The next chapter

Greenberg interior
Alissa Greenberg blazes a path to literary success.

In four years, Alissa Greenberg has accomplished more than many do in a lifetime. That she has done it in a field traditionally associated with methodical approaches is even more impressive. Since beginning her university career in 2008, she has graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing, and is preparing to pursue a PhD in literature.

In addition, Greenberg has published poetry and short stories in multiple outlets, including Blue Moon Art and Literary Review, Zaum, Polaris, and Harmony magazines.

“When I found a subject that I enjoyed so much, it wasn’t enough for me just to take it at a bachelor’s level,” Greenberg says. “I want to take something as far as I can possibly take it in school. I want to learn as much as I possibly can about it. I want to do as much as I can. The idea of going to the next step has always felt really exciting.”

Uncovering her passion

Ironically, Greenberg was initially unsure of what she wanted to study upon arriving at Northern Arizona University. Though she had an affinity for English and literature, she worried about how viable those subjects would be in helping her to build a career. After immersing herself in a number of English courses, however, Greenberg’s path was clear.  

“When I realized how much I loved English classes, I started taking as many as I could,” Greenberg says. “I love English. I found something I’m really passionate about, and I think that that’s pretty rare.” 

She cites the English faculty and staff for helping her discover her passion, naming Barbara Anderson, an associate professor of creative writing, as one of her favorite faculty members.

“My time in Barbara Anderson’s poetry classes was very influential,” Greenberg says. “She’s so passionate and cares so much about her students.”

Educating the next generation

Once Greenberg decided on pursuing an advanced degree, she made up her mind to reach this goal as quickly as possible.

It took Greenberg three years to finish her undergraduate career in the spring of 2011, requiring her to pack her semesters with 18 credit hours or more; in comparison, the average semester usually consists of 15 credit hours. Tackling such an intense workload necessitated some concessions from Greenberg, which she was prepared to make to achieve her goals. 

“It was just being willing to devote a Friday to homework and maybe not go out with your friends,” Greenberg says. “Sometimes you have to be willing to make a sacrifice.”

Her hard work paid off. Through her studies, Greenberg developed a deeper understanding of the literary world through her analysis of different cultures and texts.

“Everyone’s under the misconception that all literature classes involve simply studying the classics, and it’s not,” Greenberg says. “Establishing a broad knowledge base is critical; I took courses on multiethnic and ancient literature, and one on ancient revenge tragedies. These different perspectives were hugely beneficial.”

Once accepted into the university’s graduate program for English, Greenberg had to adapt to a higher level of coursework, but notes how her study-first mentality helped ease the transition into graduate school. 

“There were a few weeks of feeling overwhelmed with the new classes,” Greenberg says. “But then you sink into them and realize what you need to do, what commitments you need to make, and really fall into your groove.”

Greenberg also teaches English 105 and 205 courses as a graduate teaching assistant. Though she admitted to initial stage fright upon teaching her first classes, Greenberg feels her love for literature and drama ultimately helped her to succeed in the role. 

“I’ve always loved theater and I love English, so I felt like teaching was the combination of my two favorite things,” Greenberg says. “Everyday teaching is like putting on a little one-woman show. Standing up, speaking, and imparting knowledge all appealed to me. Of course, it’s terrifying to walk into your first class you’ve ever taught, but I adore teaching. I love working with students and promoting English.”

Turning the page

As Greenberg prepares to pursue a PhD in literature – which will be a bit of a departure from her background in creative writing – she credits the university with giving her the skills to succeed while preparing her for real-world experiences.

“The university really sparked my passion for English and gave me the tools to teach, which have been invaluable,” Greenberg says. “It’s really been useful in every step of preparation for college and beyond.”