Dr. Catherine L. Elick
The William W. Thomas Chair of Humane Letters
Department of English
English Professor Dr. Catherine Elick likes to say "I became an English major against my will." Two of her three sisters had majored in English and she was determined not to follow in their footsteps. Despite trying to pursue a different path, she was quickly seduced into majoring in English - due both to her love of reading and because she had such fun in her freshman English class.
Elick began honing her teaching skills early. In the third grade, she drew a diagram of the solar system on the kitchen blackboard and "taught" her mother about the planets.
In college and graduate school, Elick says she had professors who mentored her in big and small ways, coaxed her out of her shell and cared about her as a person and thinker. At BC, Elick tries to emulate their care and concern with her students and continues that caring after they graduate by staying in touch via e-mail and cards. Occasionally, she also gets invited to their weddings.
One of Elick's passions - children's literature - has become central to her teaching. Coming to BC in 1988, Elick expanded the course from being offered exclusively to students planning on teaching elementary school to being open to anyone wishing to study children's literature. She also has created a more specialized Interterm course in 19th century children's literature. Elick encourages students to make connections between life and what they learn by sharing favorite books they read as a child and through travel experiences they have had.
Elick incorporates her own past travel experiences into her teaching. As an undergraduate student at James Madison University, she studied Russian language and literature in Moscow and St. Petersburg. While completing her Ph.D. at Vanderbilt University, she lived in London and did dissertation research at the British Museum. During a sabbatical from BC in 1997, she did research at Oxford University's Bodleian Library. These experiences have garnered her many stories and photos, along with memorabilia, which she shares with her classes in British and Russian literature.
In 2003, Elick was honored by the College with the Ben and Janice Wade Outstanding Teaching Award which recognizes excellence in teaching.