Each year, CSU celebrates service milestones, (employees achieving a decade of service or more, milestones of 10, 15, 20, 25, etc.), and on Thursday there will be a reception for those people at the Lory Student Center. In honor of those on the English list this year, we gathered as a group one morning in the Whitaker Conference room to share food, drink, memories, and gratitude.
Later, we asked English department celebrants, “What was the moment (or one of the moments) that defines your CSU experience? Or, what is something you love about working at CSU?” What follows are some of the responses, and the full list of those celebrating milestones.
Leslee Becker (Professor), 25 years: “Part I: Our saga begins in Spring 1990, when I lived in Palo Alto, taught at Stanford, and received the news that CSU wanted to interview me. A colleague suggested buying an interview outfit at the upscale Stanford Mall. I could always return to the store, my colleague said, since I’d probably wear it just one time. I bought an expensive pants suit. Think wide shoulders, sharp slacks. Think Joan Crawford. My mentor, Director of the Creative Writing Program, warned me not to try to fake answer any interview questions, especially ones that would reveal my ignorance of certain isms endemic to literary criticism. She also told me to relax and think of the interview as a rare occasion in which people might actually be interested in me and my work.
Part II: The big milestone started with meeting Rosemary Whitaker, English Department Chair, and Pattie Cowell, Assistant Chair. Pattie wore a puffy vest tapestried with chicken feathers. At the end of a long day, when I had met with students and faculty, and was still wearing my unfortunate outfit, Rosemary offered me the job, a shock. I was stupid enough to tell her I had to think it over, and that I might be having an identity crisis, and couldn’t imagine myself teaching in CSU’s prestigious MFA Program.
The Middle/Middling Part/Next Milestone: After inhabiting an office in Eddy’s south wing (home of the recently embalmed and the occasionally loud and dramatic), I was offered a chance to move to the north wing, closer to the seat of power: the mailroom/refrigerator/women’s toilet, and the Chair’s headquarters.
Climax: An offer to be the 2000 CLA Commencement Speaker. I wore my 1990 interview outfit under an academic robe that someone had donated to the English Department in the Middle Ages. Ann Gill introduced me to the audience in a way that made me feel honored and accepted for all of my quirks.
Dénouement: I met with parents after the ceremonies, and received a letter from one set of parents, thanking me for allowing them to enjoy “the wonder of a moment.” (I’ve since wondered if the parents might’ve been referring to their wonder that someone such as L. Becker would be allowed to teach the Youth of America.)
Theme: The author of this story reveals why she loves CSU, especially her longtime relationship (a first for her) with the real center of power— students and colleagues.”
Judy Doenges (Associate Professor), 15 years: One of the best memories I have from the past fifteen years came, believe it or not, at my hair salon. I was looking at a Vogue magazine, and I saw a short article on one of my former E412A students [Advanced Fiction Workshop]; she had just published her first novel and Vogue was highlighting it in their book review section. It was wonderful to see how far the student had come and to have confirmed – yet again – what phenomenal students we have.
Sharmini Gingras (Instructor), 10 years: “I am spread across different departments, buildings and students. The most poignant moment for me at CSU was walking through the Oval one fall morning and seeing these worlds collide. In a speaking project by my international students, they connected with American students. I can’t pinpoint what it was – the golden leaves, crisp clean air, smiling faces, enriched connection among humans or the last few days before the looming of winter – but I thought to myself ‘I like this. I can do this for a while.’”
Marnie Leonard (Admin Assistant III), 25 years: “For me, time at CSU is a series of moments, all marking the energy flow of faculty, students, and staff as they draw from the past, contribute to the now, and create the future.”
Jill Salahub (Administrative Professional: Editor and Communications Coordinator), 15 years: “Just one moment of many I could have picked: Sitting on the patio of the Behavioral Sciences Building with Department Chair Louann Reid, discussing the possible ways department communications and thus my job could and would be changing. It was a beautiful fall day and both of us were very excited about the possibilities. It was one of those times when what I am good at, what I love to do, aligned so perfectly with what the department needed.”
