Alum Interviews: Dr. Laura Lisabeth, PhD

The latest in our ongoing series of blog-interviews with SJU English alums features Dr. Laura Lisabeth.

When did you graduate from St. John’s? What degree(s) do you have from us? 

I graduated with a PhD in English in 2017.


What thing that you learned at SJU English do you think has been most helpful to you in your post-SJU career? 

I learned how to read difficult texts from faculty like Dr. Lubey and Dr. Mentz and this has become a favorite part of my academic work. To read and reread until you understand an idea as a tool to use in your teaching or writing is satisfying and fun. From my dissertation chair Dr. Geller I learned how academic writing requires community and how important it is to be a good colleague who can support another writer.


What did your path look like from graduation to your current job?

After graduation I worked for two semesters as an adjunct assistant professor at St. John’s. Then in fall of 2018 I began my current job as a full-time lecturer in Stony Brook University’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric. 


What does a typical day or week look like in your position? 

As a lecturer my teaching load is normally 3/3, but this semester I had some opportunities I couldn’t turn down so I’m currently teaching 4 courses: WRT 102, which is the academic writing course that all Stony Brook students must take, an Honors College freshman seminar, which is team-taught by three teachers from different disciplines, a new upper division writing course titled Writing for Social Justice, which was designed in collaboration with three colleagues, and an online graduate writing seminar. It’s quite a full teaching load, but immensely rewarding! In addition to prepping for teaching, a typical week currently includes a few hours working with colleagues on a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion website for our program, time spent designing an upcoming professional development workshop about linguistic equity for writing faculty, and doing some research for Stonybrook’s Multilingual and Intercultural Center for Research. I’m currently creating an annotated bibliography for their website that will be available to other researchers interested in topics related to language and social justice. 


What is your favorite part of being in your current position? 

I feel so grateful to have had opportunities to work with colleagues who share my interests. We have given workshops for the university and that offered ideas for honoring the language identities represented in our largely international student body. But the knowledge that this wide range of students bring to class is probably my favorite part of the job.


What is your advice to other English majors? 

Challenge the position of standardized English as a universal academic discourse. Read academics who write with other linguistic identities, and cite them.

How have you managed during the pandemic of 2020-21? Is there any way that being an English student has helped you in difficult times? 

There are so many students who have experienced a difficult 2 years—the stress of being a first gen college student, medical and mental health issues, parents who have lost jobs. The pandemic has been rough on students. But, writing courses are small and students can have deep interactions with literature and with each other. Readings that enable conversations about issues like health care inequities and systemic racism are important for everyone, but especially for students who might feel seen in the words of a particular writer. That’s when language is doing what it does best, and students often have that experience when reading an essay by Tressie McMillan Cottom or poetry by Claudia Rankine. Sometimes, I will get feedback from a student who felt identification with something they read and that helps me to feel like I’m doing my job!

About Steve Mentz 1262 Articles
I teach Shakespeare and the blue humanities at St. John's in New York City.

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