Research grant takes new professor to Italy

Thursday, June 15, 2006


The third new professor hired by Corban this year, Dr. John Wilson, is planning much of his fall semester coursework from overseas.

That’s because the 47-year-old English professor is now in Italy, studying on his second research grant. He’ll return to the United States in August after two months of travel and research. This academic trip comes a dozen years after he studied in the country as a Fulbright scholar.

When Wilson studied in Italy in the 1990s, he took classes from local Shakespeare experts such as Alessandro Serpieri. This time, he’s landed a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to scrutinize what he calls “the historically changing perspectives of St. Francis of Assisi.”

In the interview process, members of Corban’s English department were delighted to discover Wilson is an expert on Shakespeare and a specialist in Medieval and Renaissance literature. Additionally, he’s taught a wide range of writing and literature courses.

“John’s strengths are academic expertise, experiences outside the classroom, publishing and conference presentations,” said Marty Trammell, English department chair. “We all also really like that he focuses on relationships with the students, not just research.”

Wilson has been teaching college classes since 1986. First, he taught writing and literature classes at the University of Oregon, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a doctorate. In keeping with his interest in Shakespeare, his dissertation tackled the rhetoric of the famous playwright’s villains.

“I fell in love with Shakespeare, and I’ve always had an interest in the moral dimension of literature,” Wilson said.

Later, Wilson taught physical education at college prep schools and writing and literature classes at George Fox University. In 2001, he moved to Branson, Mo., to teach at College of the Ozarks. There, one of his jobs was administrating the school’s character curriculum a unique program that used the Great Books in character instruction.

“I like teaching Christian authors, and I like teaching Christian authors to Christian students,” Wilson said. “This opens the discussion to include how we live life and make decisions.”

Wilson became a Christian at age 21 and began devouring Christian books almost immediately. C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” was the first text he read, and he moved on to the author’s other works, as well as pieces by such luminaries such as Augustine, Martin Luther, Thomas More and John Bunyan.

While working at College of the Ozarks, Wilson realized how much he valued working with a Christian staff and looked for a similar West Coast job. He landed at Corban after the college posted a full-time English department position to help handle its growing student body.

In 2006-07, Wilson will team-teach one section of World Thought and Culture with Dr. Colette Tennant and two sections of American Thought and Culture with Dr. Robert Mathisen. The following year, he’ll begin offering a rotation of literature courses.

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