This week, we feature Kirsten Parkinson, Director of the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature and associate professor of English. Continue to check back for more faculty and staff profiles.
What attracted you to join the Hiram College community?
Three things really brought me to Hiram:
First, while I was writing my dissertation, I taught part-time at a small liberal arts college in the Chicago area. For the first-time, I had students in class more than once. At my graduate school (the University of Southern California), I would never see my students outside of class or after the one semester that I taught them. I discovered that I enjoyed getting to know my students better and seeing their intellectual growth from course to course.
Second, when I interviewed at Hiram, I had lunch with a group of students. I think one faculty member was at the lunch. None of the other campus interviews that I had involved students that much in the interview process. That experience showed me that students were seen as a central part of the Hiram campus community on all levels. I appreciated that the College included students and that students themselves were that engaged in their own educational experience.
Third, as soon as I was hired, David Fratus, then the chair of the English Department, assigned me to teach two world literature courses in addition to courses in my specialty of British literature. I was terrified, as I had only taught one world-literature book (Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart) before! At the same time, however, that assignment showed me that I would have the opportunity to continue to learn and grow as a reader, thinker and teacher at Hiram.
In your opinion, what is distinctive about Hiram College?
Hiram College attracts brilliant and creative thinkers who often don’t realize how brilliant and creative they are when they first arrive on campus. Hiram nurtures that creativity and allows students to blossom in so many wonderful and unexpected directions. I am amazed at the many fulfilling directions our alumni head after they leave our campus.
What would you like people to know about you beyond your role here at the college?
I love to cook and to eat. During rough times of the semester, I imagine leaving academia and opening a bakery and jam shop called Jammin’ Bread that would also have open mic nights for local musicians. I especially have fun cooking with my six-year-old daughter and exploring new restaurants with her and my husband. Fortunately, they are both adventurous eaters like I am.
What is your favorite book and why?
I teach literature; I could not possibly pick just one or probably even ten. My training is in nineteenth-century British literature, so authors like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Charlotte Brontë will always be high on the list. I particularly love Bleak House, Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre. … Since I was a child, I have also been addicted to mystery novels of all kinds. A recent quirky one I enjoyed was The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry, an unusual cross between Dashiell Hammett and Jorge Luis Borges.
How would you describe Hiram students?
Creative, quirky, smart, modest. Capable of changing the world for the better in a thousand unexpected ways.
Finish this thought: people at Hiram might be surprised to know that I…
Met my husband at speed dating.
What opportunities has Hiram offered you as a person and/or a professor?
… When I wanted to start teaching Writing About Food, my department encouraged me to develop the course, even though I had not taught a creative-writing course before. When I proposed writing a grant for a NEA Big Read program, my colleagues supported me, and I learned a lot about grant-writing and about programming. Since I became the director of the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature, they have helped me to grow our programs in new and fun directions. We are always sharing ideas with each other.
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