Carson: I always loved literature in high school, it was one
of my favorite classes, but I started out, actually, as a history major.
ĎCause I thought I wanted-- I also really liked my history teachers, and
I liked history. And I thought I wasnít good enough to be an English
major, I thought it was something sort of to aspire to. And so, an early
professor at Florida State, a professor of English, said after reading a
paper of mine, ďWhy donít you become an English major?Ē ďOh, do you
think I can?Ē And that became one of those things that I later worked
into an article of mine, that idea of a professor tapping a student.
Sometimes all I think thatís needed is for someone to say, ďYou know, I
think you could do that,Ē and it just opened up the whole world to me,
so I stopped being a history major and became an English major. And a
few other things played in there, too, I also-- At that time I thought I
was going to teach high school, and I found out that you couldnít just
teach American history, which is what I wanted to teach; you had to
teach, you know, geography and all sorts of other things if you were--
So you had to major in social science. And then I found out that to
teach in high school, you had to take education courses, and I had heard
that they were pretty fluffy and not very challenging, so I didnít want
to do that, so by that time I was thinking that I wanted to teach in
college. So, thatís how I got to English.
Carson Discusses her Teaching Experience (Play Audio)
Carson: So in 1972, my husband was appointed to assistant professor at Rollins in the physics department, and so it was sort of his turn to get the job, because Iíd always had the jobs before, and so we came here -- he came here. And I thought, Iíve never had any trouble getting a job before, and so surely something will come up either at Rollins or at University of Central Florida, which was then, uh--
Carson: And I remember particularly, once in that class the students were asked to do a presentation, and I donít even know what the presentation -- Well, some book; thatís right, they chose a book and they were giving a background lecture, or maybe just conducting a background discussion on it. And so one group was up in front of the class, giving the presentation, and I noticed that the one person who was leading it was dressed in a blue blazer, and she had a coffee cup, and I was looking at that, and all of a sudden I realized that she was doing -- and she was drawing on the board in a special way, and being sort of frenetic -- and I realized she was doing a parody of me, because at that stage I was at my blue blazer stage, and I always came to class with a coffee cup, and I was always jumping around and writing. And so, suddenly when I realized, of course we all had a really big laugh, and I felt so good because they were relaxed enough and confident enough of our relationship that they knew they could tease me, so -- it was great.
Zhang: So, can you give us a reflection of your view from the faculty perspective of the college administration? (Play Audio)
Carson: Mmm. Uh, I remember how
wonderful it was to have Thad come to Rollins. We all look back and
smile now, but one of the statements he made early on was, ďRollins is
going to become the Harvard of the south.Ē And we all sort of chuckled,
I think, and said, ďOh.Ē But it gave us, wow, a sense of possibility.
And when he eliminated the major in business, and declared that we were
a liberal arts college, and reinstituted the classics, and began to have
us associated with the great lakes colleges -- everybody says, ďOh,
Kinyon. Thatís a peer college,Ē and, uh-- So there was a wonderful sense
of pride that began to develop with Thad, and a sense of identity of
ourselves as a liberal arts institution whose peer
those really good small liberal arts colleges in the country, and I
think there began to be this sense of, oh, thereís standards that can
raised-- that we can meet, right? That we can meet raised standards. And
so Thad was just absolutely transformative in that way.
Zhang: Now look back. How do you view your Rollins career?
Carson: Ah. I love-- I was going to say every minute of it, but Iím sure thatís not the case, but, uh-- I cannot imagine being at a place other than Rollins that would have given me more joy, allowed me to create more joy for myself. It turned out just absolutely serendipitously to be, I think, the best place for me to use my own talents and skills, and the best place to foster my strengths without forcing me to play to parts of myself that seem dissonant with what I was really about. It allowed me-- Well, I mean by that, I guess, it allowed me mostly to teach. It encouraged me to do research and publishing, but didnít force me to consider that the center of my life. And it valued me for being a teacher, rather than making me feel as if I should be apologetic because that was the center of my life. And I donít think that would have happened at a state university, uh, a very large university. I am so grateful to have been here when Thad was here, when Rita was here; Iím so totally grateful for the students who every day teach me something; for colleagues who allowed, who respected my independence and many of whom have become good friends. Itís just been an absolutely wonderful professional life, and Iím very, very grateful for it.