Faculty Profile: Dr. Jeffrey Cordell
Jeffrey Cordell, assistant professor of English at Alma College, uses literature to visit other worlds. While the possibility of multiple worlds and universes has always fascinated him, initially he planned to access these worlds in a very different way, he says.
“I really wanted to be a physicist,” he says.“Though it seems like a huge jump, science and English actually have much more in common than people might think because both allow you to observe detail in a deeper way. Fiction highlights specific themes and brings out realities not just of that fictional world but of our world as well through these themes.”
Cordell, who earned his doctorate in English from the University of Virginia, had fantastic professors throughout undergraduate and graduate school who inspired him to follow their paths to teaching, he says. He joined the Alma College faculty in 2011.
“I thought teaching looked like so much fun,” he says. “What could be better than reading books, talking about them and writing about them? It still feels indulgent to me, like I’m getting paid for the thing I love most in the world.”
When he’s not teaching, Cordell can be found at the Writing Center, where he is the director. Working with student tutors who have different majors, he says he gets to explore the worlds of all the disciplines Alma offers.
“In small ways, I get to step out of my own discipline as I move in and out of a particular field of knowledge,” he says. “The other day my tutors and I were reviewing how to help students write scientific lab reports, and it’s really cool to see how other disciplines use writing in different ways. There’s a huge intellectual reward in that, and it’s also a pleasure to work with the tutors. They’re all articulate and very good writers, and they allow me to get exposure to students and professors from various disciplines.”