Professor Monica Wendel can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to write or read poetry, but she says she was 26 years old before she realized she could turn her passion for words into a viable career.
“Growing up, writing never seemed like a realistic career path,” Professor Wendel says. “I thought, ‘I’m an ok writer, but there are people who are better writers than I am. It wasn’t until I published my first book in 2013 that I realized I could be a writer.”
In fact, before becoming a college professor and award-winning poet, Professor Wendel wasn’t sure what direction her professional life would take. She attended Johns Hopkins University, where she dabbled in environmental science, sociology and philosophy. She finished her freshman year and, still unsure of her direction, she took a semester off and hopped a bus to San Francisco.
When she came back east, she planned to return to Johns Hopkins. But when she called her advisor to register for classes, she learned that her advisor didn’t even know she had gone. So she packed her bags again and headed to SUNY Geneseo. She majored in philosophy with a minor in creative writing, graduated, and after a year with a coffee company in Rochester, headed off to earn her MFA at NYU. That’s where she discovered her love for teaching.
She spent a year and a half as an America Reads/America Counts tutor and served as a classroom assistant for middle school students in Brooklyn’s Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood. She earned a Goldwater teaching fellowship, which took her to Roosevelt Island’s Coler-Goldwater Hospital, a public facility for the severely physically challenged, where she taught creative writing to adults. And she earned a Starworks fellowship to teach writing in a children’s hospital.
“During my time at NYU, I did a lot of teaching, which is something I had never considered doing,” Professor Wendel says. “It was my work at Coler-Goldwater Hospital that made me realize I wanted to teach. I saw how poetry made people’s lives better – how poetry should be everywhere for everyone.”
She says the teaching experiences she had in graduate school helped shape the professor she is today.
“Because I worked with disabled and sick populations and saw their unique perspectives and abilities, I now teach a literature class at STAC that focuses on illness and disability,” Professor Wendel says. “My experiences in hospitals really influenced my career.”
Professor Wendel joined the St. Thomas Aquinas College faculty in September 2010. Since then, she published a book of poetry, No Apocalypse, which earned the Georgetown Review Press poetry manuscript prize. In 2013 she was the writer in residence for the spring season at the Kerouac Project in Orlando. She recently published English Kills, winner of the 2015 Coal Hill Chapbook Contest.
When she’s not writing or teaching, Professor Wendel enjoys running, biking and swimming.
English 101: College English; English 102: Intermediate Composition; English 209: Creative Writing; English 221: Literary Types: Illness & Disability; English 311: Advance Poetry Workshop