Faculty Spotlight: Elizabeth Anderson
Elizabeth Anderson’s interest in English came from an unusual source: “Star Wars.”
“I was a German and Communications double major my freshman year in college, but in order to fulfill a general ed requirement I took a literature course called ‘Myth and Society’ that changed everything,” she said. “We watched ‘Star Wars’ and analyzed it in terms of Campbell’s Monomyth and Jungian archetypes. I was spellbound. Before that experience, I had lived in a rather literal world; although I had always enjoyed fiction, I had never thought of it as relatable to universal truths. I suppose that experience was my first foray into critical thinking.
“My final paper for that course was an archetypal analysis of Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories, which was so much fun that I kept taking more literature courses until I was surprised to discover that I had earned a major in English!”
Anderson has always taught in some capacity – at two-year colleges, at a private K-8 school, and as a corporate trainer in both writing and technology. She also was an Army Reserve officer for 10 years.
She came to College of DuPage in 2006 as an adjunct instructor and was hired full-time in 2013. While Anderson jokes that teaching is like leading a rock-star lifestyle – late nights grading, the cry of the crowds especially during finals, and the fluorescent limelight – she truly enjoys a profession in which she is constantly challenged to learn.
“How many jobs offer such variety, provide opportunities for constant change and improvement, and reward the employee for talking to interesting people all day?” she said. “While the subject matter I teach is important, there is a much greater lesson to be learned in our classrooms. More than anything, I want my students to gain that inner freedom that comes when we first fall out of our own reality: There is a point when we wake up and realize we are not the center of the world and that there is a whole lot to explore, experience and learn. It’s that tipping point between levels of maturity, and I don’t think we ever stop falling.
“But often for college students, the first, most shocking fall occurs in a general ed course that they think will be dreadfully boring. One new idea gets through and shakes their constructed reality, and they fall out of the so-called comfort zone. It’s uncomfortable at first, but students who are given a safe place to fall get back up and just can’t wait to take another plunge. I love seeing students become learning junkies! Forget Mountain Dew – all they need for an adrenaline rush is to have their reality challenged and a safe place to reconstruct it over and over again.”
Anderson’s inspiration comes from many sources and not always obvious ones.
“I know I should reply with some famous name of a lofty person much admired by the world. But frankly, I really don’t care about ‘the world.’ If it had to be someone famous, I might pick Johnny Cash. Or maybe Jello Biafra (‘Don’t hate the media; become the media’). I could also make an obvious choice, like my husband and children or my mother, and all of these would be true. But if I’m brutally honest about it, I’d say I’m most inspired by the moment – one right after the other.”
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