If you are a Lake Erie student, and literature and writing are your passions, there is a very good chance that you will be taking a number of classes with Dr. Jenny Swartz. Dr. Swartz is assistant professor of English and communication, and is also the faculty leader for the Arts, Culture, and Humanities Learning Community on campus.
Dr. Swartz was born and raised in Bristolville, Ohio and completed her BA and MA in English at Kent State University. In 2002 she earned her PhD at Case Western Reserve University. Her specialization is Victorian literature, with an emphasis on law that affected the middle-class woman. "However, I also do a lot of work in composition theory, writing center theory and praxis, and popular culture,” she said.
After teaching for eight years in a full-time non-tenure-track position at another institution, Dr. Swartz happened upon an announcement for a full-time tenure track position at Lake Erie College. "I applied and, after a rigorous search process and an enjoyable campus interview, was hired,” she said. "I’m blessed to work with wonderful people here, too.”
At LEC Dr. Swartz teaches a variety of classes on the writing process, principles of composition and research, advanced college writing, composition theory and the Victorian age, and she has recently added nineteenth-century American literature and twentieth-century American literature to her list of subjects.
"I like talking about books and writing,” she said. "Getting to discuss big ideas with people and learn from and with them is important to me.” The decision to go into teaching was something that Dr. Swartz decided on very early on. "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 teaching can do: not only does the ability to teach give one the chance to transmit knowledge, but it also enables people to build on what they’ve learned and pass it on to others.”
However, it is not just passion for teaching that motivates her, but also significant love for her own subject. "I get to talk to people about books and writing,” she said. "What could be better? For the writing aspect of my discipline, I love teaching both composition and literature. In both instances it’s amazing to be able to see students grow as writers and thinkers over the course of the semester.”
Working with students who share that passion, and showing them all the opportunities that an English major provides, is a goal Dr. Swartz has set for herself. "English majors have the ability to succeed in any career they choose,” she said. "In addition to teaching, English is an excellent foundation for those who want to pursue law school, journalism, library science or professional writing. Others have obtained employment in many corporate settings.” She sites an amalgam of opportunities that have been presented to the LEC English graduates, which show that potential employers are looking for candidates who can communicate well, both verbally and in writing. "These are necessary skills to have in today’s challenging workforce,” she added. "No matter your ultimate professional goal, being able to demonstrate the ability to read, speak and write well is essential.”
Dr. Swartz is also involved in one of the newest academic programs at LEC, the Learning Communities, and is even teaching one of the courses for the Arts, Culture and Humanities Learning Community, on Superman and graphic novels. "We focus on how Superman’s changing depiction over the years reflects how cultural mores have shifted since he first flew on the scene in the pages of Action Comics #1 in 1938,” she said. The class even visited the restored house of Jerry Siegel, one of the creators of the original Superman comic, right here in Cleveland.
"It’s a lot of fun,” Dr. Swartz said, "especially as students begin to realize that there is a lot more to superheroes than a cape.
"My favorite part of Lake Erie College, however, is the students,” she added. "Having the opportunity to teach students who are thoughtful, prepared and intellectually curious is truly wonderful and makes each day a rewarding experience.”
She gave the example of an LEC student, who also worked at the Writing Center on campus at the time, who went on a semester-abroad program to Scotland. While there, she had the chance to do an independent study on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. "She was able to conduct primary research by visiting, among other places, the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street in London,” Dr. Swartz said."The paper [the student] produced was fascinating and thoroughly informed by the work she did while in Scotland and England. That’s the kind of thing that’s typical for many of our students at Lake Erie College—they are engaged and eager learners who actively participate in their education.”