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Dr. Jamie Dessart

Professor of English

As a member of the Popular Culture Association, Dr. Dessart presents her scholarship on theory of trans-structuralism in science fiction and fantasy; she also mentors Waynesburg students, taking them to present at the PCA National Conference every year. She teaches inside-out composition classes, gender studies, literary theory and British Literature. 

Dr. Dessart holds a B.S. from the University of Tennessee, an M.A. from Eastern Michigan University and a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Kentucky.

Tell me about your program and your vision for it.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So John begins his gospel and so too we take the Word as our organizing principle; in the English Department, we learn to experience words and craft them into meaningful essays and stories and poems and scholarship. We see ourselves as a community of learners, knowledge seekers who share a love of reading and writing. Like in the book of Acts, so much of what we do centers in a circle, around a table, sharing, eating, laughing and growing together in our faith and our vocation. Throughout my twenty years at Waynesburg, the third floor of Buhl Hall has prepared students through composition and other writing classes, opened their eyes to the world through literature and encouraged their creative endeavors. We plan to continue to preach and teach the Word in evolving classes by expressing diverse worldviews, preparing our majors for the changing world of digital and social media writing and planting the seeds of self-understanding.

What are some of your former students up to now? 

  • In 2013, Julia Paganelli published Blush Less, her first book of poetry.
  • Sarah Wheeler Saxon is the Communications Manager for Keylogic Systems in Pittsburgh.
  • Rachael Crosbie is currently enrolled in the M.S. program in Publishing in Digital and Print Media at NYU.
  • Kari Hanlin earned her M.A. and is teaching at Bowling Green State University.
  • Mary Spenser completed her M.A. in Urban Planning at the University of Pittsburgh.
  • Zackery Yonko is the pastor of Vinco Brethren Church in Vinco, PA.
  • Mariellen Paxton Ramp has her Master’s degree from the University of Westminster, England, and is teaching at the Scandinavian School of Business in Brussels, Belgium.
  • Ryan Devlin was the 2013 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the 2014 National Teacher of the Year. He taught for a year in Australia as part of an exchange program.
  • Kayla Bleckley is a counselor/advocate for the S.T.T.A.R.S. program at Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services.
  • Sarah Huylk Maxwell’s short story “Whales of Minnesota” was a semi-finalist for the Best Short Fiction of the Year in 2016. She’s had poems published in Bluestream, Petite Hound Press, Rappahannock Review and Small Po{r}tions. 

If I were a student considering this area of study, what are some career paths I would be able to pursue?

Teaching is the most common career path, either middle, high school or at a college level. Those who want to write fiction and poetry generally go on to graduate school, as do those who want to be college professors. We have a lot of students who work in the business world in jobs where writing skills are prized. Communications, human resources, grant writers ... there are a lot of options. Then there are the ones who go off the beaten path. Some travel abroad, fall in love with a country, find a job there. Others make their own paths, moving to New York to pursue publishing and acting, becoming managers and leaders, serving others in non-profit and missionary positions. 

What do you think is a true differentiator for WU or your program?

One of the comments we hear all the time from visiting students and parents is how welcoming the faculty is, how we care and are down-to-earth. I think that’s one of the things that make us different; we meet the students where they are, share their interests, think of ourselves as a community who come together with a shared love of writing and reading.

Has this program or associated faculty received any awards or recognition? 

Cory Gohering had a scholarly essay included in an anthology about Stephen King’s “It;” the volume just came out to be timed to the new movie. Jill Sunday had a creative non-fiction piece published too. Both Bob Randolph and Rick Pierce have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry and published a number of poems. One of our graduates had a lesson plan written for a class adopted by the whole state system. A number of our students presented their work at the National PCA/ACA Conference in Washington, D.C., last April. 

How do you prioritize personal wellness, any tips for students and working professionals?

For me, writing is part of my personal wellness regime. If I don’t set aside time to write, I become anxious and stymied; the words build up until I have to let them out. So I try to write at least an hour a day, even if I end up tossing most of it out or revising heavily. The act of connecting brain to fingers to screen is cathartic and necessary for me.

Who would you invite to the perfect dinner party?

Depends upon what mood I’m in and what I want to talk about. As a big Marvel fan, I’d love to sit down with Kevin Feige, The Russo Brothers, Taika Waititi, Ryan Coogler, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, and some of the others to talk about building the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’d love to have a conversation with Geoffrey Chaucer about what other tales he had planned for The Canterbury Tales and invite Christine de Pisan to talk about the controversy of the Romance of the Rose. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

We’re an active department with a sense of humor, a love of our students and a lot of caring hearts.

Preparation for career and life

As a student in the Department of English & Foreign Languages, you will cultivate reading, writing, speaking, and research skills. You'll be prepared for successful careers and meaningful lives grounded in Christian faith and service. English majors can choose among three tracks: creative writing, literature, or professional writing. Secondary Education is offered with either the literature or the creative writing track.