Getting to know professor Griffis

By William Dutton Sterling, KS – April 20, 2018 2:46 PM

When Aaron Brown, department chair of the Language and Literature Department here at Sterling, learned of one individual interviewing to fill an assistant professor position in his department, he was excited, and wanted to see the individual’s interactions with students.

Brown recounted the situation saying, “When she first interviewed here at Sterling two years ago, I was immediately struck by how intentional she was with everyone she meets. We had an event where she got to meet with students, and within a few minutes, she had memorized everyone’s name and was getting into a deep conversation with them, asking insightful questions that get you to really think. I think everyone appreciates that focus, humility, and listening attitude she demonstrates so well.”

Who is Brown referring to? None other than assistant professor of Language and Literature, Dr. Rachel Griffis.

Brown would go as far to say that Dr. Griffis is extremely devoted to her job.

He commented, “Dr. Griffis is a patient individual who is an incredibly hard worker—she doesn’t rest until she figures out a difficult piece of literature, and she takes the time to help lead others in seeing literature in a new light.”

Griffis has benefited from ongoing education, and continually pushes herself to learn more.

Griffis shared, “I have a B.A. in English from Azusa Pacific University (2006), M.A. in English from Chapman University (2010), and Ph.D. in English from Baylor University (2016),” she said.

It has not been only her education that has taken her all over the country, though. She grew up and went to high school in Pentwater, Michigan, before moving to Southern California and Texas, ultimately landing in Sterling.

One of her favorite memories from her professional life came fairly recently while she was in France.

“Last summer, I presented a paper at a conference in France. When I was in my Ph.D. program, I spent a week in Alabama for a seminar on teaching Dante. I love getting together with other scholars and teachers and discussing the big questions of our field and discipline,” she said.

For Griffis, teaching at a Christian college has been well worth it.

She said, “I have always wanted to teach at a Christian college because of the expectation to integrate faith and learning. Faith and theology are very important to me, and so I appreciate the opportunity to help students wrestle with theological questions in writing and literature courses.”

Because of the relative size of Sterling’s campus, Griffis has been able to draw her circle wider.

“At Sterling, I have the opportunity to teach a wide range of courses and work with both majors and general education students. Because it is a small campus, I feel like I am very involved in life at the college, with students and other departments,” said Griffis.

How exactly did Griffis gravitate toward her profession? Unlike many college students, she stayed firm in her major and hasn’t looked back since.

“I have always loved books, ideas and writing. I declared English as my major as a freshman and never swayed from that decision,” she remarked.

Speaking of books, Griffis has a number of favorite authors, and she explains what makes them worth reading.

“My favorite seems to change depending on what is going on in my life. I love Cormac McCarthy because his writing is stunning, and his view of human nature is significant. I like Marilynne Robinson because of the way she conveys theological and social insights through narrative,” Griffis shared.

Her time at Sterling has been fairly short so far, but that hasn’t stopped her from building fun memories with her students.

When recounting one particular time she said, “Teaching young adult literature last semester was a blast! As an educator, I loved having the opportunity to talk to future educators and people who are interested in working with youth to discuss the formative practice of reading.”

A seemingly driven person by nature, Griffis has high hopes for the future.

She commented, “I want to become a better teacher every year. I’d like to continue producing scholarship on American literature as well as faith and learning.” Rachel Griffis

Her current goal for students is widespread, but she believes they all can achieve it.

Griffis said, “I hope that they develop as readers, thinkers and writers. I want them to interpret texts well and to translate those skills to real life. I also hope that they walk away from my class with an appreciation for Christian virtues and a deeper understanding of what is really important in life.”

Brown offered one last remark about the young, dedicated professor.

“Dr. Griffis supplies our department with energy and enthusiasm for literature and what it means to be a person of virtue. She always has creative ideas about the text and how to make the text come alive in the classroom. I certainly look up to her and find that she always has helpful ideas for other professors,” he said.