Jennifer Mitchell '04 majored in English before earning an M.A. in English at Washington University in St. Louis, and a M.Phil. and Ph.D. in English at the City University of New York Graduate Center. Now Union’s John D. MacArthur Assistant Professor of English, she teaches courses in English and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies, including queer theory, modernism and modernity, the contemporary British imagination, and uncanny texts. While Jennifer was in graduate school in New York City, she worked on the executive board of CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies, an organization committed to queer activism, advocacy and scholarship. She enjoys cooking, throwing parties and is at the “the beck and call of three different cats.”
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
I love exposing my students to literature written to/for/about them—not just old-dead-white-man literature that other old dead white men decided was important. As a result, I love introducing students to texts and ideas that change the way that they think about the world.
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
I am constantly inspired by strong women in my life: my mom and my sister, my incredible colleagues, the three junior modernist scholars I work with—Erica Delsandro, Laurel Harris and Lauren Rosenblum. I’m inspired by outspoken activists who fight for a better world.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
Make space for yourself. This is not easy advice, but there won’t always be a space for you carved out wherever you want to go; it’ll be up to you to tear it open for yourselves. Then, it’s your responsibility to ensure that it’s open to other women and otherwise marginalized groups of people.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
This is a really tough question. On one hand, I want to talk about the fact that I met my best friends from college immediately. And they’re still my best friends. On the other hand, I feel like I should admit that I thought for sure I was going to go to law school after graduation in order to get into politics. And then, I interned for a politician I really admire and realized that I am not at all diplomatic enough to work in politics. That changed everything for me. I went back to English as a major, took classes with some of the faculty members that I’m now lucky enough to call my colleagues, and never really looked back.