OnFeature is Dr. Pushpa Parekh, Professor, Department of English.
Dr. Parekh has published numerous scholarly books and articles and is a recipient of the President’s Award for Scholarly Achievement. Find more about her at her website.
This interview was conducted by Ashley Reid, C’2017, Economics and Political Science Major.
Q. Reid: How did you first become involved with the honors program at Spelman?
In the early 90s, I was a member of the honors program committee under Dr. Winchester. I worked with him and the honors program until 2001 when I was asked to serve as the new honors program director. I was also a part of the honors program on my own college campus when I was an undergrad.
Q. Reid: You often take students to research conferences, why do you think attending off campus conferences is important for students?
Conferences help build confidence for students. As does exploring their ideas in relation to those of their peers. In classes, honors students are working on research through building short papers, so [at conferences] students can share beyond campus. It is a real life context for testing out ideas and challenges. It also helps to build a network of colleagues in that field; an intellectual community.
Q. Reid: How do you help encourage research beyond the classroom?
When students decide on a topic they want to present, I create panels on whatever papers they are working on so they can present. I also organize discussion groups so there are opportunities to present information beyond classroom. Both formal paper panels and relaxed discussion groups encourage students to exchange ideas.
Q. Reid: Talk me about your current research.
I am currently working on 19th century poetry particularly Hopkins. I actually just returned from a conference in Ireland. I’m working on aspects that connect poetry and life on issues of disability. I have already completed a paper on that topic that focuses on disability issues in Hopkins’ poetry. I want to work on that, expand it, and do a formal paper for publication.
Q. Reid: Do you think there is a distinction among honors students here at Spelman?
Honors students come with a lot of assets, in the sense that they are the top students from their respective schools. Thus they need an environment that challenges them and keeps them going beyond what they come with. That is the biggest excitement for me. I teach English 193 and it’s a great time. Students are excited and exploring and I want to encourage students to continue that with a full sense of passion for ideas rather than doing it to get a reward at the end. I think I call it “a life of the mind”: exploring and continuing to explore.
Q. Reid: Do you continue your relationships with students after they graduate?
Absolutely! I Facebook them all the time! We have lifelong relationships. These students do great things and when they come back they send me emails and we meet up. It’s like we will always be connected. We now go off campus together and we bond , and it’s a quality time.
Q. Reid: What is your favorite part of the honors program?
I love the readings in honors and the books. It’s great the way in which students pick their own books they want to discuss and it’s a way they can connect with other honors students at Clark [Atlanta University] and Morehouse [College]. We should continue the tradition of reading books and growing as we read. Writing also gets better as we read. During the first year we introduce students to habitual reading and having intellectual discussion around those books. I also see it as an avenue for their own research and creative potential.
Read more about Dr. Parekh here.