I was 20 when I hitchhiked across the country to Homer, a Kachemak Bay fishing town that became my home for many years. I lived a Thoreau-like existence: I built myself a small cabin – no running water – and worked all kinds of jobs, from waitressing to construction to commercial fishing.
Then in 1989, the Exxon Valdez tanker went aground, and life was disrupted in Alaska fishing towns like Homer. For me, an environmentalist who escaped New England to live in pristine Alaska, the tanker wreck was life-changing as well. It catapulted me into scholarship, teaching and writing – work I continue to this day.
I earned an MFA in creative fiction writing in 1984 and my doctorate in English in 1999. I joined the APU faculty in 2000 and today I teach a variety of courses in literature, cultural studies and writing.
What keeps me passionate about teaching at APU is the creative, supportive, intellectual environment that the university provides as I pursue my own writing, research and publishing. With help from a Rasmuson Foundation grant in 2009-10, I’ve completed a novel based on incidents surrounding the Exxon Valdez oil spill. “Oil and Water” is forthcoming from the University of Alaska Press in January 2013. I am also co-editor of The Environmental Justice Reader, published in 2002.
I think Liberal Studies students recognize ways that our department supports their efforts too. We provide study space adjacent to our Grant Hall offices. We maintain small classes. We take time to know our students, to offer personalized instruction. And we insist every now and again that there be fun.
There are so many moments when I realize that teaching at APU is where I want to be: an especially good class session, for instance, or a rich exchange outside of class when a student wants to know more. Judging the student-produced Drag Show, watching an APU student theater or musical performance, seeing student artwork on display. I could go on and on….
As APU enters its second half-century, my hope for the Liberal Studies Department is that we continue to offer vigorous classes that form the backbone of a liberal arts education and serve our students well as citizens, creators, parents and contributing members of society.
• PhD, English, University of Washington
• MFA, Creative Writing, Vermont College
• BA, English, Hampshire College