Reported by Jen Wright
Few people think of college as a place to learn how to read, but that’s exactly what George Fox University (GFU) student Rachel Marcelia points to as the thing she’ll take with her after graduation this spring.
Marcelia is graduating with a Bachelors in English and a pile of writing experience to help her on her path to teaching high school English.
Marcelia is working as an intern for the William Penn Honors Program, of which she is a member, and an Academic Resource Center (ARC) consultant. In addition, she studied abroad at Oxford in 2018, where she won the prestigious de Jager prize for exceptional academic performance.
“The Honors program was super cool, and it also appealed to me that it was just such a young program,” Marcelia said. “All the students that I talked to just had such a passion for it, even though it wasn’t an established thing, that there was clearly something about it that, even in its half-formed state, people were excited for it, and it was just really refreshing.”
Marcelia enjoyed the genuineness of the involvement in the program, both from students and professors.
“A lot of other schools, it felt like they were trying to be like ‘oh, look at our history, it’s so cool’ and then there’s this program that feels like it started in someone’s kitchen,” Marcelia said.
Marcelia also wrote for the GFU chapter of The Odyssey Online, writing on anything from politics to a weekend spent alone in her dorm, until she left over differences with the Odyssey management.
The biggest thing she’s taken away from her time at GFU is how to read.
“The best way I’ve been able to sort of conceptualize it is how when we read, we’re ultimately practicing listening,” Marcelia said. “We’re ultimately learning how to listen to [the] voices of people, characters [and] ideas that are not our own.”
Marcelia describes it as a sort of “temporary surrender” of her own ideas.
One of her instructors, Professor Bill Joliff, handed out copies of an unpublished text he wrote, titled “The Articulated Reader,” which explains the relationship between a book and its reader.
“Every text you read, you’re basically entering it the same way you enter a conversation with other people,” Marcelia said. “In that sense, sort of learning to see the text as actively interacting with me and not just something that I open up and read, where I’m the actor and it just sits there passively.”
Honors discussions helped form new reading habits, and she learned to read as a three-part conversation.
“We often talk about the three conversations, between us and the text, us and our peers and us and God, and how all of those are happening kind of simultaneously,” Marcelia said. “And we talk about charitable reading, and charitable conversation, where we can enter that interaction with humility and love, regardless of whether we’re reading Darwin, Freud, the Bible, or literature.”
The community she has formed between herself and the texts also extends to the community at GFU, where the “small spaces” create opportunities for genuine connection, Marcelia said.
“The people that I’ve met at Fox, and the relationships that I’ve made, whether it be in the Honors program, or the English major…I’ve gotten more opportunities to know the underclassmen in the Honors program,” Marcelia said. “The relationships have been very formative to me, both in the fact that they’ve taught me that relationships can be very difficult, and that they’ve taught me that they can be beautiful.”