To make the English department at Ball State more personable, these faculty spotlights will occasionally appear on the blog. I’m happy to inaugurate the faculty spotlight series with Kellie Weiss, visiting Assistant Professor of English:

First, if you could explain where you came from, in terms of your education. And what do you teach at Ball State?
I have a BA in English from Penn State and an MA in English from Duquesne University. I will finish my PhD in 20th Century American Literature from Howard University this July. Excited! At BSU I’ve taught 103, 104, 205, 210, 230, 491, and 493.

What do you enjoy most about English?
Originally, I wanted to be a lawyer. On my undergrad apps I wrote about how I would become a Supreme Court Justice who would be referred to as “the grandmother of the nation.” Yeah, I was reaching. When I realized that English offered all of the debate, reading, discussion, and open-mindedness that I liked and none of the defending murderers stuff that I didn’t, I decided to study literature.

What interests do you have outside of English and literature?
I love to play tennis when the weather’s nice. When it isn’t so nice, racquetball has been a good substitute. I also try to travel as much as possible. I can pack for a week-long trip in about 30 minutes.  I feel lucky, being the first in my family to graduate from college, to have been able to live in four states (PA, MD, CA, and IN) and two countries (US and the Netherlands).  Travel has afforded me the chance to see who I am in different environments and to learn more about what it means to be human.

What piece of advice would you recommend to English students both as they study on a collegiate level and for their life afterward?
Not surprising advice: read. No matter what your area of concentration, just read everything that you can get your hands on… books, newspapers, blogs, graffiti, whatever. Maybe surprising advice: read these articles before you decide to go to grad school:
Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go and So You Want to Go to Grad School?

If you could recommend that all English students read a particular book/poem/short story/essay/etc, what would you recommend and why?
I personally love Jean Toomer’s Cane.  The short stories at the beginning are realistic, irreducible, lyrical portraits of human beings.  To me they offer the best of what literature can be.  Aside from that, I’d recommend Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice.  When you’re faced with as much honesty as Cleaver gives you in that text, you can’t help but confront the foundations of your thinking.

Any last thoughts or comments? Or a good blog or website to “waste” time?
Learning while you “waste” time…
the Root
the podcasts for “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” from NPR
Current (check out the Max and Jason videos)
Just for fun: Photoshop Disasters and One Sentence.