In our technology-based society and rapidly-changing economic landscape, Dr. Rachel Scoggins, assistant professor of English at Lander, believes an English degree remains one of the most versatile degrees you can earn today. “A lot of what we do is online,” she said, “and that requires reading, it requires writing, it requires communication skills. You can get pretty much any job with an English degree because it tells an employer you can read critically, you can look at multiple angles, and you can write, and those are such an important part of today’s world.”
In recognition of her efforts preparing graduates for a challenging new world, Scoggins was recognized by her peers as the 2023 recipient of Lander University’s Junior Faculty Teaching Award, given annually to a member of faculty who demonstrates the qualities associated with effective teaching. For Scoggins, those qualities are fostering active engagement from students in her classes, encouraging them to find confidence in voicing their observations of literature and learning how to receive criticism from their peers.
“We don’t always have to be right,” she said. “We can still participate and add to a class even if we’re not 100 percent sure about the answer.” She believes critical thinking often requires “stepping out on a limb, maybe coming to the wrong conclusion, but taking that in a different direction and then working through it. It’s an active process, not a passive process of just sitting [in a classroom] and listening.”
In addition to these core academic skills of reading, writing and critical thinking, Scoggins also tries to teach empathy in her classes. She challenges students to broaden their understanding of the world they live in and to consider different points of view. One of her topics in Lander’s Introduction to Literary Studies course, titled “Heroes and Monsters,” lets students explore Monster Theory in selections of literature from the Middle Ages to the present day. “I try to get them to think about how society creates a monster because of differences, or power dynamics, or cultural anxieties,” she said. “Without even discussing current events, examining the reasons people create monsters or enact violence can help students learn to think critically about events going on in the world around them.”
The greatest benefit to teaching and learning at Lander, according to Scoggins, is the small student-to-faculty ratio, which encourages students to get to know their professors and allows professors to more easily mentor students on-on-one. “You get that individual relationship and instruction with your professors that you might not get at a bigger university, and that is so important for some students,” she said.
Scoggins insisted that Lander’s small class sizes make effective teaching possible, not only for her but for her Lander colleagues, too. “So many of our faculty really pride themselves on active learning and the art of teaching,” she said, which is made more difficult with larger class sizes. “You can’t do some of the activities that lead to active learning that you can in a small classroom of 25 and under.” For many students, this supportive, active-learning environment, fostered by faculty members like Scoggins, is what makes earning their college degree a rewarding experience.
But when asked why students should consider getting an English degree at Lander, Scoggins pointed to the program’s own versatility, which reflects the need to prepare graduates who are flexible and able to adapt to a new set of obstacles. Students can choose an emphasis in creative writing, professional writing or secondary education teaching. And at Lander, they can take classes in writing, grammar, rhetoric, and professional editing and revising, in addition to literature courses. “There are lots of different ways you can turn your love of English and reading, or writing, or whatever it is that brought you to English into a viable career,” she said.Learn more about studying English with award-winning faculty at Lander by visiting www.lander.edu/english.