Dr. Heather Duda-Spring 2016 Spotlight on Success

Heather DudaHow did you choose a career in English?
From the age of five I wanted to be a judge.  I had always planned on attending law school after I graduated.  However, I had an internship at a law firm my senior year of college and learned that I did not want to be a lawyer.  I took a year off, worked as a receptionist, and decided to apply for an MA program in Literature because English was my undergraduate major.  During my MA program, I had the opportunity to teach two sections of a composition course and knew at the end of that first day that I wanted to teach college students.

Where did you get your college degrees?
BA in English and Interdisciplinary Studies – Lycoming College
MA in Literature and Criticism – University of Maryland College Park
Ph.D. in Literature and Criticism – Indiana University of Pennsylvania

What’s your favorite memory of your career as a student?
The post-class discussions I had with my friends and fellow students.  I learned at least as much, if not more, about my discipline over a burger and a beer with them than I did in the classroom.  We would hash out “big thoughts” for hours at our favorite local bar.

What are your research or professional interests? What are you working on now?
I am an Americanist, which means that I focus on American Literature.  However, my area of research interest is in film studies, and I usually focus on the gothic/horror genre and adaptation.  I am currently finishing up an essay on the film I, Frankenstein.  After that essay is sent off for publication, I plan on starting research on adaptation issues in the silent film era.

What was your first “big break”?
While working on my dissertation, I had the opportunity to attend an academic conference.  At the conference, I got talking to a representative from McFarland Press, an academic press that specializes in popular culture scholarship.  I told the representative a bit about my dissertation.  A few months later, I received a letter from an editor at McFarland asking me for the first look at my dissertation when I was ready to publish it.  That random conference conversation led to my first publication.

What are some of your greatest or most recent professional achievements?
Because I believe that a good academic is both a teacher and a scholar, I am most proud of the two teaching awards I have won here at Rio and my book and essay publications.

When did you start teaching at Rio? Fall 2007

What subjects do you teach?
I teach all levels of composition, Literary Imagination, American Literature, Introduction to Film, and Literature and Media.  I have also taught courses on Holocaust Literature and Toni Morrison and am currently teaching a course on Walt Whitman.

What is your favorite course to teach at Rio…and why?
Literature and Media.  This course reflects a lot of my scholarship interests.  In addition, it allows me to combine my two favorite things: film and literature.  Finally, I get to teach texts that don’t really have a place elsewhere in my curriculum like The Walking Dead.

What’s the best part of teaching?
Watching my students figure something out for themselves.  When the proverbial light bulb goes on, I know that I have just witnessed a major educational moment and I am always excited to be a part of that moment.

What’s the worst?
I spend a lot of time grading student essays, especially on the weekends.  While this may be the worst part of teaching, I still enjoy the task because it allows me to see my students’ progression through the writing and revising process.

If you could the spend the day with any historical figure, living or dead, who would it be?
Katharine Hepburn.  She is my all-time most favorite actress and she was such an amazing, independent, professional woman at a time when that role was not the norm for women.

What is your: Favorite book:
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.  I have a quote from the novel engraved on my wedding band: “Reader, I married him.”

Favorite movie:
There are so many movies that I can, and do, watch over and over again so it is difficult to determine just one favorite.  Some of the movies I re-watch the most are The Princess Bride, Pulp Fiction, Indiana Jones (the first and third films), and The Empire Strikes Back.

Favorite food: Cheeseburgers

If you could move anywhere, where would you go? Maine

Favorite quote:
“Life is to be lived.  If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.  And you don’t do that by sitting around.”  Katharine Hepburn

If you couldn’t have a career in your discipline, what would you do for a living?
I would be a librarian by day and a jazz vocalist/pianist by night.

What are your hobbies (outside your professional activity)?
I love to travel and see the world, whether that is the county next door or the country half-way around the globe.  I also take ballroom and Latin dance classes.

Do you share your home with family or pets?
My husband, Jeremy, and I have been married two years.  My cats, Porthos and Minerva, let us live with them but only if we do their bidding.

What’s the one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I have climbed Mount Snowden, the highest mountain in Wales.  It was an eight-hour, round-trip hike and the view from the top was spectacular (at least until the fog made it impossible to see anything)

Thanks for sharing your story with us, and congratulations on your success!!

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