"Lucky" Hausknecht Takes on Added Role
Published in Spring 2004 Coe Courier
Associate English Professor Gina Hausknecht is a recipient of a Global Partners Project grant to study in the Czech Republic. She is an instructor of a seminar on Shakespeare for high school teachers in Chicago. She has authored scholarly articles on widely ranging subjects—from 17th century marriage advice books to Milton to the impact of American Girl dolls on real American girls. Last summer, her career attained new heights as she was named associate dean of faculty.
"I can’t believe how lucky I am," said Hausknecht, who has begun the work of revamping the college's general education requirements.
Colleagues would argue that it's not just luck. Dean of Faculty Marc Roy, who appointed Hausknecht to the Assistant Dean position in the summer of 2003, says that when he asked colleagues to give their opinion on possible candidates, the reaction was unanimous.
"Everyone said Gina would be great," says Roy. He continues: "Gina is an incredibly thoughtful person. She listens carefully and knows how to steer a group. She's incredibly fair and a hard worker."
Hausknecht's students would agree. Her classes, always highly enrolled, are known on campus for being intellectually challenging and student-centered. In Hausknecht's weekly Jane Austen seminar this spring, for example, students take turns preparing and leading discussions of the material.
"Gina’s very good at letting the students talk," says Michael Amundsen, 04. "She stays out of the way of our discussions, but in a nurturing way. She’s always there with the life-vest if it looks like our discussion will need help."
"I’ve always known I wanted to teach at a small, liberal-arts college," says Hausknecht, who graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio. She received her master's in 1989 and her Ph.D. in 1993 at the University of Michigan before coming to Coe in 1994. "And I like to learn even more than I like to teach. I feel that if we are not learning, the students won’t learn either."
That’s why Hausknecht encourages student leadership in class and brings new texts and approaches to each session.
"Orbits of Shakespeare," a first year seminar course, has inspired Hausknecht's research, too. The course examines Shakespeare's plays and the way people in different cultures and historical eras have interpreted them. In other words: Why is Shakespeare universally beloved?
A fellowship in the Czech Republic allowed Hausknecht to follow up on that question in another culture. While in Prague, she conducted research on communist-era productions of Shakespeare plays, which often eluded censorship because of awe accorded to the Bard. Hausknecht also got to interview the two leading Czech translators and saw a musical version of "Hamlet."
"It's like the 'Cats' of Prague," laughs Hausknecht.
Late last summer, as she was settling into her associate dean role, Hausknecht took on the role of parent.
On September 5, Jesse Dana Hausknecht-Brown, the daughter of Hausknecht and her husband Matt Brown, was born—two months early. Having a premature baby shook things up.
"It was the first time in nine years that I wasn't defining myself as a professor at Coe College," says Hausknecht. "That had fallen away. But what didn’t fall away was the Coe community. Our friends brought us dinner every night when we were in the neonatal unit of the hospital with Jesse. Even people we didn't know gave us support."
Jesse came home in October and is thriving. And what's it like now adding this new role to all the others, balancing parenthood and professorship?
"When I started back to teaching in January, I felt like I was commuting between two planets," says Hausknecht. "Now it doesn’t seem like that. It's easier to leave home, and easier to leave Coe—I know I’m not giving up either role."
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