Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Amanda Klein
Dr. Amanda Klein is an associate professor of film studies in the Department of English at East Carolina University. She holds a BA from Cornell University, and a Master’s and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh.
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Where are you from?
I am from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania originally but I moved to Greenville from Pittsburgh in 2007, where I had been living with my husband and daughter as I finished my PhD at the University of Pittsburgh.
What brought you to ECU?
The simplest answer is: they offered me a job! As you probably know, there are far more PhD students than there are tenure track jobs. Most graduate students apply to 50 or more positions in the hopes of snagging one. I was lucky enough to get an offer my first year on the market and now, here we are, 9 years later.
What is your field and how did you first become interested in it?
My intention when I first entered grad school was to pursue a PhD in English literature. But all MA students were required to take an introductory film course and I fell in love with the discipline and switched my course of study. So while I received my PhD from an English department, I specialized in film studies.
What life experience prepared you for your role at ECU?
As a Northerner, coming to Greenville was definitely a cultural adjustment. I had previously lived in Charleston, SC for a year so that gave me a taste of life in the South. But overall, I feel like I am still learning new things about Eastern North Carolina. I’ve really come to love this are and its culture. I feel lucky to be able to experience a region that is so different than the one I grew up in.
What recognitions and achievements are you most proud of and why?
Just landing a tenure track job and then getting tenure are probably the biggest achievements for me, because tenured positions are increasingly rare these days. I see so many brilliant qualified scholars going on the market year after year and coming back empty-handed as the market shrinks. I know I’m one of the few lucky ones.
But I think my biggest achievement has been raising two children while also getting tenure. It’s so hard for mothers in academia and I hope that, much as I was inspired by my professors in grad school who had children and still maintained their research profiles and teaching excellence, I might be inspiring to younger scholars who are considering starting families of their own. We shouldn’t have to choose between being professors and being mothers.
What is your favorite part of your job?
As much as I enjoy research and writing, I would have to say that teaching is definitely my favorite part of my job. Sometimes academics get too deep into their own scholarship and forget about the whole point of going into this profession, which is sharing knowledge with students. I love seeing students get excited about media studies and I love seeing them apply what they’ve learned to the world around them. Media literacy is one of the most important skills students need, and I am so grateful to be able to teach those skills every semester.
Describe one of the most rewarding courses you’ve taught in your time at ECU.
I like all of my classes but I had a particularly rewarding experience teaching Women, Identity and Difference 2 years ago. Here is the description:
“This seminar explores the different ways that American cinema has attempted to represent women. Beginning with the documentary Miss Representation, this course explores how American cinema represents women from different races, economic classes, sexual orientations, ethnicities and body types. The course will explore different facets of a particular American identity from the perspective of mainstream films to independent and experimental features. In addition to looking at isolated identities and what it means to be an African American, white, working class, or disabled woman in America, this course will also focus on intersectionality, or the ways that multiple systems of oppression are felt on individual bodies and how they intersect.”
I loved this class because the material was very challenging and potentially uncomfortable for students; race, gender, ethnicity, sexual identity, etc. are often tough for students to grapple with in a serious way. Students are afraid of saying the wrong thing or offending others with such topics. But those students really rose to the challenge and it was inspiring to witness. They were careful and nuanced and really just listened to each other. At the end of the semester one of my students gave me greatest compliment I have ever received in my SPOTS evaluations. S/he wrote: “I feel like I am a better person for having taken this course.” I mean, how can you top that? That’s the goal for me as a teacher—to help shape responsible, thoughtful, ethical citizens.