New professor adds a theatrical flair to the English department

There’s a new face in the English and journalism department this year — Emily Roehl. Coming up from Texas, Roehl ventured back to their Midwestern roots to add their unique perspectives to the Augustana community. 

Roehl grew up in Nebraska but didn’t stay in their hometown for long. As a child, their family moved around often. Roehl attended three high schools before graduating in Springfield, Missouri. They said that moving from place to place shaped a core part of their personality. 

“I’m really glad I [moved around] actually, because it made me really flexible,” Roehl said. “It made me a ‘game’ person. If someone’s like ‘Let’s do this thing,’ I’m like ‘That sounds great! Let’s do it!’ From my perspective, as a grown-up, I look back and I’m so glad that it happened.” 

Roehl continued to travel throughout their formal education. They studied theater and writing in Minneapolis, literature in California and environmental history in Texas where they earned their Ph.D. 

Before going to graduate school, Roehl moved to Japan and taught there while working with local theater companies. 

While Roehl is currently teaching literature classes at Augustana, their background in theater certainly makes an appearance in the classroom. Big, teased hair and intricately unique earrings accompany their wide and bright smile, making it hard not to pay attention to Roehl. There is no shortage of theatrics in their personality and teaching.

And it is also not just the students that they mesmerize.

“[They’re] so charismatic and energetic,” Daniel Gerling, another professor in the English department, said. “For instance, when [they] came in for [their] job talk, [they] were so captivating. Even the faculty who were in the room were completely into their lecture and raising their hands to answer questions.” 

Roehl’s theater background isn’t the only advantage that they have when it comes to teaching.

“They’re very well versed in the liberal arts,” Gerling said. “[They] have a background in literature and American studies and environmental humanities and digital literacies and theater as well. I think that definitely adds to the repertoire that they can draw from when they teach classes.”

This semester, Roehl is teaching English 112, a composition course, and English 200, a literature course focusing on nature writing. However, these literature classes hardly dip into the vast range of Roehl’s academic knowledge.

“Similar to my travels, I’ve also sort of traveled across departments and my teaching,” Roehl said.

So far, in almost 20 years of teaching, Roehl has taught English, dance history, US history surveys, technical communications and technical writing. In the future, Roehl hopes to broaden their horizons when it comes to teaching classes at Augustana.

“I’m hoping in the future to teach more classes related to media studies and film because those are the kind of things that I love,” Roehl said.

While Roehl has many areas of expertise, not all of their passions lie in the academic world. They also have a love for karaoke.

“When I lived in Japan, I got really into going to karaoke rooms. I would often sing Meat Loaf’s ‘I Would Do Anything for Love,’ which is technically a duet,” Roehl said. “I like these big, bombastic, dramatic songs. And basically, that’s the musical theater kid trying to come out.”

With their diverse academic pursuits and theatrical personality, Emily Roehl certainly adds a lot of character to Augustana’s English department.

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