Meet English Prof Elizabeth Kimball
October 22, 2018
Liz Kimball, PhD, assistant professor of English, celebrates the diverse roots of Philadelphia as she seeks to bring that historical legacy alive with her students.
Hometown: Collegeville, Pennsylvania
Degree: PhD in English (Rhetoric and Composition) from Temple University
Research interests: The history of rhetoric and literacy, especially in early national Philadelphia; writing with the community; cross-language experience
What did you do before coming to Drexel?
I taught and directed the first-year writing program at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.
How did you become interested in your area of research?
In grad school, I was studying 18th-century Enlightenment rhetoric and really wanted to go do archival research on schools in Scotland. But then I realized that Philadelphia was a transatlantic counterpart and I was right here, with amazing archives all over. It was extra meaningful since my own family has roots here too.
What book, movie or song has recently inspired you?
Elijah Anderson’s “The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life.”
When is the last time you did something “for the first time”? What was it?
This summer — getting lost driving a car full of family in the twisted streets of Bruges, Belgium. It took us more than an hour to find a parking garage that was a quarter mile away.
If you had a year free from all responsibility, what would you do?
Live abroad and immerse myself in another language.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? How did you ultimately decide to become a professor/researcher?
I don’t know if I ever “decided.” Five years out of undergrad, I missed learning, so I started an MA in English. Then I had the offer to teach. Then I applied to PhD programs. When I was there, I met people who gave me a model for the kind of academic I could be, so I stuck with that path. I definitely didn’t think it was something I could do as an undergrad.
What’s one dinner-party-worthy fact you often share about your work?
We think of colonial Philadelphia as white and English-speaking, but it was incredibly diverse! You were just as likely to hear German spoken as English. African Americans were also a part of Philadelphia culture from the very beginning. It’s really important that we understand that “diversity” is not something that came along later. It’s built in to what we are as a nation.
What would students be surprised to learn about you?
I’m no athlete, but I love a good swim in the ocean. You can find me in the waves as early and late in the season as possible.
What was an impactful moment of your own college career?
Living in northern Japan (which has few foreigners). It made me realize how practically everything we think of as normal is really just culturally particular.
What do you wish you had known when you were in college?
To have more fun!
Which current event/issue do you think students should know more about, and why?
I wish students knew more about history and how alive it is in everything we do.
What does success mean to you?
People learning together.
What do you hope to add to the CoAS community?
I’m really excited to join the people doing such cool work with the Dornsife Center and Writers Room. I’d like to add to these efforts by getting students and community members involved in some projects on history and community life.