Literature rooted in pop culture such as fan fiction is a genre that scholars like Dr. Staci Shultz find intriguing partly because in the past, it has been dismissed as frivolous, Staci says. Today, “acafans” or academics who study fan practices, are attempting to legitimize it and cast light on its potential to make a powerful social impact.
Fan fiction written in response to The Handmaid’s Tale is the focus of Staci Shultz’s current research. It’s also the topic of the paper she presented at the Northeast Popular Culture Association’s conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in November.
“I think that ongoing effort is really important work,” she explains. “What I see happening in fan fiction written in response to The Handmaid’s Tale (the book and the Hulu series) are readers and writers attempting to find ways to use their fiction to meaningfully intervene in the current socio-political climate and to create and cultivate a community of like-minded people.”
Sharing nontraditional literary genres as well as traditional texts with students at St. Thomas Aquinas College is important to Staci and her colleagues in the English department. To that end, she recently developed a new course, Graphic Novels on the World Stage, which examines the evolution of international comics and graphic novels like Batwoman, Maus, and Hyperbole and a Half. These studies often lead to deep class discussions about literacy, gender, and censorship. “The English department faculty listen to what our students are reading and writing (and watching, too) and find opportunities to design courses that reflect those interests,” Staci explains.
Grateful for a career that allows her to do the things she loves most—reading, writing, researching, teaching, mentoring, and collaborating—Staci truly values the connections she makes with students. Likewise, her former students, such as Jessica Parker ’16, value her teaching style as well as her guidance and support. Jessica credits Staci, whom she met in her freshman English class, for helping her declare a major. “I was in the midst of trying to find the best path for myself when it came to my studies and future career,” Jessica says. “I vividly remember Dr. Shultz handing me back a paper and whispering, ‘You need to become an English major.’” Jessica did just that and continued benefiting from her professor’s guidance as her advisor for four years. “Dr. Shultz’s strong character, enthusiasm, intelligence, and energy have always inspired me,” Jessica adds. “She made such an impact on my life and I am proud to call her one of my best role models.”
Besides bringing literature studies to STAC students, Staci has been instrumental in bringing educational opportunities to the inmates at Sullivan County Correctional Facility. She is among a group of faculty at STAC who collaborated with the nonprofit Hudson Link to create a bachelor’s degree program at the facility. Today, Staci teaches an advanced writing workshop at the maximum-security facility. She says she needs to be creative in her approach because her students don’t have access to computers or the Internet. More recently, Staci began teaching English to immigrants and refugees, a volunteer opportunity made possible through Campus Ministry’s work with the Dominican Sister of Sparkill’s One to One program.
Staci, who also serves as a co-advisor for Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society, and as the NCAA Faculty Athletic Representative, earned her doctorate at the University of Michigan and grew up in Colorado. She enjoys returning to her home state to visit Breckenridge, one of her favorite places. Here in New York, she loves spending her weekends hiking with her husband and their rescue dog, Greta.