Two New Faculty Join English and Communications Program3 min read
YEREVAN, Armenia — At the start of the 2022-23 academic year, the American University of Armenia (AUA) welcomed two new full-time faculty to the English and Communications (BAEC) program of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS). Dr. Amy Christmas and Dr. Michael Smith shared with us their first impressions of Armenia and AUA, their love of research and teaching in the humanities, and more.
Dr. Amy Christmas comes from Yorkshire, the United Kingdom. After earning her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in English literature from the University of Leeds, West Yorkshire, she took a post in a teaching exchange program in Poland, which was a life-changing experience for her. From that point on, she was determined to teach English literature to non-native speakers of English in different cultural contexts, which succeedingly included China and Qatar, and now, Armenia. “It is quite a challenge to look at my own culture through the eyes of people who are not from it,” she says.
After visiting Armenia earlier in the spring, Dr. Christmas was quick to realize that AUA was the perfect place for her, “It very much spoke to me in a way that other places don’t. I think Armenia has something quite interesting. It’s very unique, very different from what I’ve seen elsewhere,” she highlights, adding that she enjoys teaching at AUA and that she is impressed by the creativity of AUA students who stand out with their energy and confidence.
Dr. Christmas teaches creative writing and literary studies at AUA and is very much inspired by her students — “the artists of the future,” as she calls them. She has a group of 20 poets whom she especially enjoys teaching this semester.
Both an academic and a creative writer, Dr. Christmas is actively engaged in research and writing. While her academic expertise focuses on science fiction and performance art, she also writes poetry. Her new book is coming out in January. She is a finalist for the 2022 Poetry International Prize.
Despite the noticeable decline in interest in the humanities around the world, Dr. Christmas believes that they are essential to education, especially nowadays as the world is facing numerous challenges, such as pandemics, environmental issues, and wars. “I think there should be more collaboration and cross dialogue between different disciplines. Science needs both the humanities and the social aspect to keep it ethical and to keep the human face to it,” she remarks.
Dr. Michael Smith comes from Illinois, the United States. After receiving his undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Illinois, he decided to follow his passion and pursued a master’s degree followed by a doctorate in English literature from Purdue University, Indiana. His research interests focus on mass production, art, and transdisciplinary studies. Upon graduation, he worked as an assistant professor in the same university, afterwards moving to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he taught for the last three years before coming to AUA.
Dr. Smith is excited to discover Armenian culture and history. Speaking of Armenia, he calls it the nexus of Europe and Asia, with influences from different cultures. He was especially fascinated by the Garni pagan temple that he visited as part of this year’s AUA faculty retreat.
Dr. Smith has had positive experiences with both the city and the University so far. Among different reasons, his decision to come to AUA was also conditioned by the University’s welcoming environment and eagerness to offer transdisciplinary and innovative courses to students, “AUA is open to interdisciplinary transistor approaches, and it’s very exciting,” he remarks, adding “I’m happy to be here and I look forward to exploring more opportunities.”
Currently teaching Communications and Research Methods to BAEC students, Dr. Smith is impressed by their participation and commitment to learning. As a communications teacher, he believes that in terms of effective communication, adaptability would be the biggest takeaway from his classes. He advises students to be open to new ideas and avidly pursue their interests. “First of all, don’t discount anything. If any material is unfamiliar to you, keep an open mind to it. Some things you may like, some things you may not, but in the long run, your palate will have more to it, your taste will get more diverse. Secondly, when you find the things that really stick to you — an experience, a goal — dive into it, read more about it, don’t be shy about it,” he counsels.
Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.