Faculty Profile: Leif Sorensen

~from intern Joyce Bohling

What brought you to CSU? The short answer is that I got the job! The position I applied for (American literature with a specialization in multi-ethnic writing and a side interest in modernist studies) seemed to me like a perfect fit and I was happy that the screening committee was interested in my work.

What made you want to stay? Immediately before coming to CSU I taught at a highly selective private liberal arts college and I was actually relieved to return to a public institution since my pre-doctoral education took place in public universities and I am committed to the idea that education should be accessible to a broad range of students.

What do you enjoy most about your work? I love hearing how my students work with texts that I am passionate about and learning different ways to approach texts from them. I also really enjoy my research, sharing it with friends and colleagues at conferences and informal conversations, and thinking about ways to incorporate it into my classes.

Why are the Humanities important? Because they provide ways of thinking that are open to possibilities beyond the purely instrumental purposes (how will this make money, how can this be used) and that therefore often drive truly transformational changes in society.

What inspired you to pursue a degree in English, the Humanities? I began my educational career thinking that I would become an astrophysicist. During my freshman year in college I realized both that I was not as drawn to the topic as I had thought and that my rural high school had not prepared me for the advanced physics and math courses I was struggling with. During the following summer I worked on my parents’ farm and spent a large amount of my time reading (I particularly remember working through several Toni Morrison and Dostoyevsky novels). Sometime during this process I realized that there was a major where reading and thinking about what I was reading would be my primary job so I decided to try that.

What special project are you working on right now? Right now I’m in the middle of writing a book about race, ethnicity, and world building in 20th and 21st century science fiction.

What did you want to be when you were a kid? An astronomer.

What is your favorite thing to teach? Favorite thing about teaching? One of my favorite works of literature to teach is Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. My favorite thing about teaching is seeing how texts change depending on who is reading them and what’s going on in the world around us.

What advice would you give to a student taking a class in the English department? Talk to your professors outside of the classroom. It’s the best way to drive your learning forward.

What’s the best advice you ever received? My dad, who dropped out of college, always encouraged me to be willing to be flexible instead of thinking that if my plan A didn’t work (studying astrophysics) then I should just quit.

What’s your favorite word? I don’t play favorites…

What are you currently reading? I always have multiple books going so the current list includes: Viet Than Nguyen’s recent novel The Sympathizer, an ethnography of the Runa people in Ecuador called How Forest’s Think by Eduardo Kohn, and, two novels for the classes I’m teaching: John Edgar Wideman’s Philadelphia Fire and Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being.

What don’t your colleagues know about you? How much time I spend talking to my cats.

What accomplishments are you most proud of? Publishing my first academic book last year was a milestone.

When you’re not working, what do you do? Visit with family and friends. I read for fun still and I also love cooking, listening to a wide range of music, and watching frequently awful TV and movies. I also play poker with a group of friends at a weekly game that I’ve been part of since I came to Fort Collins in 2009.

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