Monday, January 30, 2017

Alumni Spotlight: Kevin Steinhauser

By Kevin Steinhauser, class of 2010, Integrated Language Arts major
High School Teacher
Masters Degree from Western Governors University

Megan, Logan, and Kevin Steinhauser
As a junior in high school, I knew that I wanted to spend my career as a high school teacher; that decision was relatively easy and made with confidence. The hard part for me was the decision of WHAT to teach. I had a wide range of interests, and while I found success across the disciplines, not one content area stirred my soul more than the rest. Finally, I landed on becoming an English teacher, not so much because of my own personal love for the content but more so because I knew how important reading and writing were for every member of society. I wanted to spend my life preparing high schoolers for a successful future, and there was no denying that, as an English teacher, I would have a significant and direct impact on each of my students, regardless of their eventual profession. With this decision solidified, I anxiously declared my major, excited to take the first step toward a career in education but nervous that I had made the right content choice.

Attending Ashland University was an easy choice; the institution’s world-class education program would undoubtedly prepare me for a life in the classroom. With its focus on hands-on classroom experience, my four years in AU’s College of Education lived up to the high standard that its reputation demanded. I came to AU because of its education program, and it did not disappoint; however, I flourished because of the English Department.

After my first semester at AU, one thing became apparent: I would spend as much time in Bixler Hall as possible throughout the next four years. It was there that I learned that English was much more than reading comprehension checks and weekly vocab. quizzes. It was there that I learned the right question is often much more important than the right answer. It was there that I found my voice. It was there that I found my passion for the content that I set out to teach.

During my senior year, with a strong passion for both teaching and for English, I was fortunate to be one of the first AU students to participate in the Southern Exchange Program, where I completed my student teaching in Central Florida. Far away from home, exposed to a much more diverse student population, I realized that my career would mean much more than I had originally thought. I had not merely chosen a career in education; I had chosen a career in social justice. In Florida, the need for strong, dedicated teachers for every student was more evident than ever. Immediately after graduating from AU, I accepted a job at the “toughest,” “poorest,” and “neediest” school in the district in which I student taught.

At Poinciana High School, the work was grueling and the hours were long, but I loved every minute of the four years I spent there. I served as the Department Chair for three years and was able to teach a wide variety of English courses, including my favorite rhetoric-based course, AP Language and Composition. Living and teaching in Central Florida was an adventure, but after four years, my wife, Megan, and I decided to move to Colorado Springs where I took a job at a charter school with a similar demographic of students.

Living in Colorado Springs has brought many personal and professional blessings. In 2015, Megan and I had our first son, Logan, and we are expecting our second child in June 2017. At Atlas Preparatory School, the nearly year-round charter school where I work, I was able to be an Outdoor Education Leader in the summers of 2015 and 2016. Through this program, we exposed our students to the beauty and lessons of the natural world around them through dozens of hikes and outdoor excursions. Despite living at the foot of Pikes Peak, many of our students intentionally spent time outdoors for the first time because of this program.

Throughout the academic year, I have been given the opportunity to be the first Junior and Senior level English teacher at our growing school. As a founding teacher, I have the unique opportunity to develop curriculum for these courses. I have brought the AP Language and Composition course to my school, and I have even had the opportunities to be an AP Reader for CollegeBoard and to be an AP Consultant in Colorado Springs. Through my English courses, especially this AP course, I encourage my students to discover in my classroom all that I discovered in Bixler Hall. I challenge them to find their own voice and to spend less time searching for the right answer and more time searching for the right question. Every day, I am grateful for my Ashland University professors and classmates who challenged me to better myself; it is because of them that I can equally challenge my students.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Naomi Saslaw

Dr. Naomi Saslaw, Professor of English
Q: How many years have you taught at Ashland?

A: 47 years

Q: What are some of the courses that you teach?

A: English 101 (Comp I) and English 102 (Comp II), Shakespeare (English 317), Readings in Jewish Literature (English 340), Literature of Crime and Retribution (English 360), Literature of Early England (English 401), Renaissance Literature (English 404).

Q: What are your favorite aspects of being a professor?

A: I very much enjoy discussing different interpretations of literature with the students. I have always loved learning and will always continue to learn. It is a privilege to interact with our students and to both help them to learn and to grow as people.

Q: What made you decide to become a professor?

A: I have always loved learning. The university is an ideal community in which to help students to grow and to continue to learn myself. When I was a senior at the University of Michigan, I was nominated for a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and encouraged to teach on the college level. 

Q: What scholarly projects are you working on?

A: I am working on a presentation for a conference in April in San Diego on Dax (a medical ethics case arguing for a severely burned individual’s right to die) and a memoir’s discussion of how a terminally ill individual learns how to live more fully.

