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Faculty Spotlight

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Nancy Grossman, Associate Director, Honors Program

The American Studies department cooperates with various departments across DePaul in order to expand its reach to students and to develop its coursework. The Honors Program is one of those departments. Nancy Grossman is the Associate Director of the Honor’s Program at DePaul, an American Studies Program Committee member, and a young adult fiction author. She has been working at DePaul for over 27 years and is committed to enhancing the college experience for DePaul Honors students.

As the current Associate Director of the Honors Program, Nancy advises students who are in the colleges of LAS (including AMS students), CSH, Education, Music, and Theater. She also works with student life programming, oversees the mentor program, aims to make the Honors Program a scholarly community, oversees the academic components of the Honors Program to ensure that the Honors courses coincide with degree requirements in students’ academic programs, and reviews admissions for the Honors Program.  Her favorite part of working with the Honors Program is advising. Nancy works with students who come into DePaul as Undeclared in order to facilitate their selection of a major. In addition she does ongoing academic planning with students; thus, she assists students who want to change their major, add a minor, add a second major, want to study abroad, or are struggling with personal or academic issues. 

In addition to the work she does with the Honors Program, Nancy is on the American Studies Committee in order to find ways to draw Honors students into the AMS program. Nancy also served as a judge for the DeCordova Essay Competition. This is her second year of her affiliation with AMS. 

I always recommend American Studies to students who are undeclared but have a lot of diverse interests. And I present it as a program that brings together so many different disciplines: political science, literature, art history, communication.

Nancy often tells her AMS Honors students that when her son was visiting prospective universities, they went to the University of Virginia. He was particularly keen on majoring in Journalism, but they soon discovered that the university did not have a Journalism or Communications program. They were baffled because Katie Couric graduated from the University of Virginia and pursued a journalism career. When they pulled up her bio, they found that Katie Couric had majored in American Studies.

So when a student makes that brave choice to be in a major that does not have an exact job that’s waiting at the end, I like them to know that these  majors give you the skills to work in a variety of jobs, not just one job. I always tell students: don’t major in a job, because what if you don’t like that job? Pick a major for a lifetime.

​​Previously Featured

Professor Dustin Goltz, College of Communication

“Unconventional,” “intuitive,” “fun,” “charismatic,” and “passionate” are some apt words to describe Professor Dustin Goltz, who prefers to go by  ‘Dusty.’ Born in Chicago, Dusty moved to Arizona at the age of 12. He remained in Arizona to receive his BA at Arizona State University, and then returned to Chicago to obtain an MFA in studio performance from the School of the Art Institute. This program allowed him to gain more laboratory experience in staged aesthetic and multimedia performance production, thus preparing him to teach more advanced level courses. After teaching community college courses for some time in public speaking, intro to communication, intro to film, intercultural communication and interpersonal communication he sought to earn a PhD in rhetorical criticism, performance theory and intercultural communication from Arizona State University in Communication.
After careful consideration, Dusty returned to Chicago for a teaching position in the College of Communication at DePaul. At first, he was concerned that the school would not appreciate part of his research, Queer Studies, particularly because the university is a Catholic affiliate. However, the entire faculty and staff immediately allayed his fears, as they were very supportive and engaged with his work. He claims that the enthusiasm and intelligence of the faculty is what persuaded him to accept the position. He has been at DePaul since 2008 and has recently received tenure.
At DePaul, Dusty works within the “Intercultural” field of Communication, the technical term for using an array of communication tactics. Intercultural communications is, “a major within human communication that looks at communication across difference, within and across cultural systems and how cultural context shapes the production of meaning [whether] performatively, rhetorically, [or] critically.” Formally trained in Communication, his studies and teachings are “rooted in performance studies, wherein theory is positioned alongside and through personal experience to promote critical dialogue.”
Dusty’s training, scholarship and teaching fits very well with the interdisciplinary design of the American Studies Program. Dusty identified “Performance Studies” as his specific field of study and the basis of his dissertation, which focused in particular on queer theory and queer media. His academic influences include several fields in the humanities, including sociology, theatre, art, English, and media criticism. A particular focus for Dusty has been media representation of the LGBTQ community, specifically “queer futurity”:  “In plain terms, narratives of what the future might be, how we construct a ‘meaningful life,’ and mythologies of older gay males (predatory, miserable, isolated) that place queer men in a complex relationship to discourses of time, aging, and future.” His research on “the lived complications of gay future-building” has led him to analysis of gay male representation in relation to aging.

