Bengal Tales – Julie Gorlewski


Class Year 1985
Major Secondary English Education

Current Occupation Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Teaching and Learning, School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University

What is one of your fondest memories of Buffalo State?
Although it highlights my inherent nerdiness, among my fondest memories are interactions I had with professors and peers in my classes. I enjoyed spirited conversations about educational philosophy, engaged with challenging intellectual content such as quantum mechanics and James Joyce's Ulysses, and learned pedagogical approaches that embrace teaching and learning as political activities. These experiences, coupled with peaceful hours in the library surrounded by infinite texts, shaped my identity as an educator.Julie Gorlewski

Were you involved with any on-campus organizations as a student?
I was a commuter and was not part of any on-campus organizations.

How did graduating from Buffalo State shape your future?
As I mentioned earlier, my professors at Buffalo State College demonstrated several principles that have influenced my development as a scholar and educator. First, they were deeply committed to and knowledgeable about their fields. I took courses from faculty who specialized in authors, such as James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and Henry James, and in genres, such as poetry and science fiction. In addition, faculty focused on authentic applications of knowledge, which they both modeled and expected from learners. In that vein, I took courses in oral interpretation of literature, public speaking, and short story writing. Finally, faculty in the school of education at Buffalo State College was fully dedicated to education as a transformative, political act. Learners and their communities were, and continue to be, viewed as active participants in the construction of knowledge, and inequities are interrupted through pedagogical interventions designed to amplify y the voices of youth. Buffalo State College imbued me with the belief that education is an act of possibility and an obligation to future generations. This stance is essential to my work today.

What accomplishments have you achieved since graduating from Buffalo State?
I earned my master’s degree in Elementary Education (1992) and my PhD in Social Foundations of Education (2008), both from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Since then, I have published nine books and numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and have presented about my research at national and international conferences. As a faculty member at the university level, I have taught and mentored preservice and practicing teachers and co-directed several conferences aimed at education for equity and justice. In my current position, I am privileged to collaborate with colleagues to educate future educators. I am honored to be serving a 5-year term as co-editor of the National Council of Teachers of English publication, English Journal. All these accomplishments hinge on my love of teaching secondary English, my passion for language, and my belief in education as a transformative endeavor. Finally, and most importantly, I have had the great at pleasure of being a parent to four delightful human beings, and having a partner who is my co-everything.

Do you have any advice for current students trying to achieve success after graduation?
Advice about "success" is always a delicate enterprise, since it begins with assumptions about shared understandings of the definition of success. For me, success is defined as doing work that is meaningful in ways that stretch beyond ourselves. Sometimes we have to think hard and stretch our imaginations to find meaning in our work, and sometimes the significance of our efforts is immediate and evident. I stress to my students that every interaction we have with other people has the capacity to perpetuate the status quo, or to interrupt it. That is, every time we connect with human beings, we can make their lives better or make their lives worse. This is true in education, but it is true in every field, in contexts that are small and large. I believe that if we try to make the world a better place, in the trying we will achieve success. My advice, then, is to find meaning, seek justice, and be kind.

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Originally posted: March 2017