DePaul University College of LAS > Academics > American Studies > About > Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight

​​Currently Featured

Libby Massa, Class of 2012

American Studies provides students with a multitude of skills thereby allowing them to pursue a variety of fields after graduation. This
quarter, we want to provide insight into the experience of AMS alumna who have moved into the teaching profession. Libby Massa graduated
from DePaul in 2012. She double majored in American Studies (with a concentration in Politics, Institutions, and Values) and
Women’s and Gender Studies (with a concentration in Social Justice and Public Policy). She is now participating in a two-year Teach for
American program. She responded to a few questions included below:

How did you know you wanted to pursue a career in teaching?

When I was a sophomore at DePaul, I participated in a Service Learning internship through the Women’s and Gender Studies department’s program Take Back the Halls. Over the course of the year, I planned and facilitated lessons on violence prevention and restorative justice as part of an after school program at a Chicago Public High School. This experience was eye opening to me because I worked with so many talented and driven students who were not given the opportunity to realize their full potential. Around the same time I found out about each for America and knew that it was what I wanted to pursue when I graduated because it would allow me the opportunity actively provide those opportunities to students. After graduation I was accepted into Teach for America and taught Kindergarten at a St. Louis Public School for two years.

What are you up to currently, and what are your plans for the future?

Currently I work for St. Louis Public Schools in the Office of Institutional Advancement. My responsibilities comprise mainly of volunteer coordination, partnership facilitation, and teacher recognition. Ideally I will continue to work for a public school district in St. Louis to advance the resources for our students.

How do you feel American Studies prepared you for your teaching career? 

As an AMS and WGS major I was prepared with the right mindsets and research, but not necessarily technical teaching skills. Still, having the right framework to understand institutional inequalities and systematic oppression that influenced the lives of my students daily was invaluable in the classroom. Additionally, as an AMS major I made sure to research the history of public education- particularly pertaining to St. Louis and the political landscape that influenced the current state of education in St. Louis and trends nationally.

How would you recommend AMS to undergraduates?

I would recommend it to all students who are self-motivated and naturally curious. I was very indecisive about which major to declare - I went between Political Science, History, Sociology, English, Geography, Film Studies, and many more, unable to commit to any. Once I stumbled upon AMS I realized that it would give me the opportunity to pursue all of my interests. I think any student who has a variety of interests and loves learning for learning’s sake would benefit from majoring in AMS.

​​Previously Featured

Marlene Chojnowski, Class of 2006

Marlene Chojnowski recently uprooted her career as a speech-language pathologist in the States for an opportunity to live abroad in Prague. While in the Czech Republic, Marlene works as aTeacher Trainer and Observer for The Language House and instructs “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” certification courses. She wanted to temporarily relocate to Europe to gain experience and perspective outside of speech pathology’s concentrated field. Marlene’s time at DePaul and in the AMS Program instilled within her a value for interdisciplinary perspectives, and informs her decisions as a multifaceted professional. 

Marlene’s career development from a Secondary Education major to an American Studies Major to a Speech Pathologist to a TEFL certification instructor reflects the diverse professional opportunities available to AMS students. Marlene’s journey also serves as a reminder that students come to the AMS Program at different points of their DePaul experience. Marlene joined AMS as a senior and quickly translated her Education coursework to an interdisciplinary degree in American Studies. 

Marlene’s time in graduate school fully immersed her in speech pathology studies with a focus in neurological disorders. She identifies a stark difference between her time at Northwestern and her years at DePaul. Graduate school necessitated an intense academic specialization that contrasted with her undergraduate liberal arts education. Marlene appreciates DePaul’s diverse liberal arts requirements and claims DePaul challenged her to take a variety of courses. 

“Northwestern was speech pathology twenty-four hours a day. There wasn’t a part of the program that encapsulated the rest of the world. I was just so focused on speech pathology, and that’s what I went on to do for the next six years. I loved it and I still love the profession, but it’s one of the reasons that I’m here in Prague, because I needed to get out of the speech pathology ‘bubble’. DePaul made sure that from our freshmen year we took a plethora of classes outside of our main area of study. Through the American Studies Program and through the other classes that I took, I was exposed to many philosophies and ideas. I’m glad that I went to a school that promoted not just focusing in on your major.”​

Alexandra Meda, Class of 2007

DePaul alum Alexandra (“Alex”) Meda always wanted to work in politically engaged theater. She graduated from DePaul in 2007 with a double major in Non-Profit Theater Manage-ment and American Studies. She is now the Executive Director at Teatro Luna, the first Chicago based, All-Latina, Non-Profit Theater Company. It was founded in 2000 by Coya Paz and Tanya Saracho. Teatro Luna aims to represent the diverse experiences of Latina, Hispana, and Pan-Latina women while providing a safe artistic, social, political, and educational community. Luna has developed from being a small and locally based company to performing internationally. Alex has made tremendous contributions to the growth of the organization.

Alex traveled to many states and countries as a child and attended a Theater Magnet High School in Orlando, Florida right across the street from Universal Studios. Her sophomore year, she was able to go to the Edinburgh Arts Festival and this visit cemented her desire to pursue a career in the Arts. She moved to Chicago to attend DePaul as a BFA Non-Profit Theater Management Major.

Alex consistently sought to challenge herself academically and would often take 24 credit hours at a time. Her first exposure to an American Studies course was AMS 380: Television and American Identity with Allison McCracken, which led her to explore more American Studies courses and eventually declare it as her double major. She feels being an AMS major was one of her most rewarding times at DePaul:

The American Studies program at DePaul gave me the skills and curiosity to build a life of inquiry and it provided me a critical lens on culture and the status quo.

Alex describes Teatro Luna as destined to be ever-changing because of its mission as an activist, politicized, and safe space for women. In order to decide how they should move forward as an organization, she had to reflect on her experiences with Teatro Luna. Their shows based on real life stories had a profound impact on their audiences, especially those stories that represented women of all types. Also, the process of creating and performing these stories had an effect on the performers themselves. Alex explained that every show gave the women of Teatro Luna an opportunity to transform their own conceptions of gender and subjectivity. She experienced moments of ideological enlightenment with several of their auto-biographical and ethnographic projects, particularly one called Machos.

Machos originated in 2006 and was based on interviews with 150 men from across the country regarding what is means to be a man. Eight women in drag played these men. It was an incredibly self-reflective process for the women who were working on the project.

And we realized, “What is our own role in the promotion of machismo, or aggressive masculine pride?” Although I had loved our previous work and it was all transformative, I think that is what really connected me to the idea that theater is a powerful tool for social change. It was through that project that I realized what this company can do is my calling. I had a vision that the company could exist as more than just a platform for play production. It really needed to build and be for community, and if it could do that here, in Chicago, it can and should do that in other parts of the country. I wanted Teatro Luna to be a national organization. It was necessary. We all came to the table without ego saying “We are going to give to this company and to this community more than we take.” And I think that is key. That is the most fulfilling kind of work.