I have been teaching at NMSU for 15 years. How time flies when you are having fun! I began here in August 2002. I am from Nashville, Tennessee. I study English poetry and drama of the early modern period, about 1500 to 1700. So many of the cultural concepts that we now take for granted emerged during this time, from the way we think about the nation to assumptions about gender, race, and class. The period is the crucible of modernity. My current project is a book on history plays that explores how the theater helped to develop a politically-engaged public sphere and thereby contributed to the rise of the nation. It is such a gift to live in southern New Mexico and take in its landscapes. Lately I’ve become fascinated by our local geology and the prehistory recorded in its rocks and rifts. My family and I have been going on day hikes, and my 6 year old likes to tease me about my collection of curious rocks. I also sing with NMSU’s Masterworks Choir, which is a great experience. We perform the Verdi Requiem this May.
I have volunteered as a literacy tutor in El Paso and Las Cruces. This is important work that I haven’t spent as much time doing since my first child was born. Your question reminds me that I need to give back more. Choosing a favorite book is agonizing for a literature professor. My all-time favorite pieces of literature might be Shakespeare’s King Lear, which looks at human suffering without blinking, and The Winter’s Tale, which asks how art can help us survive it. Shorter-term, my favorite book is whatever I am reading right now. Today that would be a new collection of poetry by Stephanie Burt, first published as Stephen, called Advice from the Lights. It captures both the need to invent and fully own yourself and a sometimes contradictory longing for home, permanence, and belonging. I enjoy traveling. I’m hoping to be able to visit Peru in the next year or two.
Like a lot of people this year I am especially mindful of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. In the Letter from the Birmingham Jail he wrote that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” In the period I study, John Donne cautioned readers “to send not to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Both are reminding us of our interconnectedness to one another, and the responsibilities of our shared humanity.
The Honors College is such a fantastic resource for NMSU students, and I love everything about it. It offers a home for motivated students to meet and study together, and to get to know their professors as mentors. It provides opportunities for career advancement through networking and preparation to apply for fellowships and internships. Honors students develop as researchers and as citizens of the world. I could only wish that every Crimson Scholar took Honors courses and graduated with an Honors certificate or full university Honors.
My advice for students preparing for their future is to cultivate their curiosity about the world, to take their interests seriously and pursue knowledge and mastery in them, and to seek out encounters with new ideas and in new places. On a concrete level, get to know your professors so that they can help mentor you in your field and advocate for you on the job market or in graduate school applications. If you are interested in graduate study or research in other parts of the world, apply for fellowships such as the Marshall, Rhodes, and Fulbright that will pay for these experiences.