The Amazing Women Professors of the English and Creative Writing Department

In the Spring of 2019, while still attending Monroe Community College online, a sense of impending doom followed me everywhere I went. I had been going to MCC for two years and was doing amazing in my coursework, yet, I always knew at some point my time would be up. I needed to get my Bachelor’s in English and MCC could not give me that degree. The plan had always been to transfer after two years of community college to save money, and now, the time had finally come. I had an offer from Columbia University on my desk, sitting next to the acceptance letters from both SUNY Stony Brook and SUNY Oswego. In the end, saving money and commuting from home won out the two others. I already had friends at Oswego too — my cousin, John, and his girlfriend, Lilly, who could help be a guiding force to a hopefully more productive social life than the one I’d not-so-much cultivated at MCC. However, even as I paid the deposit to reserve my spot at Oswego, I could not shake the deep anxiety and doubt I had. Most of my professors at MCC simply appeared as names on a screen; their presence in my education disembodied and disconnected. There was no reality I could fathom at the time of understanding my professors as more than the work they’d assigned or the feedback they’d given me, let alone complex personal stories that informed the framework they used to teach. 

Recently, I read a twitter thread by Dr. Stephan Pennington on the way in which Universities that are not Ivy Leagues sell themselves to students: not on their professors or academia, but on their facilities and recreation, “Students don’t care about faculty when looking for their undergrad institution. They assume if the school is ranked well in the US News and World Report, the teaching will be good. So they look to extracurriculars to decide where to go. [...] There was also a third group of students. They told me that they would have cared about faculty, but they had no idea how to judge faculty...because no one talks to them about how to do that. And the faculty aren’t emphasized in the recruitment process in any specific way.” 

I was finally struck by the realization of how much professors had played a role in shaping my experience at Oswego positively to the point I would still continue here, even in a pandemic. Though I had once been an entirely online student, I found myself craving the in-person discussion in my classes, the office hours, and the individual quirks and personalities each professor of mine had in presenting the lessons. Despite successfully developing a large circle of friends at the college, I had truly fallen in love with the academics. The professors in the English and Creative Writing department had been the people who had not only taken my intelligence and dedication seriously, but looked to specifically foster it further.

Though, Dr. Pennington’s Twitter thread stayed in my head through the summer, because it was true. My original despair at coming to Oswego I now recognized as despair about not being able to know or conceptualize who the professors would be that would shape the last two years of my undergraduate education. For all of MCC, I had used Rate My Professor to choose professors, only ever taking another class with the same professor once. Facing another semester of being online, I thought hard about the fact that there was no possible way I was alone in this. I often hear my fellow students talk about how professors make or break classroom experience, including in the area of representation. The women in the English department who had been my professors had been some of my biggest inspirations, and at times, personal mentors that changed my entire perspective on literature (thank you, Fiona!). It was then that I found (something) of a solution: interviewing the amazing women in this department. 

For this article, I interviewed four different professors of the English & Creative Writing Department. All of these women gave me incredible stories and insights into their lives that make each of their presences at this university so incredibly important to fostering the academic well-being of students. This article will be updated periodically with links to each of their articles as their features are published, once a week. You can also keep up with articles by checking on my author page. 

  1. Dr. Elizabeth Briande Bishop 

  2. Dr. M. Neelika Jayawardane

  3. Professor Leigh Wilson, Chair of the English & Creative Writing Department 

  4. Professor Soma Mei Sheng Frazier