Q: What else would you like to share with the readers of this blog?

A: I would love to hear about some of your interests, your plans for your future, your creative and literary interests, and some of your interdisciplinary interests.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Sharleen Mondal

Dr. Sharleen Mondal, Assistant Professor of English

Q: How many years have you taught at Ashland?

A: 5.5 years 

Q: What are some of the courses that you teach?

ENG 101: Composition I 

ENG 102: Composition II 
ENG 314: Literature and Gender 
ENG 316: Postcolonial Literature 
ENG 330: African Literature 
ENG 411: Victorian Period

Q: What are your favorite aspects of being a professor?

A: I enjoy participating in the scholarly community in my fields of expertise. This includes both producing scholarship and teaching in those fields. Scholars in Victorian, South Asia, and Gender Studies in particular have created vibrant intellectual hubs through various societies and associations and it is a pleasure to partake in the exchange of ideas in those circles, and to cross-pollinate those spheres of my thinking with the classroom teaching that I do at AU. I also derive deep satisfaction from assisting my faculty colleagues and College of Arts and Sciences undergraduates in improving their research/writing productivity and work/life balance through my role as the Director of the Ashland University Research and Writing Community (AURWC). Together, these various strands have given me the opportunity to form very close relationships with fellow faculty and students with whom I exchange manuscripts-in-progress, brainstorm future projects, and collaborate on the construction of exciting new scholarship.

Q: What made you decide to become a professor?

A: My father is a retired chemistry professor who had a long and fruitful career. While his encouragement led me to entertain the idea of becoming a professor, it is my parents’ example that fuels my choice to do this every single day. My father’s humble beginnings in a village without running water or electricity in Bogra, Bangladesh; both of my parents’ survival of the 1947 independence and partition of India and Pakistan; their survival of the 1971 genocide and liberation war in present-day Bangladesh (and the horrendous loss of family members and friends in that conflict); their immigration to Australia and later the U.S. and the blatant, extraordinary racism they survived in both places; and the fact that they began their lives all over again in the U.S. at the age of 40 in a country halfway around the world in which they knew no one, cut off from all of their family and friends, are remarkable enough. Yet their response to these challenges is even more extraordinary, including my father devoting his life to scientific inquiry and mentoring promising, underrepresented students, and my mother being an obstetrician and gynecologist, especially significant because she first practiced in a country in which rape had been a weapon of torture during the genocide. 

For my parents, pursuing an education and doing everything in their power to help others through their teaching and training became their way of enacting the sacred work of justice in the world, even in the bleakest of circumstances. They are the strongest examples I have ever seen of Nelson Mandela’s famous statement that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Every day that I sit down to write or set foot in a classroom, I know that I am here because of the enormous sacrifices of these two amazing individuals, to whom I owe a debt that I can never repay. I feel heavily the gravity of the fact that I continue to be entrusted with the same sacred work of education to which they have devoted their lives. My practice of this work is of course imperfect and I have much room for growth. But in those precious moments in which a student finds in a text or a class discussion a deeper meaning that helps them recognize something about their own ethical commitments or their own sense of responsibility in the world, I often remember my parents’ faces and send them a quiet word of thanks for modeling what it means to do this work—and then I choose to do it another day.

Q: What scholarly projects are you working on?

A: I have a lot of “back burner” projects, but my most immediate project is a book about a late nineteenth-century Indian feminist, Pandita Ramabai, who converted to Christianity and sought to improve the plight of much-oppressed high-caste Hindu widows (of which she herself was one) through her own brand of proto-feminism. I contend that some of her most critical work has not received fair scholarly attention because of various methodological and theoretical quandaries in the disciplines of gender studies and religion. New work in the area of post-secularism helps scholars to seriously consider how feminism and Christianity need not be opposed, especially in colonial contexts, and I am using a post-secular framework to reread both well-known and lesser-known writings by Ramabai and other social reformers of the period.

This book project has had a few related articles that I have published, are under consideration, or will be submitted in the next year or so. This project has many connections to my teaching, particularly Literature and Gender and Postcolonial Literature. Because the project is interdisciplinary, it has taken quite awhile, as I have had to read widely in multiple disciplines outside of my primary fields in order to treat the material fairly.

Q: What else would you like to share with the readers of this blog?

A: Producing scholarship, teaching, and participating in service to one’s colleagues and students has been an extraordinary experience at Ashland University, where not only students but also faculty are encouraged to proceed with a sense of purpose and a commitment to their local and global responsibilities. The English Department in particular offers an incredible community of readers, writers, and thinkers who seek to bring out the highest caliber of work in every individual, which means encouraging each person to proceed with a deep sense of purpose. I encourage any student interested in the majors or minors offered in the department to speak one-on-one with one of the faculty.