First Generation College Student Alum Exemplifies Transformative Power of Public Humanities
We recently celebrated all of our first-generation students and alumni during “I am First” week, but we want to congratulate one particular alum who is a shining example of what a first-gen student can accomplish at Kent State University and beyond with just the right amount of creativity and drive partnered with the guidance and encouragement from an outstanding faculty mentor.
Congratulations to Valentino Zullo, Ph.D., a 2020 English doctoral graduate who was recently named the inaugural Anisfield-Wolf Postdoctoral Fellow in English and Public Humanities at Ursuline College. The fellowship supports historically underrepresented published writers and creative writing teachers, offers professional development opportunities, and aims to dismantle the lack of diversity in publishing, editing and academic workforces.
His infatuation for storytelling and “shaping the future through comics” was born the first time he entered a comics bookstore in his hometown, Chardon, Ohio. His enthusiasm was fostered throughout his higher education journey, particularly as an English and Spanish double-major at Kent State.
An eighteenth-century English literature class taught by Vera Camden, Ph.D., emeritus professor in the Department of English at Kent State, completely changed his life. Camden foresaw an attainable career path for Zullo, encouraged him to study comics, and provided him with informed guidance to facilitate his success.
“I found that the professors were invested in our personal and professional development and they understood that the two were inextricably linked in the classroom,” Valentino said. “I learned, in these classes at Kent State, that my education was not just an exercise, but that it would be something that would change me for the better during a period in my life where I needed an education, discipline in a tradition, and the rigors of careful reading, writing and conversation. All of this I gained from my mentorship by Professor Camden.”
Together, Camden and Zullo, funded by an Ohio Humanities Council grant, directed and coordinated a partnership between Kent State University and the Cleveland Public Library to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman in 2016 with a symposium. The fusion of public literacy, comics, and feminism was accomplished so copiously that in 2016 Zullo became the first scholar-in-residence for the Ohio Center for the Book.
“Advisors and professors can further facilitate students’ goals by inviting them into their research as assistants and giving them credit for the work that they contribute,” Camden said. “This will both inspire them, train them, and seeing their contributions and their acknowledgment in print is something that should be celebrated by them and faculty as well. If you train a student well you end up training a colleague—which is what Valentino has now become—a valuable reader of my work and a partner in future editorial and writing projects, as well as a co-editor of a journal with me. Once an eager student he now has emerged as an independent thinker and writer in his career.”
While at Kent State, Zullo received the Kenneth R. Pringle Dissertation Fellowship, was recognized as the Outstanding Composition Instructor Award Finalist, and taught College Writing I and II. He is currently a psychotherapist in psychoanalytic training at the Cleveland Psychoanalytic Center as well as a scholar and national authority on comics.
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Jim Maxwell, 330-672-8028, firstname.lastname@example.org