Faculty Profile: Jessica McCort, Ph.D., Fosters a Love for Writing in Her Composition Classes Friday, January 29, 2016
Jessica McCort, Ph.D., recently joined Point Park as an assistant professor of composition and rhetoric in the Department of Literary Arts as well as coordinator of the University's Writing Intensive Program. Prior to joining Point Park, McCort was an instructor of writing at Duquesne University and coordinator of community engaged learning for the Orbis Learning Community. McCort earned a Ph.D. in English and American literature from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. Her dissertation was titled "Getting Out of Wonderland: Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich and Anne Sexton." An essay collection McCort edited titled "Reading in the Dark: Horror in Children's Literature and Culture" will be released this spring by the University Press of Mississippi.
Who inspired your passion for English and American literature?
I'd be remiss if I didn't say that my mother, above all, instilled in me a love of books. She read to me incessantly as a child, and many of the books I still cherish today I first experienced through her voice. Also, I grew up in a very small town south of Pittsburgh, and books were, for me, a means of escape. I'm proud of the place where I was born and raised, but it could become rather isolating. Books were a portal to other worlds and other people's experiences. On that note, I also think that developing a love of reading at a very young age made me a more empathetic, thoughtful and curious person.
Academically, I've been blessed to have several teachers who taught me to both love books and to read them with a critical eye. It was in their classes, both at the high school and collegiate level, that I discovered a deeper passion for literature beyond merely reading for entertainment. From my 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Medenciy, who taught me what it really meant when the best laid plans of mice and men go astray, to my dissertation advisor, Vivian Pollak, whose memory for historical and biographical detail never failed to astound me in class, these teachers were the real source of my inspiration. Without them, I might never have found a career that I find deeply fulfilling and endlessly new, and I aspire to foster in my students the same love for reading and writing that they instilled in me.
What attracted you to teaching at Point Park?
Point Park attracted me as a vibrant, urban university with a creative student base. I especially love that the University is situated in the heart of Downtown Pittsburgh, which makes coming to work every day exciting. I greatly admire the University's fierce dedication to the arts. To me, Point Park's artistic edge and its location set it apart from other schools in the city and the region, and I'm excited to contribute to the University's continued growth and success as a Pittsburgh institution.
In your first year of teaching college composition at Point Park, what have you learned about our students?
Thus far, I've learned that Point Park students are thoughtful, curious, excited by creative challenge, and willing to take risks. They are also, generally, not afraid to share their points of view and to listen thoughtfully to the perspectives of others. I've also found that they are open to constructive criticism, both giving and receiving it. These characteristics, together, make for an especially productive workspace in the composition classroom.
What is your best piece of writing advice?
To use a very Point Park-oriented comparison, writing is a skill much the same as dancing is a skill. The more you practice that skill, the more you can hone it. So in short, write, write and write some more. Be tenacious.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Read. A lot. Good writers are, generally speaking, avid readers.
Photo by Victoria A. Mikula, junior mass communication major