearly communicating a logical idea, on the other hand, can change the students’ lives by growing their communication skills and giving them a means of developing their rational thinking.
As I prepare to teach my own classes, I will strive to create a dynamic classroom environment where students can develop writing skills through working on quality essay assignments, grow their logical thinking through engaging in discussion on relevant topics, and develop their interpersonal skills through forming relationships with classmates. As my family has recently worked through some unexpected financial difficulties, the scholarship that the Honors Society had graciously provided me will ensure that I will be able to continue pursuing my passion for education and that I will be able to more fully serve my students by devoting my energy to making their journey into writing and the university as meaningful as possible.