Q&A with Dr. Jespersen
How did you discover Western?
I saw Western in a job advertisement. I wanted to teach at a small, state, liberal arts school in the mountain west, so Western was a perfect fit for me.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
Teaching intellectually curious students who are willing to engage with new concepts and ways of thinking has been one of the best parts of my career. I came to literature through women’s studies and early on I was trained to think in terms of how gender issues intersect with race, class, sexuality, physical ability and religion. At Western, I have been able to develop courses from these perspectives. I’ve enjoyed creating courses such as social justice, globalization and literature, environmental justice, women writers, and borderlands, then watching my students run with the ideas we’ve read about and discussed. I have also been able to publish and give conference papers in these areas.
What excites you most about your field?
Stories shape our lives. The way that we use language and narrative deeply matters in how we perceive our worlds, what we imagine to be possible, and how we understand those whose perspectives and experiences are different from our own. At times, literature speaks to our own values and beliefs, but, at its best, it challenges us to see things anew, and asks us to consider alternative ideas. I delight in inviting students to take apart the inner workings of language, so that they understand how and why it makes us think the things that we do. My best days are when students analyze what lies beneath the surface to articulate how particular uses of language mold thoughts, then use their insights and the power of language to evaluate their ideas and envision possibility.
What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?
Living in a place where there is a lot of public land, where hiking, skiing, rock climbing, and mountain biking are plentiful—without large crowds—makes me happy. At the same time, Gunnison offers plenty of cultural opportunities and is a place welcoming to newcomers.