Very few people could say they have seen Queen, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith and Elton John live; however, this is one of the many things that sets Jill Craven, Chair of English; Professor of Film Studies and Cabinet Fellow at Millersville University, apart from others.
Craven did not go to college with the intent of being a teacher — at least, not initially. She attended the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and pursued a degree in Mathematics and Computer Science.
“I did my undergraduate degree as a math major, because I was excellent at math and because being a woman who was talented in that field gave me excellent job prospects. Indeed, they panned out, and I got a wonderful and exciting career with IBM,” Craven said. “But, in living that career, I found what I did every day didn’t resonate with my values and what I found important. So I went back to graduate school in the liberal arts, because I felt that we needed more of the insights, understanding, and empathy that these subjects gave us.”
From there, Craven pursued a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at UNC – Chapel Hill, where she later taught Comparative Literature, English Literature, Film, French and Writing. She started at Millersville in 1999, and said that many things have changed since then.
“First, the state support of education. I find it unsettling that the state no longer invests in Pennsylvania’s future by funding education at adequate levels,” Craven said. “Second, the respect for the liberal arts. The liberal arts provide the foundation for our democratic society and our thoughtfulness as a people. We are, unfortunately, seeing some of the impact of that lack of focus on critical thinking in our current political campaigns.”
“Finally, student preparation in reading and writing has changed dramatically during the time I have been here, probably because of the impact of the testing culture on public education,” Craven said, noting that Millersville’s English classes do their part in helping students develop their critical reading, writing and analytical skills.
Craven’s passion for learning and teaching is regularly rekindled by her students. “My favorite thing about teaching is enabling students to see situations/texts from multiple perspectives. This is the basis of becoming a competent political being, and when I see students developing their critical thinking abilities, then I know that impact will continue through the rest of their lives and impact others,” Craven said. “That’s how teachers can continue the legacy that we have been lucky enough to be part of–that’s how we can make a difference to our communities by leaving a more thoughtful world.”
She continuously supports creativity and being conscious about one’s world. “I am curious by nature, so my favorite hobbies include SCUBA diving, skiing, reading, and watching films,” Craven said. “I like exploring other worlds.”
“The promise of creativity gets me moving in the morning,” Craven said. “Whether it’s the creativity of making a better curriculum, communicating a concept in class, voicing my opinion in the Cabinet, or solving a student’s problem, that sort of engagement with the present and the potential future motivates me to get to campus.”
The students creativity and minds are some of the biggest reasons she thinks fondly of Millersville. “My favorite thing about Millersville is the students. They want to open their perspectives, to learn, and to make our communities better. Especially the English majors–they have a strong commitment to the liberal arts that fosters a thoughtfulness about decisions that makes not only great careers, but also what my family would call ‘good people.’ There are a lot of ‘good people’ here, and I’m excited to be part of their trajectories,” Craven said.
After over 15 years of being here at Millersville, she still encourages students to chase their dreams, and to never give up on being happy.
“Assess what matters to you, and find your happiness and your meaning in following that path to make a positive difference,” Craven said. “That way, you will maintain your sense of purpose, your integrity, and your relevance as you develop as a person.”
Craven teaches English 237, Literary Research and Analysis. She also heads the English department. To contact her, email Jill.Craven@millersville.edu