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Employee Spotlight: Miriam Kotzin

Miriam Kotzin, at center, with Drexel President John Fry, right, and Abisoeh Porter, PhD, left, head of the Department of English & Philosophy.

April 24, 2015

If you recently completed 45 years of teaching English and writing at Drexel, how many papers — plus essays, poems and stories — would you have graded? How many students would you have worked with? How many courses would you have taught?

For Miriam Kotzin, PhD, a professor in the Department of English & Philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences, that’s 45,000 papers, 7,000 students and about 345 courses, respectively.

Some additional perspective: Kotzin has been on campus for more than a third of Drexel’s 124-year history.

“It doesn’t feel that long,” said Kotzin, who was recognized for her career at Drexel’s annual Service Recognition Luncheon in December. “Forty-five years sounds like a long time, but it went by very fast.”

Kotzin first came to Drexel in 1969, when she joined the Drexel Institute of Technology’s then-Department of Literature and Language as an assistant professor of English. She attributes her long tenure at Drexel to the variety of her roles, which included serving as director of the Literature program and  head of the Humanities and Communications department. Kotzin’s taught everything from public speaking to technical writing, though she primarily teaches creative writing and literature now. 

Notably, Kotzin wrote “A History of Drexel University: 1941-1963” (1983), at the request of then-Drexel president, W. W. Hagerty. A copy of that book and her poem “Challenge” were included in the Drexel University Time Capsule, buried in 2000. She also created and taught Drexel’s first women’s studies course in 1971, long before the University had a women’s studies department or major.

Still, Kotzin says it’s her more recent activity that she’s especially proud of. 

She is best recognized as the founding director of the Certificate Program in Writing and Publishing, created in 2004. That year, at 62, she started Per Contra, an online magazine publishing poetry, fiction and scholarly articles at a time when most online magazines were in their infancy. Per Contra now reaches a readership of 100,000 each year.

Kotzin edited and published authors like John Updike and Maxine Kumin, as well as Drexel faculty and former students.

"As good as it is to publish an established author, it's just as exciting to include someone who's getting started. I'm especially happy to include former students,” she said.

Kotzin said editing every piece in it helps when she works with student writers, and those 45,000 papers graded over her career sharpen her editing.

“One thing informs the other,” she said. “You see that as well when you do your own work.”

She would know: since 2004, Kotzin published multiple novels, four poetry collections and one collection of flash fiction.

When asked about her legacy, though, Kotzin attributes it to her students: all 7,000 and counting.

“I worked really hard on that certificate program, but programs change. What I’ve seen over 45 years here is a lot of things change,” she said. “So what is a good legacy? My students.”

This first appeared in the spring edition of Drexel Quarterly.

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