Professor’s involvement impacts campus, community

Assistant Professor of English Katie Owens-Murphy teaches a class in Bibb Graves Hall. Teaching is one of the many jobs she does for both the campus and community.

Several professors on campus choose to stay involved with different causes outside of the classroom.

One of them is Assistant Professor of English Katie Owens-Murphy, whose role on campus and in the community extends further than faculty member.

Owens-Murphy is a faculty member with many positions. Besides teaching, she also advises, researches, works with conferences and committees and participates in various community activities.

As a professor, she specializes in 20th century American literature. Her classes include graduate courses, lower-level survey courses, literary criticism and upper-level English major offerings, with topics ranging from banned books to Southern studies.

“In my lower-level courses, I get to introduce students to the power and value and pleasure of literature,” she said. “In my upper-level and graduate courses, we get to explore, with greater nuance, the ways in which literature causes us to rethink the world around us and challenges us to make it a better place.”

Senior Shelby Poindexter said being in the classes has helped her examine literature more closely.

“I learned so much about how to dig into literature and read closely,” Poindexter said. “I felt like I was a close reader, but, when I took her classes, that took on a whole new meaning.”

Owens-Murphy serves on two campus curriculum committees and faculty senate. She has also advised graduate students on their master’s theses and comprehensive exams.

She has worked with the Alabama Regional Graduate Conference in English, Florence’s first Reader Riot book festival and serves as the vice president of Project Say Something.

Graduate student Michael Fish said Owens-Murphy brings her active lifestyle to class with her, always finding events she encourages her students to check out.

“She is a nonstop force of social justice,” he said. “She eats, sleeps and breathes change.”

Owens-Murphy said prison education is one of her favorite endeavors.

Her involvement, which started during her doctorate program, has included working with Shoals Re-Entry, an organization that helps ex-convicts leaving Limestone Correctional Facility with housing, employment and other needs, and helping teach a course at the facility last semester

Originally from Buffalo, New York, Owens-Murphy first taught at the University of Minnesota Duluth before being offered two tenure-track jobs, one of them at UNA.

“When I visited (UNA) and saw the beauty of the area and campus, the warmth and compassion of the people here, the quality of life, the family-friendly atmosphere and all of the arts and culture the area offers, I knew this would be a great home for (my husband and I),” she said.

She said one of her favorite parts of working at UNA is her students.

“My students are earnest, hard-working, passionate, compassionate, genuine and very open-minded,” she said. “They are willing to take intellectual risks and try new experiences.”

Poindexter said she sees Owens-Murphy as more than a professor, but also a friend and mentor.

“I’ve never had a professor care so much about me,” she said. “If I had to pick the place I feel safest on campus, it would be her office.”

This year, Owens-Murphy continues to get more involved. She is currently planning to bring the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program to UNA, and helped pick films to screen at the Ritz Theatre’s Southern Circuit of Independent Filmmakers events.

“I know Owens-Murphy will continue to be a model of scholarly enthusiasm and civic engagement, and I am excited to see the many ways this will benefit our students and community in the future,” said English Department Chair Cynthia Burkhead.