Nicola Imbracsio reflects on studying at Clark and abroad and the ways they have inspired her teaching work today.
As a first-generation college student starting at Clark University in the Fall of 1994, I didn’t know much about college. But I did know two things: I wanted to be an English major and I wanted to study abroad.
Those desires were realized during my time there, as I had the good fortune to study with amazing, dedicated faculty in the English department (like Virginia Mason Vaughan, SunHee Gertz, David Venturo, and Stanley Sultan) and to work closely with Uwe Gertz, who helped me spend a semester at the University of East Anglia, England. These two experiences greatly shaped my identity and my trajectory through life: my work at Clark and my study abroad experience in East Anglia prepared me for graduate school (eventually earning a PhD in English—in Shakespeare—in 2010).
Now, I work at Michigan State University—teaching in and administrating Integrated Studies in the Arts & Humanities, our interdisciplinary liberal arts program. I was asked a year ago if I would be interested in leading a study abroad seminar during the summer. As it has always been my dream to lead a seminar abroad—to provide the opportunity for others to make the important connections between literature, identity, and place—I jumped at the chance. However, the offer was followed-up by the question, “Do you think you could teach a class related to Iceland?”
I’ve never been to Iceland and my work and teaching is not related to Iceland or Nordic literature. My expertise is in early modern British literature—Shakespeare. As a graduate student I had taken several courses on English Medieval literature, but it was a distant memory of SunHee Gertz’s class at Clark—a faded remembrance about something related to powerful female characters in the Icelandic sagas—that inspired me to say “Yes; I can do that.” I went back and read the major Icelandic sagas and developed a course around them that focused on depictions of landscape and representations of gender that I think would make Professor Gertz proud. Additionally, throughout the program I encouraged students in my seminar—as Uwe Gertz did for me—to reflect upon how their experience in Iceland might inspire and inform their choices and selves.
My academic and study abroad experience at Clark not only shaped me during my time at there, but continues to inspire my work today, and I would not be the same person—nor educator—I am without the inspiring faculty of the English department nor the opportunity to extend my education abroad.
Nicola M. Imbracsio, Ph.D.
Class of 1998