On Tuesday Nov. 1, the Rollins English Department officially welcomed four faculty members to their new positions by hosting a reading of their selected works. Vidhu Aggarwal, Associate Professor of English, gladly received them in the Faculty Club as hard-working colleagues and thanked everyone for coming. Since the event was open to the public as well as Rollins students, faculty, and alumni, there was a wide range of attendees. After the guests enjoyed refreshments, took their seats, and were welcomed by Aggarwal, the reading began with Professor Victoria Brown. She is the author of the novel Minding Ben and other pieces of published short fiction and nonfiction. After the anecdote recounting how her recent move from Brooklyn, New York to Orlando, Florida had left the official copy of her piece in Apogee Journal tucked inside storage boxes and verbally hoping a typed copy would suffice, she began. Her essay was entitled “Nice Girl and Small Man,” a rendition of a summer trip with her children to Tobago, reminiscent to her own Caribbean roots. She artfully crafts comments on global society into a humorous and compelling memoir.
Next came Professor Matt Forsythe, who sported a black T-shirt spelling out OHIO using iconic Star Wars items. He affectionately explained his attire by saying his works were essentially “a love song to Ohio.” Though he has been lecturing at Rollins for some time, this is his first official year working toward tenure. Forsythe was the first and only to publicly acknowledge his nervousness before reading, saying he wanted his students in the audience to see that it is good to do things that seem scary. He shared two pieces, the first entitled “On Silos: a Q and A.” Published in literary journal The Pinch, the piece humorously weaves a tale of a teenager climbing the side of a silo and falling to his demise. True to the title, it is done in question-and-answer fashion, with an invisible and mute questioner for the narrator to refute. The audience responded well to this unorthodox essay; bursts of laughter could be heard throughout the piece. His second work also imbues humor as the narrator describes the gigantic Jesus Christ statue in Ohio before and after it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
The third reader of the night was Kristen Winet, professor and new Director of First-Year and Academic Writing. She acknowledged her past work in travel writing with a new travel piece she had “just been working on this morning,” “Walking Budapest.” It was told in seven parts chronicling her and her husband’s several-day river cruise and encourages thought on one’s physical ability to travel. She was inspired by the older men and women with physical disabilities either from old age or other conditions who continued to voyage, specifically one man who was often denied access to places because he wore a brace, but enjoyed the cruise all the same.
The last speaker was Ryan Winet, Kristen’s husband and fellow professor. He has illustrated a graphic novel and is an editor for an online poetry journal. In an interesting change of pace, Winet brought his artistic and poetic sides together to present a series of poems on each tarot card of a futuristic fortune-telling machine that has grown arms and legs and become sentient. The poems ranged in length based on the card they were inspired by, yet carried the same amount of intrigue for the audience.
The two dozen spectators held onto every word presented and were not afraid to express their enjoyment of the pieces to the new faculty members after the reading. When asked what she thought of the event, Karlissa Keller ’18 said, “I enjoyed the different styles of the different authors. There were quirky, funny, relatable, and travel…. I might be a tad biased but I liked Professor Brown’s the best for her close-to-home depictions of allergies and travel, especially when mixed. Also, top-notch was Forsythe’s silo piece for his ingeniously engaging interrupted style.” Now that they have been welcomed by their fellow faculty, students, and the community, the four new professors embark on their budding Rollins careers.