Professor Robin Mitchell, College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

Women’s and Gender Studies Assistant Professor Robin Mitchell explores the complexities of gender and race, especially in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Paris, through a critical, historical lens. In addition to her affiliation with American Studies, Dr. Mitchell is also affiliated with African and Black Diaspora Studies, and the Department of History. She is no stranger to marginalization and believes that working from a peripheral standpoint provides an opportunity to ask different questions in order to arrive at new answers. This method of inquiry is interdisciplinary because it inevitably transgresses the boundaries of any single discipline. After traveling across the United States as the daughter of an air force officer, and working in numerous fields throughout the corporate world, she truly embodies the phrase she uses to describe herself: I am from everywhere.
Professor Mitchell’s book is currently titled Vénus Noire: Black Women, Haiti, and the Production of Gender and Race in France (1750-1850) and it will go into production in 2016 with the University of Georgia Press. It focuses on the representations of black women in France, particularly after the Haitian Revolution, a young girl named Ourika, who was sold as a house pet to the Duke of Orléans; Jeanne Duval, Charles Baudelaire’s common law wife; and Suzanne Louverture, Toussaint Louverture’s wife.

There weren’t that many [black women in France], but they seemed to pop up in these sort of odd places. They show up in paintings. They’d pop up in songs, just these really sort of odd places. They seemed to take up a lot of space in the French imagination.  So I wanted to find out why these black women seemed to take up so much space. And that led me to the Haitian Revolution. I wondered how France made sense out of losing their number one colony. What I realized is that one of the ways that France was working out that loss was by transferring those anxieties onto an-other body, onto black women. It was very difficult to talk about black men, even though black women, of course, were also fighting in the Haitian Revolution. The nature of Revolution often becomes ‘military,’ which is equal to men for many people. When scholars talk about the Haitian Revolution, it’s usually only black men they’re looking at. What I realized is, you can still have a conversation about racial inferiority by [directing the discourse] to another body. Since [France couldn’t really] talk about the inferiority of black men because blacks had won the revolution, France put those anxieties on a black female body.
Dr. Mitchell teaches a course titled WGS 255 Deconstructing the Diva that is cross listed with American Studies. This course examines the history of the Diva. Throughout the course, the definition of Diva morphs from “women behaving badly” to “women who are perceived to be behaving badly.” As a result, the class studies witches, flappers, the prima donna, and racialized Divas like the Black Diva, the Latina Spitfire, and the Asian Dragonlady.

The passion she has in her teaching has not gone unnoticed. Dr. Mitchell has been the recipient of many awards involving her work with students including the Gerald Paetsch Aca-demic Advising Award, the “Woman of Spirit and Action” Award (for two straight years), and the DePaul University ENGAGE Award (for three straight years). We are incredibly fortunate to have her as a faculty member at DePaul.

And I know for a lot of students they’re never going to see a teacher like me again, and that’s a huge responsibility. I don’t take it lightly. I tell my students on the first day. I tell them on the last day too: it’s a tremendous privilege that I get to stand in front of you, but I take it very seriously. This isn’t the place for you unless you take it as seriously as I do, this is a gift that you get to sit in this room. I’ve gotten a number of awards from students and believe me I am so humbled by that. The fact that students feel that you’ve changed them or you’ve helped them. I’m very grateful. I’ve got these awards and notes on the wall because they mean something to me. Students that take the time to write something about you means a great deal to me, so I do not take it for granted.