ASU English professor fosters deep thinkers and problem solvers

May 12, 2017

Professor Devoney Looser in the Department of English at Arizona State University found her calling to encourage deep thinking and foster lifelong learning as an undergraduate at Augsburg College.

“I was a first-generation college student. I had no idea anyone thought I could go to graduate school,” Looser said. “Cathie Nicoll and other professors who were my mentors helped me imagine a path to a PhD and a college teaching career.” ASU English professor Devoney Looser Professor Devoney Looser in the Department of English teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Jane Austen, British literature and the history of women’s writing. Download Full Image

In 1989, Looser received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Augsburg College. Four years later, she earned a doctorate in English with a certification in women’s studies from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Looser first taught at ASU as a visiting assistant professor of English in 2000. Twelve years later, she returned to the university after teaching at Louisiana State University and the University of Missouri.

“When I joined the faculty as professor in 2013, it was a return to a place I remembered fondly,” Looser said. “I’m so grateful to be a part of an institution that values access and excellence — that defines itself not by whom it excludes but whom it includes and how they succeed. This is an incredibly dynamic, interesting place to be a faculty member.”

Looser teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Jane Austen, British literature and the history of women’s writing. She also taught a workshop on academic job market preparation for graduate students in the humanities, coaching students on application materials and interview preparation.

“I have one of the best jobs on campus,” Looser said. “I get to read, write about and talk about books for a living! What’s not to love? It’s so gratifying to introduce students to new authors and books, especially when you see their excitement in the process of discovery; I try to foster it and feed it.”

The model of problem-posing education is one Looser values as a professor. She believes this philosophy of teaching is critical to encourage deep thinking and a commitment to lifelong learning in her students. 

“I’m not afraid to show students what fires me up. They owe it to themselves to keep looking for the thing that fires them up,” Looser said. “If we want to live in a world of problem solvers and deep thinkers — people who tackle complex issues, who consider moral and ethical complexities, and who can trace the nuances of history and culture — then the liberal arts and sciences are crucial.”

When it comes to being prepared for the workforce, Looser said English majors need to bring their excellent written communication, high-level research and well-practiced analytic skills. They’ll need to hone their abilities to place ideas in historical and cultural contexts. They’ll also need to bring with them an understanding of the persuasiveness and pervasiveness of storytelling.

“Everything from sales to branding to corporate communications requires storytelling,” Looser said. “And by that I don’t necessarily mean saying things that are true or untrue. I mean putting together ideas that speak to us, that rouse our emotions and energies.”

Looser’s faculty responsibilities also involve research. She just finished a book, “The Making of Jane Austen,” which will be published in June by Johns Hopkins University Press. Since this year is the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death, the book will celebrate the author and examine how she became an icon. Publishers Weekly just named Looser’s book to its Best Summer Books (Nonfiction) 2017 list.

“I get to spend a portion of each year in some of the world’s greatest libraries and archives,” Looser said. “I’ve had opportunities recently to share some of my discoveries with a wider public, beyond academe. I hope I’m putting together knowledge that will be of interest to others in ways that are new and fresh.”

When not in the classroom or at the keyboard, Looser serves as the faculty adviser to the university’s roller derby team, the ASU Derby Devils. She advises the team on questions of organization and promotion, and skates with them on occasion.

“I never would have imagined that even my favorite hobby would become part of my job,” Looser said. “The Derby Devils are an incredible group of student-skater-leaders, and I feel incredibly lucky to have a way to get to know our amazing ASU students this way, too, outside of the classroom.”  

Amanda Stoneman

Senior Marketing Content Specialist, EdPlus


ASU to research culture through US military grant

May 12, 2017

There are nearly 200 countries in the world today. In those countries there are various religions, age groups, social interests and economic classes, which themselves can be considered cultures. Now imagine how often these cultures can change over time and how difficult it is to track.

To help in understanding culture, the United States Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences has funded a group of Arizona State University professors through a $1.788 million grant. The project is titled “Broadening our view of culture”.  Download Full Image

The group’s principal investigator is Adam Cohen, associate professor in the Department of Psychology. He brings with him three other psychology professors (Leah Doane, Gene Brewer, and Kevin Grimm), and Carolyn Warner, professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies

While most studies of culture in psychology view cultures as nationalities, this project will take a broader view of people’s cultural identities as including groups that have values, practices, and identities. The four-year project aims to understand how important different cultures are to people, and how cultural identities change or stay the same over time.

There will be a set of studies consisting of focus groups, one using detailed surveys, and one which tracks people over time.  A wide variety of culture types will be examined including, race, religion, generational cultures, etc. The diverse student population of ASU will make up most of the subjects for this study.

The themes for the surveys will emerge from the initial focus groups. The team of ASU faculty will develop questions from the transcripts of these sessions for the next set of surveys, to be fielded on a much larger set of participants. Warner was brought on not only to help develop questions for the focus groups but also to help identify emergent themes from the transcripts, collaborate on creating the large-scale survey and collaborate with the research team on publications. 

Warner commented that, “While often we tend to assume a person's culture is based on an unchanging ethnic or religious identity, this large-scale, multi-method interdisciplinary project led by Prof. Cohen should give scholars, as well as the US military, new means by which to discern the existence of different cultures, their meanings to those who identify with them, and how those cultures change.”

Surveys will be delivered on mobile devices to individuals who self-identify within the various cultures. The ASU faculty will use the results to track how various experiences can influence culture shifts.

Cohen said “I am excited about this work because of its basic theoretical importance and the need for the social sciences to take a broader and richer view of culture. I am also very gratified to think down the line that such work can help protect the lives of American service-people.”

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies