Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Ph.D. Candidate in English
Jessica Stark is a Ph.D. student in English, working on certificates in College Teaching and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. In 2012, she earned a a joint master's degree in English from Saint Louis University Madrid Campus and in Cultural Studies and Anglo-American Literature from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. At Duke, Stark has taught courses in creative writing and literature with an emphasis on poetry. She brings immense creativity and thoughtfulness to her courses, as seen through her teaching philosophy. Before taking on her own classes, Stark served as a teaching assistant and taught numerous ESL classes abroad in Madrid.
Stark’s classes prioritize discursive exercises to understand the nuances of literary theory, pop culture, and poetics, engaging students in notoriously difficult topics. Her dissertation focuses on the intersections of seriality, comics, and cartoons in 20th-century Avant-Garde Poetry. She has been published across a range of topics from academic writing to her own poetry. She has received the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies Travel Award, the Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge Fellowship, and two Summer Research Fellowships.
“The term ‘agitate’ implies discomfort but it also derives from impelling or moving forward. In that sense, I aim to agitate my students in terms of allowing them to engage in different exercises that might put them out of their comfort zone, but also to impel them forward and think more deeply about the written word.”
In Their Words
Excerpts from Stark's Nomination
“As someone who bridges popular culture and high art, Ms. Stark is able to reach a broad range of students, meeting each where they begin and bringing them into conversation: the students who believe they have no interest in ‘art’ emerge with a richer understanding of what ‘art’ is and an excitement about how even work that once seemed alien and inaccessible opens up their lived experiences to them in new ways, and, conversely, those who believe the 'popular' is debased emerge with a deeper understanding of the insights popular culture might contain.”
“I saw the effects of Ms. Stark’s teaching (and teaching objectives) very clearly in the students’ engagement, in the sophistication of their questions, and in their comfort taking risks in the class. They were able to articulate the questions the material inspired in them without feeling they had to have answers.”
“The verb ‘agitate’ recurs in Ms. Stark’s description of what she wants her classes to do. To “agitate,” for her, is to awaken—to make students more aware of how meaning is constructed and how information circulates in the world in ways of which we are typically not aware. Pedagogy for her involves challenging students’ assumptions about writing, literature, popular culture, and the world generally.”