“I dropped out of high school when I was seventeen and had filled years with autodidactic learning by the time I arrived at Goddard at age twenty-four. Because much of my experience of formal education until that point had been disastrous, I came to the residency in a state of terror, and I would not have made it through my first semester without the support and encouragement of my first advisor, Pamela Booker. Pam’s thoughtfulness, keen insights, and unique ability to affirm through challenging allowed me to experience what education, in the best sense, can be.
“Later I had the privilege of working with Baco Ohama, whose emphasis on context, on weighing multiple considerations, and on finding grounding in a physical practice was important to me in further developing my own critical process and creative practice.
“In my third semester, Sara Michas-Martin’s thoughtful intervention allowed me to lower my critical lens enough to ‘let myself go’ creatively, inviting experiments and innovations that renewed my passion in my work.
“I went to level six after completing level three, thanks to Goddard’s Assessment of Prior Learning Process. Apart from expediting my education, APL validated years of hard work and compelled me to reflect on my own evolving poetics, before and during my time as a Goddard student. My big challenge in level six was addressing the mathematics requirement in a way that was relevant to my life and work. As Neema Caughran’s advisee, I did just that by studying racial classification statistics.
“I got to work with Pamela Booker again for my Senior Study, and she continued to challenge me to think more deeply and widely. Karen Campbell was a thoughtful second reader, providing useful feedback on the first complete draft. Most of the poems I included in my senior study appeared in my 2012 chapbook Dream-Clung, Gone (Brooklyn Arts Press), and the critical analysis I began then prepared me well for my graduate work and teaching.
“I am now a month away from completing my MFA at the University of Pittsburgh, where I also teach writing. As a college instructor, I try to bring Goddard’s emphasis on student-centered learning and Pam’s rare ability to affirm while challenging to my own teaching practice. I doubt that I would have gone to college if Goddard did not exist, and therefore I am continuously grateful to Goddard—and to Pam, Baco, Sara, and Neema, and Karen—for making my life now possible.”
Lauren Russell (IBA ’11) graduated from the Bachelor of Arts in Individualized Studies program in 2011. Her poems and prose appear in jubilat, The Brooklyn Rail, Eleven Eleven, Jacket2, and The Volta, among other publications. She is an editor of Hot Metal Bridge, and her second chapbook, Dream-Clung, Gone, was published by Brooklyn Arts Press in 2012. Find links to Lauren’s writing at her website.