Faculty Spotlight

Get to Know Jill Pruett, Ph.D.

Program

English Department

Course(s)

  • American Autobiography
  • Gay and Lesbian Literature
  • Literature and the Good Life

Education

  • Ph.D.: English, University of Florida
  • B.A: English, Warren Wilson College

Honors and Awards

  • 2022: Haskell Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching, UMass Lowell
  • 2022: Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence, UMass Lowell
  • 2021: English Department Teaching Excellence Award, UMass Lowell
  • 2017: Teaching Excellence Award, UMass Lowell
  • 2014: Innovative Teaching and Learning, UMass Lowell
  • 2012: UAB Faculty Development, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • 2012: UAB Mervyn H. Sterne Library, University of Alabama at Birmingham

“No matter how many times I’ve read the books we’re reading, seeing them from my students’ point of view is always surprising and exciting.”

What is your favorite course to teach and why?

“My favorites are always whatever I’m teaching right now and whatever I’m planning for next semester! I love the active phase of talking (or corresponding—whichever they can do with their schedule) with current students about what we’re reading. But I also love the research phase of creating a new class. I get to read new books and reread old favorites, plus spend time in the library databases finding out what my colleagues at other schools think of the books I might put on an upcoming syllabus.”

How do you ensure online students receive an equal learning experience as on-campus students?

“I’m a big believer in discussion boards because I want online students to have an opportunity to interact with each other. I don’t require students to interact because my sense is that we never require on-campus students to make an arbitrary number of remarks to each other in class. At the same time, communication among peers is so important. My classes are always structured to make that opportunity available.

When I look back on my own college experience, I don’t remember only what professors thought. My classmates also had great ideas that still, decades later, affect how I read and think and write. When I design a class, I prioritize giving students a chance to exchange ideas with each other. If they want to learn more from me after a lecture, they can message me or show up for a chat, but I also incorporate discussion boards so they can find out what their classmates are thinking too.”

What advice do you have for students in the program? 

“My top advice is to read the syllabus for each new class as early in the semester as possible. Reading the syllabus can give you so much confidence starting a class! It can also alert you to resources that might be useful as the semester unfolds or sometimes even opportunities for alternative assignments or creative projects. A syllabus can help if problems arise that you may feel uncomfortable broaching with your professor directly. For example, if you have gotten behind and are wondering what is possible in terms of getting credit for late work.”

What are your passions and hobbies outside of teaching?

“I won’t say it’s completely unrelated to teaching, but I’ve been excited about literary tourism this summer. In June, I managed to do a walking tour called ‘Edith Wharton’s New York.’ During the same week, I visited Edith Wharton’s summer home in Massachusetts! Next week, I’m going on an Oscar Wilde-themed tour of London.

The odds are good that the things I see will come up the next time I teach my Fashion and Fiction class, but at the time I’m planning and doing these things, I’m just enjoying learning more about the material lives of authors I admire. Edith Wharton wrote what might be the first American book on interior design, and right now, I’m especially enthusiastic about researching the interiors of authors’ homes to see how they corresponded to things they said in public writing (and in Wilde’s case, lectures) on style.”

Please visit Bachelor of Arts in English to learn more about UMass Lowell’s online English program.