Valerie Rohy, associate professor of English, is known by students for her knowledge about literary critical theory and her ability to articulate succinctly the most complex theoretical thought. In her classes on theory, 19th century American literature and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) studies, Rohy, a recent Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award winner, has a reputation as a demanding professor who expects a lot from her students.
Emma Grady, a junior English major — a decision she credits to Rohy — enrolled last year in the professor's English 86: Psychoanalysis, Feminism and Queer Theory. "I was astounded by her wit and intellect," Grady remembers, "and, I must admit, extremely intimidated by the course load."
But Rohy is encouraging to her students, sympathetic to the many demands on their time and readily accessible for conversation outside the classroom.
"I do strive to be accessible," Rohy says, "and I mean that in all the different senses. I'm usually in my office seven days a week, and I try to keep my door open most of the time. I make sure students know they can stop by and see me at any time and for any reason, and I answer e-mail quickly."
Rohy's academic work often grapples with issues of gender and identity and Rohy has worked to raise the profile of LGBT studies at UVM. "This is a campus that has an out and active LGBT community… My focus is on gay issues, and I have always been out at work." So when Rohy was approached by a student four years ago about starting a queer studies minor, she seized the opportunity. Three years later, the minor was approved and was implemented in fall '06.
"Without really having a lot of intention of doing that, I've defined my major service area as not just supporting the LGBT community," she says, "but also supporting the academic side of that. I really want students to not just think of LGBT studies as a personal issue and an identity issue or even an issue around political activism, but also as a subject in a classroom, an area of serious academic inquiry. I think there's still quite a ways to go in building that institutional presence at UVM, though we've also come a long way."