Connect with Ann Stanford

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Ann Stanford

Professor Ann Stanford is a full time faculty member of the School for New Learning at DePaul University. She holds a BA from Hollins College, an MA and PhD in English from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College. She specializes in 20th century women’s literature, literature and medicine, incarceration, women and the arts, and poetry from the 20th and 21st century. Ann’s a fascinating person; let’s learn more:

How long have you been at SNL?

Much longer than I thought I’d be!  Chicago is cold and I was raised in Florida.  I figured 5 years maximum and then I’d move back south.  That was 20 years ago.  Every year my connections to Chicago deepened and my love for DePaul, and especially SNL, grew.  How could I leave such a vigorous, exciting, and yes, cold, place?

What do you like about working at SNL and DePaul?

I enjoy being in a community of learners who have experienced some of life’s joys and it’s bumps as well.  My students have taught me a great deal.  Really, they have taught me how to teach.  It’s as simple and complex as that.  When I think of my most valuable lessons as a teacher, I recall they came from students.  Really, adult students are pretty savvy, don’t you think?  They bring so much to the table from which a teacher can learn and grow while she is helping them learn and grow.  I also love the diversity of students at SNL, reflecting Chicago’s great and wondrous diversity.

DePaul has been a place in which I have been able to experiment with projects that best reflect my own values.  I have never had to apologize or explain why social justice is important to me, for example, or learning outside of and beyond the classroom.

What is your current job title, and what are your primary responsibilities at SNL?

I have two job titles one is Vincent DePaul Professor at SNL and the other is Special Assistant to the Provost for Adult Programs.   I currently teach only occasionally and do so as a part-time faculty member, since the majority of my duties fall under administrative categories.  For example, I helped design and implement SNL’s new degree completion majors—course-based major programs in Applied Behavioral Sciences and in Leadership Studies.  I also worked with the College of Communication to help create and implement their new degree completion major in Professional Communication Studies.  For more information on SNL’s degree completion majors, click here and here.

I’ve also been working with the Tangaza College/SNL BA Program in Kenya.  Last year I was in Kenya 3 times and I plan to go this spring again.  SNL has graduated 2 cohorts of students and we have a 3rd cohort taking classes currently.

When you do teach, what are your classes?

I just piloted an online course I designed called “Talking Back to Medicine:  Writers and the Politics of Health.”  I’ll be teaching it again this spring quarter.  It was a great class and I learned so much from my students (this always happens at SNL, I’m happy to say).  We looked at a number of writers—novelists, essayists, non-fiction—and a film to examine how writers can help us think about medicine and health.  In this age of contentious health reform, attempts the class seems particularly relevant.

I’m also teaching a fall and spring Faculty Designed Independent Study to coincide with Chicago’s “One Book/ One Chicago” program.  I offer it for Advanced Electives.  What’s great about this course is that you get to learn from so many of the community events OB/OC offers. I have a group of students signed up for this coming quarter and we are eagerly awaiting the announcement of the spring 2010 book.

Do you conduct research?

All full-time faculty at SNL conduct research.  Most of us came into this field because of our love of research.  I’ve written many articles on African American writers; literature and medicine; and women, writing & incarceration, for example.  My book, Bodies in a Broken World:  Women Novelists & the Politics of Medicine was published in 2003.  I’m working on a co-edited volume of work called Word by Word:  Women, Writing & Incarceration.  I spent about 7 years writing with women at Cook County Jail, which lead to all kinds of things, among them, my interest in incarcerated writers.

I’m interested in beginning work on a project that looks at physical pain and the kind of mental pain of incarceration.  I’ll be using several literary texts to help me figure out the connection.  I believe there is one.  Hint:  Think of the body in pain as a cage.  Think of the prison as a cage.

I’m also conducting oral histories with the Daughters of Charity (the female counterpart to the order of St. Vincent DePaul) in Kenya.  These sisters have done amazing things with their lives and I and my research partner want to document that work.

Did you work anywhere else before you came to SNL?

Here’s something:  I was an adult student too.  I had worked in a variety of social change and social work settings, but without a degree.  In the early 70s, I co-directed residential facilities for street people in Washington, DC and for runaways in Colorado Springs.  As you can imagine, I learned a lot.  I worked for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development for several years as well.  It’s the Catholic Church’s domestic funding agency for grass-roots social change projects across the United States.

I began to feel the need to return to school (I’d done about 2 years of school in the late 60s) and found a continuing education program while I was working with exploited, abused, and neglected elderly people at a community service agency in Roanoke, Virginia.  I enrolled in a class at Hollins College and, BAM! I knew I wanted to keep going to school.  I majored in English with the plan of becoming a high school teacher, but one of my professors talked to me about graduate school and after picking my jaw up from the floor, I applied to UNC-Chapel Hill and went there for my M.A. and Ph.D. in English.

Because my BA work was so life-changing (and tumultuous at times), I knew I wanted to work with adults in some way.  After teaching at UNC in the English department, Women’s Studies, and 2 years in the medical school, I came to SNL.

Three years ago, I fulfilled a life-long dream and went back to school yet again to earn a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in poetry.  It was a wonderful 2 years.

What do you do in your spare time?

I love to garden, just love it.  There is something so soul-nurturing about working with the earth and then seeing it respond with plants, herbs, vegetables and flowers. Such generosity!

I’m also an avid reader.  I love novels and poetry, of course, but I also like reading biographies and history as well.  I like to read books on subjects I know very little about, like the ecosystems found in the crowns of the giant redwoods and sequoias (Wild Trees) or essays by naturalists that open my eyes to the natural world around me.  I also walk nearly every day.  I attend Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts, opera, and dance performances.  My partner and I like going to New York to see musicals and plays.

I also like silence.  Just silence.  One can meet oneself in new and profound ways in silence.

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