Secret lives of our profs

Naveed Islam

As a Wisconsin native and Lawrence alumnus, Professor Megan Ward knew all about Appleton and LU before beginning as a professor this fall. She was on the swim team, has fond memories of the VR and fell in love with English literature through Tim Spurgin’s English Novel course.
But, coming back to campus as a professor is an altogether different experience. “Anytime I go somewhere that’s not an academic setting,” she said, “that’s when it feels sort of weird. I find myself kind of slipping back to being my college self.”
Professor Ward was born in Wisconsin, moved to Atlanta when she was five and came back to Wisconsin when she was thirteen years old. “Both of my parents are from Wisconsin,” she said, “so the whole time we lived in Atlanta, we knew that we were just trying to go back to Wisconsin.”
She became interested in English at a very early age. Her “dorky little secret” is that she won a reading contest in fifth grade. “In three weeks, I think I read 120 hours,” she recalled. When Professor Ward came to Lawrence, she read George Eliot’s “Middle March” for the English Novel course with Tim Spurgin and realized that English was what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
Though she always liked teaching, she never thought she would be a teacher. “I had originally thought, maybe grade school, maybe high school. I wasn’t sure, and everyone told me it was such a long road to getting a PhD. I just thought I have to learn more about Victorian literature.”
As a Watson fellow, Professor Ward spent time in England studying George Eliot and pursuing her interest in nineteenth century life and culture. In order to make sure that she really wanted to go to grad school, she took “this random communications-type job” organizing blood drives. “I hid books underneath all of my papers at my cubicle and tried to just read all the time and was not very good at my job. I scurried off to grad school as quickly as I could.”
After earning her PhD from Rutgers University this past May, Ms. Ward was offered the Visiting Assistant Professor’s position by Tim Spurgin and was excited at the thought of coming back to Lawrence. “It’s been a pretty soft landing. I was expecting it to be much harder.”
However, even though she has lived here before, it took time to get re-acclimated to life in Appleton. “The thing that is the weirdest is how nice people are here,” she said. “There is a story I always tell about the day I got the Lawrence job. I was walking somewhere in Philly and a car pulled up as I was crossing, so I slammed my hand down on the hood and made this threatening face and then I thought, ‘this is not going to go over in Appleton’.”
When she is not catching up on the reading for her courses, Professor Ward enjoys spending time with her husband and two-year-old daughter. She is currently working on refining her Romanticism and Major British Writers II class and preparing for her Literary Analysis and Victorian Age classes next term. She has also published two articles, “‘A Charm in Those Fingers’: Patterns, Taste, and the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine,” and “The Woodlanders and the Cultivation of Realism,” Studies in English Literature.