The next chapter
In four years, Alissa Greenberg has accomplished
more than many do in a lifetime. That she has done it in a field traditionally
associated with methodical approaches is even more impressive. Since beginning
her university career in 2008, she has graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in English with an emphasis in creative
writing, and is preparing to pursue a PhD in literature.
In addition, Greenberg has published poetry and
short stories in multiple outlets, including Blue Moon Art and Literary
Review, Zaum, Polaris, and Harmony magazines.
“When I found a subject that I enjoyed so much,
it wasn’t enough for me just to take it at a bachelor’s level,” Greenberg says.
“I want to take something as far as I can possibly take it in school. I want to
learn as much as I possibly can about it. I want to do as much as I can. The
idea of going to the next step has always felt really exciting.”
Uncovering her passion
Ironically, Greenberg was initially unsure of
what she wanted to study upon arriving at Northern Arizona University. Though
she had an affinity for English and literature, she worried about how viable
those subjects would be in helping her to build a career. After immersing
herself in a number of English courses, however, Greenberg’s path was clear.
“When I realized how much I loved English
classes, I started taking as many as I could,” Greenberg says. “I love English.
I found something I’m really passionate about, and I think that that’s pretty
She cites the English faculty and staff for
helping her discover her passion, naming Barbara Anderson, an associate
professor of creative writing, as one of her favorite faculty members.
“My time in Barbara Anderson’s poetry classes
was very influential,” Greenberg says. “She’s so passionate and cares so much
about her students.”
Educating the next generation
Once Greenberg decided on pursuing an advanced
degree, she made up her mind to reach this goal as quickly as possible.
It took Greenberg three years to finish her
undergraduate career in the spring of 2011, requiring her to pack her semesters
with 18 credit hours or more; in comparison, the average semester usually
consists of 15 credit hours. Tackling such an intense workload necessitated
some concessions from Greenberg, which she was prepared to make to achieve her
“It was just being willing to devote a Friday to
homework and maybe not go out with your friends,” Greenberg says. “Sometimes
you have to be willing to make a sacrifice.”
Her hard work paid off. Through her studies,
Greenberg developed a deeper understanding of the literary world through her
analysis of different cultures and texts.
“Everyone’s under the misconception that all
literature classes involve simply studying the classics, and it’s not,”
Greenberg says. “Establishing a broad knowledge base is critical; I took
courses on multiethnic and ancient literature, and one on ancient revenge
tragedies. These different perspectives were hugely beneficial.”
Once accepted into the university’s graduate
program for English, Greenberg had to adapt to a higher level of coursework,
but notes how her study-first mentality helped ease the transition into
“There were a few weeks of feeling overwhelmed
with the new classes,” Greenberg says. “But then you sink into them and realize
what you need to do, what commitments you need to make, and really fall into
Greenberg also teaches English 105 and 205
courses as a graduate teaching assistant. Though she admitted to initial stage
fright upon teaching her first classes, Greenberg feels her love for literature
and drama ultimately helped her to succeed in the role.
“I’ve always loved theater and I love English, so
I felt like teaching was the combination of my two favorite things,” Greenberg
says. “Everyday teaching is like putting on a little one-woman show. Standing
up, speaking, and imparting knowledge all appealed to me. Of course, it’s
terrifying to walk into your first class you’ve ever taught, but I adore
teaching. I love working with students and promoting English.”
Turning the page
As Greenberg prepares to pursue a PhD in
literature – which will be a bit of a departure from her background in creative
writing – she credits the university with giving her the skills to succeed
while preparing her for real-world experiences.
“The university really sparked my passion for
English and gave me the tools to teach, which have been invaluable,” Greenberg
says. “It’s really been useful in every step of preparation for college and