My experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer provided me with a profession and a research focus when I later returned to school to pursue a doctorate. As a PCV, I taught English and math at St Jospeh's College, a Catholic boys high school in Western Samoa. Operated by Marist Brothers from New Zealand, the school was one of the best in the country, meaning that a fortunate few would receive scholarships for university study in New Zealand, Fiji, or Papua New Guinea. I began my teaching career in February 1976 and haven't stopped since.
Later, as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, I thought back to that school and our curriculum, one borrowed from New Zealand with a largely British orientation. How odd it had felt to teach Dickens and Shaw to students who would probably never leave the island and certainly not the Pacific! And from a student perspective--how strange not to read about your world, about the Pacific and the Southern Hemisphere, but mostly of people and places and events on the other side of the globe. By this time, the late 1980s, I was aware of a burgeoning literary movement emanating from the Pacific region. I wrote my dissertation on Australian efforts to develop a confident literary identity, one free of the British shadow, and I have since moved on to teach and write about books and writers from Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania. I am dedicated to increasing international awareness of Pacific literature.
While at Minnesota, I fell into another major part of my career. The Writing Lab Director resigned mid-year, and I was asked to replace her. For nearly three years, I served as Writing Lab Director; through that experience I became convinced of the benefits of the writing tutorial to the writing process. In my third year at UAF, I assumed the position of Writing Center Director and have since sought to channel our efforts toward serving the writing needs of the campus, the Fairbanks community, and the state.
Originally hired in 1995 to teach world literature at UAF, I have also taught courses in nineteenth- and twentieth-century British literature, American writing through the Civil War, multiethnic American literature, film, the modern European novel, composition and ESL at all levels, and--of course--writing from the Pacific region. When I entered my first classes at St Joseph's College in 1976 and found forty-five faces looking back at me, I wanted only to survive the two-year Peace Corps experience. Thirty-plus years later, I am still--happily--in the classroom.