New English professor at the Mount cites studies in literature as a springboard into a world of opportunity
When Assistant Professor Diane Piccitto is teaching her students about literature from the Romantic period, not only is she delving into the works of William Blake and Lord Byron, but she is also helping nurture informed global citizens.
“I think now more than ever is an Arts degree valuable, given what we’ve witnessed on the global stage recently, including debates about religion, culture, race, gender, sexuality, national security, social responsibility, personal freedom, and so on,” notes Dr. Piccitto.
“A degree in the Arts trains students to discuss their ideas regularly with others, to be aware of the way words and images can be manipulated to certain ends, and to recognize the role of ideology in society so that they can then make informed interventions in it. . . . It’s this kind of [study] that sparks curiosity about the world and prepares students to be actively engaged in it.”
The newest faculty member in the Mount’s Department of English, Dr. Piccitto came to the Mount last summer by way of Plymouth University in England. She spent several years teaching at the University of Zurich in Switzerland before that. Dr. Piccitto favoured the Mount in planning her next career move for its relatively small size and the benefits that brings.
“My undergraduate experience as well as my more recent time overseas have really made me appreciate a smaller community environment where a personal approach to learning is prioritized,” she explains. “The Mount is a particularly exciting place to be not only for the way it embodies this ideal but also for its ethos of social responsibility.”
A graduate of the University of Western Ontario (MA and PhD) and Trent University (BA Honours), Dr. Piccitto’s interest in English Literature was sparked in high school, but really ignited in university. Inspired by three key mentors along the way – her high school English and Philosophy teacher, her university Romantics professor, and her PhD dissertation supervisor – Dr. Piccitto soon added a love of teaching to her love of literary analysis and her path was set.
“I enjoyed the teaching I had done as a teaching assistant, both because of the material and because of the interaction with students and colleagues; so it seemed only natural to take the next step and make a career of teaching and researching the thing I love – what better job can there be?”
And it’s her students who continue to fuel her passion. On what excites her the most about being a professor, Dr. Piccitto says, “[It’s] that moment in class when some part of a text we are reading fires a student up and something just clicks for them. It’s great because it fires me up, too, which then translates into not only productive teaching energy but also productive research energy.”
When asked why someone should consider studying English, Dr. Piccitto highlights the ability of literature to encourage personal and professional growth, as well as active participation in society.
“Moreover, studying English helps establish and strengthen skills important for many careers. English is a great springboard for a variety of careers in addition to teaching: lawyer, journalist, ad exec, editor, publisher, entrepreneur, politician, diplomat, librarian, communications officer in the private or public sector, and the list goes on.”
Dr. Piccitto adds, “And English at the Mount is especially exciting: the English Department has a strong, stimulating program and terrific faculty – excellent researchers and teachers who are committed to students. All in all, I think it’s a wonderful place to be.”