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One Part Medievalist, One Part Mentor

by Briauhnna A. Phelps

Sarah Adams, Ph.D., has always loved literature. While other children dreamed of being astronauts, doctors, and movie stars, Adams answered the “What do you want to be when you grow up?” question with, “I don’t know. I want to read books.”

Adams went on to complete her undergraduate degree in comparative literature at Case Western Reserve University. She loved the university atmosphere, and her advisor asked if she had ever considered being a professor. “It dawned on me for the first time that professors aren’t spawned in tanks,” said Adams. “I had this moment of, ‘I could be one of you people!’”

Adams now teaches at APU, specializing in Medieval literature, which covers a vast portion of time in British literature. As the only medievalist in the English department, Adams is an invaluable asset. Her value, however, goes beyond her areas of study; she also acts as an advisor and mentor to her students. When asked what her mission as an educator is, Adams replied: “Love students for who they are. They’re whole people, not just a depository for subject matter.”

Students whose inclinations are to be somehow different or those who feel that they do not fit in find that Adams can understand and relate. “Dr. Adams has really helped me appreciate my time here at APU,” said Leslie Butler ’10. “I feel like I can go to her for help on anything from translating Old English to resolving conflicts with coworkers.”

Adams’ favorite courses to teach are those “where we delve into the literature. The best classes are those where we can get lost in conversation about what the text means and what makes it important.”

Adams’ classes, which are one part lecture, one part coursework, and one part open discussion, are unique experiences. “Having a class with Dr. Adams is like having story time in the middle of the day,” Aimee DeLap ’10 said. “They’re not easy, though. Dr. Adams expects a lot from her students, which I respect. She makes us work harder, and we end up appreciating the material we cover so much more.”

When it comes to her classes, Adams does not mind having a reputation as a tough grader, “as long as it goes with reputation of working with students to show them what they can do and how to get there. A major part of my job as an educator is to maintain rigorous standards of scholarship.”

Each semester, Adams teaches Freshmen Writing Seminar, Shakespeare, and English Literature Survey to 1789, as well as specialized courses offered once a year, including a survey of Geoffrey Chaucer’s works. She also serves as the faculty advisor for Authors Anonymous, a student-led writing critique group on campus.

“I feel like I can go to her for help on anything from translating Old English to resolving conflicts with coworkers.”