Ellis Williams: How did you find your way into teaching?
Joel Pace: My mom was teaching art when she was pregnant with me. I guess my first classroom experiences were very early on. My parents, both as artists and educators, valued education and the arts above all else, so that path lead me to become an English professor. I also had some amazing mentors along the way, some of the most kind-hearted and generous people to shine a light on the path for me, and I really owe so much to them. As well as my parents and a music scholarship that helped me get through undergrad.
EW: Who were your mentors and how did they help you out along the way?
JP: The first is the chair of the English department at Providence College (R.I.). His name is Dr. Bruce Graver. I grew up in the inner city and he instilled in me a love of poetry about nature, which was a whole other world I could discover through poetry and trips out in nature from the city I grew up in. There is another professor. I studied abroad in England, I did my junior year abroad at Oxford (England), and I went back to Oxford to do my masters and doctorate, and there was a professor there named Dr. Valerie Dodd, and she really had students focus on self reliance. She really wanted to hear about the ideas we had. Sadly this man has passed on, but his name was Dr. Jonathan Wordsworth, and he was descended from poet William Wordsworth. He was a world expert on romantic poetry, but in his class we’d all sit cross-legged on the floor and I had traveled across the ocean to see what he had to say, and his interest was instead on what the students had to say, which was beautiful to me. Also I had another mentor named Dr. Stephen Gill, and he pushed me to do something entirely different from my dissertation, and was really just a guiding light along the way. I also have to shout out to my faculty in the English department who have been mentors to me, including many of whom now have retired and some of whom now are deceased, but I’ve been at Eau Claire for 15 years and I was mentored by them, because I had never taught in America before I was hired at Eau Claire.
EW: How did you end up in Eau Claire?
JP: I had a really esoteric dissertation topic, which was combining British literature and American literature into Atlantic literature and when I went on the job market I was in England, but I wanted to move back to America and there were only two jobs in the entire United States for what I was doing because it was a new field. Eau Claire was one of those two places and I had such a warm interview process in Eau Claire and I really felt this was the place I wanted to devote my scholarly life.
EW: What is your favorite part about teaching?
JP: My favorite parts are learning from students, and having the privilege of walking a few steps with them in their journey and hearing back from them.
EW: If you weren’t in the English department, what other department could you see yourself in?
JP: I would hope to spend time in a lot of different departments; some of which I would have absolutely no credentials to be and among those would be the music department.
EW: What are your hobbies outside of teaching?
JP: Outside of teaching, the things I love to do are perform live music, including the honor of being a part of the lively Eau Claire music scene. I also love writing poetry. In addition to those two things I really enjoy travel and yoga.