A Life-Changing Educational Experience—In Class with Dr. Roxane Gay

By Kaitlyn Fung (’24, SAS/HC)

My advisor at the Institute for Women’s Leadership’s Leadership Scholars Program recommended that I take Dr. Roxane Gay’s class as the perfect way to explore the intersection of my interests in media and feminism. The experience changed my perspective on consuming media, made me a more confident writer, and gave me the opportunity to learn from one of the best in the field of cultural criticism.

A renowned writer, feminist, and cultural critic, Dr. Gay is serving as the new Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies here at Rutgers University for the next three years. This fall, she is teaching a writing intensive course focused on contemporary issues called Writing Cultural Criticism. For Dr. Gay, “the best part about teaching at Rutgers, thus far, is the students who have been uniformly excellent—creative, intelligent, and inquisitive.”

The opportunity to be taught by Dr. Gay has been so rewarding. Her course covers six types of criticism: books, movies and television, theatre, art, celebrity profiles, and music. Though I found it daunting to submit my writing to her for review, she is of the belief that all of her students are great writers, and she is there to bring that ability out of us and hone that skill. During class, Dr. Gay pulls from her years of experience in the field to further inspire and instruct us to be better writers, most recently recounting the time she profiled Madonna.

One of my classmates, Maria Zhang, a senior at the Honors College, said, “It is such an honor to be taking a class with Dr. Gay. She has so many powerful insights both on writing and on life and always pushes us to move beyond the classroom and think about our writing in a real-world context. But she is also extremely down-to-earth and brings so much humor to our classes so it's always a joy to be there!”

For our theater review, Dr. Gay took the whole class to see The Kite Runner on Broadway. After the show, she arranged for the cast members to meet us at the stage door, talk about the play, and sign our playbills. To cap off the evening in New York City, Dr. Gay graciously took the entire class out to dinner at Gallagher’s Steakhouse. Priyanka Sarkhel, an Honors College junior also in the class, recounted the night, “The opportunity to watch The Kite Runner with Dr. Gay was a very rewarding experience. I enjoyed getting to see Afghani culture firsthand and to see one of my favorite novels come to life. Her class taught me the significance of viewing culture critically, and I cannot recommend Dr. Gay’s class enough.”

Honors College senior Peri Vikatos remarked on the class, “It's been a great honor and pleasure to be taught by Professor Gay, who is encouraging, generous, easy to talk to, and unbelievably good at what she does. I enjoy every one of our classes and will take the lessons I've learned from her with me wherever I go.”

Dr. Gay has already made a profound impact on Rutgers and her students in her short time here. This incredible experience is still so surreal, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully comprehend the fact that I was taught by Dr. Gay until years after I graduate.

“We are living in an unfortunate age of misinformation which makes teaching and reinforcing the importance of critical thinking, nuance, truth, and accuracy all the more necessary,” Dr. Gay said. “As teachers, we all have a responsibility to ensure that these attributes are an integral part of our pedagogy.”