CHRISTINE_RUGGIERO_FInal

Christine Ruggiero

Professor, English
Phone: 860-343-5878
Email: cruggiero@mxcc.edu
Office Location: Snow 520
Office Hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Thursdays 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. and by appointment

Courses teaching (link to online descriptions):

College is where I blossomed. It’s where I fell in love (with books and teaching). It’s where I learned enough about myself to make choices that would be good for me and the life I wanted.

Like many students fresh out of high school, I had no idea what to major in but was advised to think about my interests and extracurricular activities to form some idea about what I might study (not unreasonable considering the cost of higher education). Having been fairly athletic I chose physical therapy. That seemed logical, until I took prerequisite courses and realized I was in a marriage my heart wasn’t in. The defeat and pressure I felt to find a major pushed me to explore courses in marketing, law, philosophy, and pivotal general education courses, such as Diversity and Power and Vice and Virtue—both novels classes. And I fell in love with books. Not only by Dickens and Hardy and Wright, but certainly them too. No. Norma Jean the Termite Queen by Sheila Ballantyne turned my worldview upside down.

It was the eighties, and though the glass ceiling of previous generations had long been shattered, a new, second one hovered. I remember being gently prodded to think about choosing a career I could “fall back on” after getting married and having kids. I didn’t quite know what that meant, but it sounded like somewhere along the way my life would be like a 1950s or 60s sitcom: dinner on the table at 5:00, laundry, dusting, sewing, unless I could twitch my nose to get it all done. Ugh. I was eighteen. I wanted to have time and space—a room of my own—to figure out my life, the one I still had that belonged only to me, my primary self. And there she appeared on the page: Norma Jean. Loving wife. Devoted mother. Courageous female protagonist who challenges the status quo and carves out her garage-garden where she creates art, outside of her domestic walls. Sign me up! I knew there had to be more characters like her, and sure enough there were, and, plenty of male characters who appreciated them.

At nineteen, never had my hopes and dreams been more tapped into than by two of my English professors—Deborah Robinson and James Tackach—whose passion for literature and teaching and whose encouraging comments on my papers influenced the choices I began to make for my future. One night during family dinner I declared that I was going to be an English major and wanted to teach college English. Not only had I found joy but excelled out of sheer desire, curiosity and keenness. Inducted into the International English Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta, I took a pledge, which today, in sweet irony, I continue to uphold: “…to advance the study…of the chief literary masterpieces…to encourage worthwhile reading…to promote the mastery of written expression…and to foster a spirit of fellowship…ever keeping in mind… Sincerity, Truth, Design.”

Following my heart has not failed me yet. It landed me in a month-long program at Wadsworth College, Oxford University, Oxford, England, where I studied Jane Austen and drank tea while discussing her novel Persuasion (on which I wrote my undergraduate thesis). It landed me in graduate school at Fordham University, and Iona College (where I met my husband and fell in love with Emily Dickinson, on whom I wrote my master’s thesis). It landed me my first part-time college teaching jobs and the position I am grateful to hold today, professor of English at Middlesex.

But, as Hemingway said, “Sometimes following your heart means losing your mind.” As a part-time graduate student supporting myself, I’d had five years of losing my mind, juggling classes with working full-time and waitressing on weekends. So I certainly can relate to many of our students who work two and three jobs, multitask additional responsibilities and obligations, yet continue to persevere in their studies. I admire them; they continue to inspire me as a teacher, as an equal, fellow being.

After receiving my master’s in English, I taught part-time for years at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, Queens, and the Bronx, NY; Westchester Community College, Valhalla, NY; and Pace University, Pleasantville, NY, cobbling together a career, until it happened. In 2004 I was hired as a full-time English faculty member at Middlesex. I honestly didn’t believe I could be happier. With becoming a mom, however, came the greatest love I will ever know in my son, and the most life-altering, rewarding job I will ever have.

Some of my passions and interests include bringing notable authors and poets to the College, such as presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco and New York Times bestselling fiction authors and memoirists Andre Dubus III and Beverly Donofrio. Furthermore, among other poets, we’ve hosted Maria Gillan, Kurt Brown, Marilyn Nelson and soldier-poet Brian Turner. In addition to serving as faculty adviser to the Creative Writing Club, working closely with student members on planning and hosting author events and student readings, I serve as faculty editor of Pegasus Literary Journal and regularly teach Creative Writing, Creative Writing: Poetry, and composition, literature, and public speaking courses. Filled with pride in my students’ work, I have mentored several student-poets and storytellers who have been published and have won statewide competitions through the Connecticut Poetry Circuit and the Connecticut Storytelling Center. In general, I aim to keep literary endeavors and poetry alive at the college with the help of my fellow English colleagues.

My hope for students is that they embrace college in all that it can be (what it was for me), the opportunity to know themselves better, discover their passion, and connect even with only one teacher, one text—a book, poem, play or story—a line of literature or a single character that forever changes them and the course of their lives.