Professor and Assistant Department Chair
B.A., English, Vassar College; M.A., English, Ph.D., English, University of California, Santa Barbara.
How would you describe your work in the English Department?
First, I’m a teacher. I primarily teach 16th and 17th c. British Literature at the undergraduate and graduate level. I am also an active scholar, and spend some of my time researching and writing in my own field of specialization, which is early modern literature and cultural studies. For the last 4 years, I have been one of the department’s two assistant chairs. I handle the scheduling of over 200 sections of English and Composition a semester; I work with the chair and College of Liberal Arts on budget as it relates to scheduling. I hire non tenure track faculty. And I work with the chair, Louann Reid, on a number of other projects. I also serve on other departmental and sometime college and university committees.
What brought you to CSU?
I came to CSU in 2002 from NYC; I was in my 4th year of a job at a university in New Jersey. Though I loved NY and had a lot of friends there, I found daily life complicated and expensive. I’m from southern California, and my whole family is there, so I decided to move west. Ultimately, though, I came to CSU because I connected with the people in the English Department, who were (and are) a smart, supportive, friendly, energetic and funny bunch.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love that my job has allowed me to grow: as a teacher, scholar, and university citizen. With any luck, it’s a long life and it’s important for one’s job to allow for evolving interests in both teaching and scholarship.
Why are the Humanities important?
The study of Art, Literature, Philosophy, History and other humanistic disciplines allows us to make connections with people and cultures and time periods different than our own and expands our understanding of the human experience, which—in our daily life—can sometimes feel localized and isolating. I like to think that our study of the humanities is not too far removed from the studia humanitatis of the Renaissance. Renaissance humanists aimed to educate people in a way that would prepare them to think, speak, and write in clear and persuasive ways so that they would be engaged and ethical citizens. This still seems like an important goal of the humanities. Also, one definition of the Latin Humanitas is “kindness.” Studying the humanities teaches us to be more kind and empathetic humans, and the world can always use more of that.
What inspired you to pursue a degree in English, the Humanities?
I chose English as an undergraduate because I loved reading and writing and I was pretty good at it. I was energized by the classroom discussions and the exposure to other’s perspectives. I decided to pursue an advanced degree in English because I thought that maybe if I could make a career studying, researching, reading, writing, talking and listening, then that would make for a pretty good life.
What special project are you working on right now?
I am writing a book on the cultural significance of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral in the 16th and 17th century. It was the Church of England’s Cathedral in London, but it was also an important social and commercial space in the heart of the city. I am fascinated by the multiple roles and uses of the church and how everyday Londoners interacted with the space.
What is your favorite thing to teach? Favorite thing about teaching?
My am lucky because I have a great fondness for almost every class I teach, from Shakespeare to Milton to special topics classes like The Sonnet. I have loved teaching popular literature and culture of the renaissance. Texts like Ballads or pamphlets or conduct manuals that were wildly popular in their time, but don’t always appear in literature classrooms. I’ve extended my interest in popular culture lately and have been teaching Freshman Seminars for the honors program on contemporary adaptions of Shakespeare. Everything from Hindi Cinema to Manga Comic Books, to American musicals.
What advice would you give a student taking a class in the English Department?
a) Get to know your teachers outside of class time. We have an amazing faculty with deep knowledge and wide interests. They are brilliant scholars and dedicated teachers. You should get learn more about them and their interests.
b) Take at least one class outside your comfort zone and have an open mind. That medieval women writers class may be the very one that changes your world view.
c) I always tell my students to show up and do good work. I mean that on a literal level, of course, but it’s good advice for college and life. Be present in the moment; be grateful for the privilege of a college education, and put your best effort in. The returns will be amazing.
What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote? OR, What are you currently reading, writing?
Aside from my reading for classes, I have a few things on my nightstand: I am reading Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies, her sequel to Wolf Hall about the ever fascinating court of Henry VIII. I am also reading Nabokov’s Pale Fire, which is brilliant and hilarious. It’s a novel I’ve owned and wanted to read for a while and recently was reminded that the title is from Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens so my interest was rekindled. With my 8 year old daughter, I am reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio, an amazing novel told from multiple points of view about a 5th grade boy with significant facial differences. He’s a medical wonder; people wonder about him; he inspires wonder in the reader. I think it’s one of those novels that can teach us to be better people and it pleases me greatly that I can share the experience of reading such a book with my child.
When you’re not working, what do you do?
I have an 8 year old daughter and an almost 5 year old son and they keep me and my husband busy. My husband is a software engineer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder and our work lives are busy and complicated, so we usually lay low when we have free time. We like to cook, hang out in Fort Collins, and socialize with friends. When I’m not working or spending time with family, you can usually find me running. I took up running about 10 years ago as a way to get to know Fort Collins and spend time with my husband (who promptly gave it up in favor of cycling). In the last 5 years or so, it’s become a significant part of my identity. Running has taught me a lot about discipline and prioritizing what’s important. I am also frequently amazed by what the body can do (and how much pain I can endure). My main running partner is a professor in the Art and Art History department and we spend the hours on the running path talking about research, teaching, parenting, and of course running. I’ve run 4 half marathons and plan to run my first marathon this coming October in Washington DC. I’m really slow, but that’s okay. Running has also taught me a lot about accepting one’s limitations.
What don’t your colleagues know about you?
A fact that seems to surprise people is that I am Mexican. My mother was born in the U.S. to Mexican citizens. My great grandfather, Ignacio L. Pesqueira, was a general in the Mexican army, Secretary of War, and governor of the state of Sonora. My grandparents were around a lot when I was a small child, and I am told that Spanish was my first language. One of my areas of focus for my Master’s degree was Chicano Literature.
What’s one thing you dream of being able to accomplish in your tenure at Colorado State University?
I just want to keep teaching new classes and growing as a teacher. I hope to teach abroad someday. I am working with the Honors program to set up a summer study abroad program at Oxford University and I’d like to be involved in taking CSU students there. I also hear we will be the new site for Semester at Sea. Traveling the world and teaching on a ship seems like a good and possibly attainable dream.
How does being a parent of small children impact your work?
I probably offer more unsolicited life advice to my students than I used to! Seriously, though, I think being a parent has made me a more nurturing teacher. I want to model kindness as well as rigor and a passion for what I do, because I hope that I do so for my kids as well. Being a parent has made me very efficient. When I am at work, I am working, and I try not to cut into my weekend and evening time with the kids if at all possible.