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Faculty Profile: Jennifer Young
Assistant Professor of English

Dr. Jennifer Young followed a surprising path to her current position in Hope’s department of English.

“Out of all of my friends, I am the least likely person to be an English Ph.D.,” she laughs. “As an undergrad, I despised English.”

“I didn’t like English for the most part because I didn’t think there was a discipline, really, for literature from my heritage,” she says. “I knew of African-American literature, but I didn’t know how deep that reservoir was in terms of scholarship.”

Dr. Young’s undergraduate studies emphasized journalism and mass communication, and she was interested in creative writing. As she considered graduate study in writing, people around her encouraged her to also pursue literature.

Heeding their advice, she completed an English master’s with a creative writing emphasis and then enrolled in the doctoral program at Howard University. A working internship during her candidacy brought her to Hope, where she now enjoys pursuing unusual topics in scholarship.

“I’ve always been interested in innovative scholarship -- things that no one is doing or has even thought about doing,” she says. “There are so many ways you can move with English. I concentrated on American literature and 18th century literature, but now one of my loves is hip-hop literature and how music is literature.”

Her current studies combine her doctoral work in earlier literature with her passion for rap. “I love rap music. I think it’s misunderstood,” she says. “Hardly anyone who liked the music was writing about it.”

“Right now I’m really trying to focus on females in rap,” she adds. “I think there’s a definite strong link -- continuing connections, strong themes -- from 18th century women writers to 20th and 21th century women artists.”

As a professor, Dr. Young enjoys sharing her passions with students and helping them grow. “I like the confidence factor that comes at the end of the semester when the students are discussing things and using terminology as if they’ve always known it,” she says.

Dr. Young wants her activities to impact the Hope campus, both in the classroom and with student groups. Specifically, she says, “I do want to continue to help make a difference here with issues relating to ethnicity and cultural diversity.”

It is with a deep sense of purpose that she pursues her work as a scholar, mentor, and involved member of the campus community. “My God is at my core, at the center of my being,” she says. “I believe strongly in having a spiritual center. My passion for life drives everything I do.”

This profile was written by Melissa Sexton, a 2005 Hope College graduate from Kalamazoo, Mich., for the 2005-06 Hope College Catalog.

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