Faculty Profile: Jenny Swartz
Dr. Jenny Swartz is an assistant professor of English and communication at Lake Erie College, and is also the faculty leader for the Arts, Culture and Humanities Learning Community. The Bristolville, Ohio native completed her B.A. and M.A. in English at Kent State University, and in 2002 she earned her PhD from Case Western Reserve University. Her specialization is Victorian literature, with an emphasis on law that affected the middle-class woman during Victorian time. At LEC Dr. Swartz focuses on teaching classes on the writing process, principles of composition and research, advanced college writing, composition theory and the Victorian age, as well as 19th and 20th century American literature. As a Learning Community faculty leader she also teaches the first-year seminar course for the Arts, Culture and Humanities Leaning Community.
Why did you get into teaching?
I like talking about books and writing. Getting to discuss big ideas with people and learn from and with them is important to me. When I was younger, I saw the film Stand and Deliver (1988), which is based on the true story of one man, Jaime Escalante, who taught Calculus to at- risk students. Those students learned from him and excelled. That movie inspired me about what good teaching can do: not only does the ability to teach give one the chance to transmit knowledge, but also it enables people to build on what they’ve learned and pass it on to others.
How did you choose your specific discipline?
I’ve always loved reading. When I was little, I read all the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books, as well as a wide variety of other things. That habit continued throughout the years—reading is a way to experience other places and see how authors deal with timeless questions. Seeing the world from another’s perspective is invaluable, and I’m so glad that my parents encouraged my love of reading from a very young age.
Could you give me an example of real-world application of your classes?
English majors have the ability to succeed in any career they choose. In addition to teaching, English is an excellent foundation for those who want to pursue law school, journalism, library science, or professional writing. Some recent LEC English graduates have gone on to graduate school in an assortment of disciplines. Others have obtained employment in many corporate settings. The diversity of opportunities that our English majors have indicates that potential employers want graduates who can communicate well, both verbally and in writing. These are necessary skills to have in today’s changing workforce. No matter your ultimate professional goal, being able to demonstrate the ability to read, speak, and write well is essential.
Tell us how you got involved with the Learning Communities, and what do you see as the biggest benefit of a LC membership to the students?
I got involved with the LEC Learning Communities as they were initially being formed. When the idea was first circulated, I was asked to be the faculty leader for the Arts, Culture, and Humanities Learning Community and I was very enthusiastic about becoming involved in this endeavor. When I was as student at Kent State, I belonged to the Honors College, which gave me insight into how valuable a Learning Community model can be. Students are able to form life long bonds with others in their cohort. Seeing students discuss ideas in class and then hearing about how that discussion carried on to other venues is great. A conversation we start in class might pop up again for them during movie night or some of the other Learning Community activities. Having them report back the results of those ongoing conversations leads to even better class discussion! The students not only benefit by forming those close ties with others in their Learning Community group, but also have the chance to compete for further scholarships and educational opportunities in the spring semester. Many of last year’s group maintained the requisite GPA so that they were eligible for additional Learning Community benefits and increased scholarship monies. If nothing else, the Learning Communities are a fabulous opportunity since they provide students with specialized classes that will help them become more marketable after they graduate from Lake Erie College.
What was your favorite moment from the events your Learning Community was participated in last year?
We have a lot of wonderful events in our Learning Community, but my favorite is always the fall field trip to the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Superman House. Students learn so much from the docent at the Maltz, not only about Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster, the Cleveland teens who created Superman, but also about the Holocaust. Our docent in recent years has been a man who is a survivor of a Displaced Persons camp, and the story of how he came to Cleveland and was adopted by a local family is a fascinating account of courage and survival. He also shows students the research he did to find his family history and it is an excellent lesson for students in how to employ creative strategies to conduct research as well as how to make sense of a wide ranging set of primary documents. On the way back to campus, we stop at the Superman House in Glenville, which is the home where Jerry Siegel grew up and where Superman first took form. Students enjoy getting to see this piece of local history that has had such an impact on the world. What has become a billion dollar industry had its roots in a small house in Glenville—proof that amazing things start in the most unexpected of ways.