Alumna Spotlight: Laura Wright

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ECU Alumna Dr. Laura Wright is the Department Head of English at Western Carolina University, where she currently supervises around 200 students and 30 faculty while teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in World Literature in English, gender studies, environmental literature, and postcolonial theory.

After receiving her undergraduate degree from Appalachian State University, Laura came to East Carolina University to pursue her MA in Literature. After graduating, she continued into the PhD program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Since arriving at Western Carolina University, Dr. Wright has been the recipient of several WCU awards, including the Arts and Sciences Teaching Award, the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, and this year’s University Scholar Award.  She is also a long distance runner and an ethical vegan with two amazing dogs and two lovely cat.

As part of the Spotlight, we also asked Dr. Wright about her time at 
ECU. Here’s what she had to say:

 What drew you to English as your Major?

I became an English major because I loved to read — and I was good at writing about literature.

I also chose English because that major gave me an immense amount of freedom to take courses that were interesting to me.  I had been a psychology major first and then a biology major, but I loved literature, and I made the decision to study it because it was the thing that I was the most passionate about.

What was the best part of the program?

Being in graduate school at ECU was one of the best experiences of my life.  At ASU, I had tried to carve out a niche for myself as a student who was focused on women’s literatures and minority literatures.  When I came to ECU, Dr. Gay Wilentz had just established the Multicultural Literature concentration in the MA.  I knew immediately that this was the focus that I wanted to pursue, so I studied with her, and she directed my thesis, which was on three works of African literature by women authors (Tsitsi Dangarembga, Flora Nwapa, and Buchi Emecheta).  I also got my first opportunity to teach at ECU, and I worked as an assistant editor for the student newspaper.  All of these experiences were incredibly valuable in terms of my future career.

How has your major benefited you since graduation?

Well, my MA and teaching experience at ECU helped me land a job at NCSU after graduation.  I taught as a lecturer there for four years prior to moving to Massachusetts to pursue at Ph.D.  At the University of Massachusetts, I focused on African literature and wrote a dissertation on South African author J. M. Coetzee.  My dissertation later became a book.  My experience at ECU gave me the foundation to do this work, and the faculty at ECU — particularly Gay and Dr. Roberta Martin — were amazing advocates for me in terms of my getting into graduate school and getting a teaching assistantship while I was there.

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Dr. Laura Wright has written three monograph studies and been the lead editor of another book; my next book is forthcoming from the University of Georgia Press in the fall.

More information regarding her latest work can be accessed at:

http://www.ugapress.org/index.php/books/index/the_vegan_studies_project

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