English professor engages students through passion for literature

English professor Lindsey Kurz said she wants students who are discouraged in their writing abilities to feel emboldened in her classroom. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/LINDSEY KURZ

English professor Lindsey Kurz never saw becoming a professor as a likely career option since she herself did not enjoy learning. It wasn’t until her senior year of high school she began to gain a passion for literature. 

The book that sparked her passion was “Their Eyes Were Watching Godby Zora Neale Hurston. Unlike other books she had read before, Kurz said it helped her see that literature wasn’t just about the plotlines – but also about the “beauty of the writing.”

She said discovering her career path later in life influenced the way she encourages her students.

“I didn’t know I wanted to be a professor until much later, it hadn’t even crossed my mind in college,” she said. “So when students tell me that they don’t know what they want to do, I try to encourage them and say, ‘It’s okay, you have time to figure it out.’”

Senior English major Grace Vlaming said that Kurz’s caring nature towards both her students and the course materials create a learning environment where a love for literature can grow. 

“She’s so hands-on and really cares about students and their understanding of the text,” Vlaming said. “She’s passionate about what we’re analyzing, which made me passionate about learning.” 

Kurz said she still had no desire to enter the teaching world while studying for her bachelor’s degree in English at Oregon State university. After taking up English as her first subject she taught, she realized she preferred teaching over researching. 

It wasn’t until a requirement for her doctorate degree at the University of Cincinnati led her into teaching that she was introduced to the idea. She said she was excited to continue after getting her first taste of the classroom and she soon took her first job as a professor at Clemson University. 

But finding her place in the world of higher education was not as easy as she thought, Kurz said. 

Looking for a home program that fit her own goals, Kurz said there was a highly saturated market in academia that complicated the process.

“I was fortunate in finding USF because this position’s emphasis is on teaching rather than research, which is always what I wanted to do. It’s a very hard market. It’s a very hard thing to get into. And I’ve been very grateful for how my career has gone so far.”

One of Kurz’s favorite aspects of teaching at the university is being able to connect with students through literature. 

“I love USF students. They come to class with a curiosity and openness to reading new things,” Kurz said. “There’s no reluctance to engage with the text and talk about content or ideas that are difficult. It makes me really value that mentality, and I try to carry that kind of mentality with me in every situation now.”

Sophomore communications and English major Alex Damiano said Kurz’s broad comprehension of literature makes her a professor she knows she can count on. 

“It’s really admirable how much knowledge she has,” Damiano said. “She makes class such a welcoming place to share discussions and ideas. She’s an amazing professor to learn from.”

The English students may push Kurz to new limits when it comes to analyzing new texts, but she said she also loves to meet students in her general education courses who are apprehensive about writing. 

When she curates a syllabus for a new semester, Kurz said she thinks back on the student she once was and hopes they can walk away with the same love of literature that she was able to discover. 

“I’ll have students come in on the first day and say they’re terrible writers, or that they’re bad at reading, and I want to change their thinking about that,” she said. “Students are already analyzing the world around them without realizing it, so I love them to leave the classroom realizing they have something in them that they didn’t even see.”

“They may be going into different fields, but there is still so much value in being able to see the world through a new perspective.”