Sarah Sloane (Professor), 15 years. “When I arrived in Fort Collins one August at the turn of the century, my partner and I had driven 1200 miles in three days with three cats, a frisky yellow mutt, and a rubber plant. The rubber plant was easy–a pitcher of water from a Pizza Hut did the job. But the cats were less accommodating. The three held fiercely contended yodeling competitions not only for the full 400 miles in the car each day, but also often in the pet-friendly hotel rooms overnight. If one cat actually wanted to sleep for 1.5 minutes during the night, she could take a rest; the other two would happily spell her, careful to adjust volume so the pitch of those irritating, high-pitched yowls and howls would remain steady from dusk until dawn. We put pillows over our heads. We wanted to put pillows over their heads.
That trial was not much improved by the evolving situation with the dog. With the veterinarian’s permission we had given our 45-pound dog, Rosie, a dose of tranquilizers better suited to the bulkier breeds, perhaps a Russian Wolfhound. The triple dose not only failed to keep Rosie calm and quiet, it introduced a new variable: a side effect which triggered frequent stops for most of the trip. Within a half hour of our leaving Tacoma, we suddenly accelerated, opened every window in the car, and drove 60 miles an hour into the nearest gas station. My partner dealt with the dog, and I gingerly removed the blanket and sheet with which we had tenderly lined the back end of the station wagon for Rosie’s three-day nap just 25 miles before. I confess that that bedding made its way (cloaked in two black plastic bags) into a gas station garbage can; my nostril hairs were quivering in disbelief before I even got it out of the car. I wish we’d had rubber gloves for the ride. As you can imagine, Fort Collins looked pretty good by the time we got here.
What doesn’t kill you outright, makes you stronger. And it’s all good material.
Fifteen years later one of those cats is still alive. (Sparky, who is over 20 years old, is sleeping on her cushion in a stripe of sunlight as I write this.) I’m now a full professor at Colorado State and direct our MA in Creative Nonfiction program. I have a new car with new bumper stickers (THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!) and a parking sticker from Area 51. But also, low across my car’s back window, remains a Colorado State University sticker. If it gets wrinkled or dirty, if I get a new car, or if I just decide I want a different style, I am sure that I will always have a CSU sticker on my car because I am very proud of where I work: a public land-grant university in the West where I am teaching the daughter of a rancher, the son of a TV repairman, two varsity basketball players, students majoring in equine science or construction management, and once a student in the University Rodeo Club. (I so wanted to be the Rodeo Club faculty advisor, but then I learned you actually have to have experience with horses. I settled for advising the science fiction club.) It’s been a great 15 years, and I honestly cannot think of a profession I would rather be in, nor an English Department I’d prefer anywhere else in the country. I not only didn’t expect to be a Ram who bleeds green and gold, but I didn’t know I would like it so much.”
Sasha Steensen (Associate Professor), 10 years: “I have loved every year of the past decade at CSU, but when asked to think of one particular moment, I remembered a party, hosted by Roze Hentschell and Tom Cram, in honor of my tenure and Barb Sebek’s promotion to full professor. I knew then that I landed in a department and a university that prioritized community, commitment, and friendship.”
Sean Waters (Instructor), 10 years: “The one moment that has come to define my experience as a teacher at CSU was the first semester that I was teaching PHIL 110 – Logic and Critical Thinking as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, [Sean has been a part of both the Philosophy and English departments]. As I was trying to explain deductive logic, I realized that everyone in the room was understanding and thinking in a slightly different way, and I loved the challenge of attempting to solve the problem of how to adapt my lesson to different learners. I’ve since come to appreciate student difference and learning styles even more… and have had many smaller moments where I’ve found a way to explain a difficult concept in a way that students can immediately understand.”
Also celebrating service milestones in English:
- Sarita Crawford (Instructor), 10 years.
- Gerald Delahunty (Professor), 30 years.
- Beth Hasbrouck (Instructor), 10 years.
- Amparo Jeffrey, (Office Manager I), 10 years.
- Evelyn Pierro (Instructor), 10 years.
- Theresa Sandelin (Instructor), 30 years.
- Barbara Sebek (Professor), 20 years.
- Paul Trembath (Associate Professor), 25 years.
Congratulations to those on this year’s list! We appreciate you so much, and are so lucky that you are here.