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College of Liberal Arts
University of Mississippi

Isom Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Nora Augustine

Nora Augustine

Nora Augustine

“As I grow older, like many people, I try to be the kind of adult I wish I’d had in my life when I was younger.”

—Nora Augustine, visiting assistant professor of gender studies

Nora Augustine joined the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies as a visiting assistant professor of gender studies after completing her Ph.D. in English with a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As part of her appointment, she is providing academic outreach for the new Lavender LLC. She also holds an Honors BA in English from the University of Chicago. Her research and advocacy work center on the rhetorical significance of autobiographical writing, and she is especially interested in popular narratives of trauma and/or mental illness. In her doctoral research, she used the memoir genre to examine how women writers with mental illness draw on “mad genius” rhetoric—the longstanding cultural stereotype that mental illness is somehow connected to exceptional mental gifts (intelligence, creativity, and so on)—to reckon with widespread mental health stigma. Most recently, she contributed a chapter on the therapeutic benefits of support groups to a collection on mental health rhetoric, drawing from her own experiences as a longtime facilitator of support groups for survivors of domestic violence. In addition to teaching introductory courses in gender studies, Nora has taught courses on LGBTQ+ literature, gender in popular culture, health justice during COVID-19, and numerous variants of composition.

The following is a Q and A she did with Isom Center graduate assistant, Kara Russell:

Where are you from and what led you to the Isom Center?

I grew up in Elyria, Ohio just a few blocks away from Dr. Angela LaGrotteria, although we did not know each other at the time! I was planning to move to the Mid-South after completing my PhD at UNC Chapel Hill—where I taught gender studies for four years—so I felt very lucky when the opportunity arose to start teaching for the Isom Center around the same time.

What is your academic background and field of study?

I hold a PhD in English (Rhetoric and Composition) from UNC Chapel Hill and an honors BA in English from the University of Chicago. I also earned a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC, and I’ve held research/teaching positions in English, gender studies, public policy, and developmental psychology.

What’s your favorite part of your job? The most challenging?

Since I am a rhetorician by training, I love when my courses can provide students with language and frameworks for articulating and analyzing experiences they haven’t felt comfortable discussing before. One challenging task is to teach about topics like gender-based violence in ways that are truthful without being overly demoralizing.

What’s something you’ve accomplished or experienced, either personally or professionally, that you’re proud of?

I was extremely honored to win two awards for my past civic engagement/public humanities work in the Chapel Hill area: the Maynard Adams Fellowship for the Public Humanities from Carolina Public Humanities, and the Humanities Professional Pathway Award from UNC Humanities for the Public Good.

What are your talents or hobbies outside of work?

To the extent that my schedule allows it, I like volunteering with nonprofits whose missions are close to me/my work—for example, I have been facilitating support groups for survivors of domestic violence for about six years. I also like to sing, do anything crafty (especially sewing), go to see movies or live shows, and I just started learning how to play guitar!

Who or what motivates you?

At the risk of sounding corny, I have to say, I’m ultimately motived by the desire to make the world a more empathic and egalitarian place. As I grow older, like many people, I try to be the kind of adult I wish I’d had in my life when I was younger.

What’s your idea of the perfect day?

This is so hard to answer! It would probably involve a day at the beach with people I love, good live music, and Mexican food for dinner… either that, or holing up and watching terrible movies with my partner and our pets all day long. Or who knows!