The Modern Professor: Expect the Unexpected

When it comes to college professors, I’m guilty of classifying them all as the hard professor, the easy professor, or my personal favorite, the crazy professor. I’m sure some of you ladies have done the same. But this semester, I met someone in a category of her own. I tried my luck by enrolling in Kara Manning’s literature class. Against my better judgment, I didn’t even  check before enrolling. (gasp)

She’s a graduate instructor specializing in Nineteenth Century British Literature. Her knowledge of literature is quite impressive. And, oh yeah, she’s covered with facial piercings and body tattoos. Her hair is edgy with a variety of colors. She not what society expects an instructor to look like; she’s not what I expected an instructor to look like.

After listening  to her and watching her perform in class, I realized that she is an amazing instructor and very educated. She actually used her appearance to help us understand literature. Reading people based solely on their appearance is similar to understanding the different texts in literature. After a few classes, I could tell a difference in my critical thinking process. If you ever encounter a professor, or anyone who seems “different” from what you think they should be, it’s time for you to reevaluate what learning is about. As I interview Kara, I get a better understanding of her views on life, education, and professionalism. Expect the unexpected. She is what I consider the modern professor. By modern I mean, the rejection of what is traditionally accepted or expected.

A few days before Spring Break, I meet Kara Manning in the English Department’s grad students’ office. Like every other grad student, she’s caught pecking  at her keyboard, completing tasks that I imagine are a part of her daily routine as a graduate instructor and doctoral candidate.  We leave the office, so we don’t disturb the other graduate students, and walk to a sitting area down the hall.

HCSM: Okay, where are you from exactly?

Manning: I’m from upstate New York. Upstate refers to anything that’s not the city—pretty much the whole state.

HCSM: What was your major in college?

Manning: I changed majors, and I actually left college for a while. I graduated college in  1999. Yea, I’m 30 now. When I returned to college, I was studying English.

HCSM: Really? So, when did you realize that you wanted to teach?

Manning: Probably… You want a year and specific moment? I’m going to say around 2004. This is kind of a lengthy story. My original plan during high school was to become a stage actor, so I went into theater as an undergraduate. In my third semester, I realized something just wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. I left school for a while and tried some other things. I had a couple of different jobs. I decided to get my license to do hair. I said, “Okay, I have this hands on outlet, I’m going to work at a hair salon, and put myself through school until I figure out what it is…” So I took a few classes at a community college—mostly literature—and I was like, this is it!