Dr. Laura Thomason plays a major role in getting more MGA students to participate in international programs.
Full Name: Dr. Laura E. Thomason.
Title: Director of International Programs and Associate Professor of English.
Degrees: Doctor of Philosophy in English from University of North Texas (Denton, Texas); Master of Arts in English from University of North Texas (Denton, Texas); Bachelor of Arts in English Education from the College of Santa Fe (Santa Fe, New Mexico).
Describe your service to Middle Georgia State University and the community at large.
"Since joining what was is now Middle Georgia State in 2006, I’ve been privileged to attain a high level of accomplishment in my academic discipline (English), in internationalization, and in service to the institution: I have published a book (The Matrimonial Trap:Eighteenth-Century Women Writers Redefine Marriage, Bucknell University Press, 2014), led a study abroad program to Ireland for the University System of Georgia’s European Council, served as recorder on MGA’s faculty senate, advised two different registered student organizations, and much more.
"I’m particularly proud of the Knights Impact international service-learning program that I co-developed with Prof. Chris Tsavatewa and Dr. John Girard; that program, which traveled for the first time in May 2017, took two dozen MGA students to the Dominican Republic for an immersive week of service-learning projects. I’m also focused on expanding our exchange program with Northampton University in the U.K. We welcomed our first Northampton student to MGA a few weeks ago and already have about half a dozen MGA students eager to travel to Northampton in early spring 2018. Since I started teaching abroad in 2012–2013, MGA students’ participation in international programs has more than doubled because we are offering more international opportunities and publicizing them more fully. I’m honored to have played a role in that increased participation. Going abroad is a big decision for our students and their families, but it has a big payoff for them academically, professionally, and personally."
What attracted you to a faculty position at Middle Georgia State University?
"MGA is that rare institution that unites high standards with a personalized approach. Students from other universities who come to us to take classes often remark favorably on both our academic rigor and our hands-on approach in comparison to their home institutions. Faculty and administrators can offer that supportive environment to our students because we maintain and grow it among ourselves. From my first visit here as a job candidate I was welcomed like a member of the family, encouraged to put forth my best work both in and out of the classroom, and supported by enthusiastic and generous colleagues."
What do you like best about teaching at Middle Georgia State?
"I love spreading and growing my own love of learning by igniting students’ curiosity, whether it’s in a classroom or in an international setting. Students sometimes come to us from fairly regimented educational backgrounds and may be disengaged from their own learning—in short, they’re bored. Dorothy Parker said, 'The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.' International experiences offer boundless opportunities to engage that incurable curiosity, from big-picture questions about cultural norms, human rights, politics, and so on down to the mundane but fascinating 'little differences' as exemplified by Pulp Fiction’s 'Royale with Cheese.' Giving students the tools to engage with unfamiliar environments and then seeing what they find there is incredibly satisfying, as is watching students grow in confidence and competence fed by their own success and intelligent risk-taking."
In your opinion, what does it take for students majoring in your discipline to be successful these days?
"Both in my discipline and otherwise, success lies in attention to detail and in a drive for continuous improvement. You may finish your degree, but you can’t rest on your laurels. What books have you not read yet? What language should you learn next? How could you make your next project more successful than your last one? How could you be taking better care of yourself (that’s important too!) so you can enjoy the success you achieve?"What would students be surprised to learn about you?
"A lot of students are surprised to learn that I’m a competitive ballroom dancer. My husband and I have been dancing and competing together for almost a decade now. There’s no thrill like walking onto that dance floor and making all the hours of practice pay off with a great routine that impresses the audience—and hopefully the judges!"
Photo: Dr. Laura Thomason at the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland, where she led a study abroad group this summer.