Tell us a bit about your background:
I planned to spend my life teaching Shakespeare to college students, but the 2008 financial crisis made the already scarce job pool ever scarcer. I was still in grad school working on my PhD, and sort of had to change gears. I worked as an adjunct, I did some administrative work at the university, I volunteered like crazy. Most interestingly, I volunteered at San Quentin State Prison working with inmates to stage productions of Shakespeare. Then one day I got recruited by a Silicon Valley tech company called Zoho to essentially become their Chief Learning Officer and set up a whole bunch of continuing education programs.
What course in college had the greatest impact on you and why?
Probably the one that first got me on the general thread of what I would come to write my dissertation on was one that was about Shakespeare and Medicine. That class looked interesting…and it was. Just amazing. I learned all about caesarian section in the Renaissance, and wrote some hefty essays on the subject (and childbirth in the period in general) as an undergraduate.
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
“Be compassionate to yourself.” I feel like I have spent so much of my time pointing out my failures rather than my successes that this is a piece of advice I struggle to remember and find incredibly valuable every time I do. I think we all need a little more kindness in our lives; maybe starting with ourselves is the first step.
Who has made the greatest impact on your life and work?
I feel like I learn so much about the human condition by studying Shakespeare. Perhaps, naively, I think that by seeing Othello’s grief and jealousy, my own experiences with those emotions will be slightly easier to process. Or, when I lose people who are near to me, witnessing Lear’s heartache will provide some solace for my own.
Is there something about you (talents, interests?) that people might be surprised to learn?
When I was in college I did professional musical theater. I loved to sing and dance, and figured that was I would do for a living. But Shakespeare seems to have had other plans.
Why do you think Phi Beta Kappa and an arts & sciences education are important in today’s society?
I think it is imperative that people get exposed to critical thinking skills that any rigorous study in higher education should provide. The ability to broadly reflect (on your own knowledge, its shortcomings, and places where a given field is lacking) is essential to fostering thinking that includes depth and breadth.
More than anything, I adhere to the following mantra: Sciences (medicine, engineering, computing) make modern life possible; arts (theater, literature, music) make it worth living.