Dr. Dianna Vitanza

Spring 2011

Faculty Feature

Dr. Dianna Vitanza

Dr. Dianna Vitanza

In her collaboration with undergraduates for their research and her personal research interests, Dr. Dianna Vitanza continually cultivates a spirit of academic enquiry. Vitanza began the research process as she studied for her postgraduate degrees, exploring the poetry of the Brownings for her M.A. degree and then going on to investigate the novels of Charles Reed for her Ph.D. She describes her experience working with her director Sam Southwell as simultaneously enlightening and challenging. In turn, Vitanza has become a mentor and advisor for many undergrads throughout her time at Baylor and is currently advising two honors theses. Her interests in Victorian poetry and fiction continue to engender insightful questions from her students.

Research begins when a student brings an inquisitive mind to the text. When a student raises questions in class that are unresolved by current scholarship, Dr. Vitanza guides students to explore both prevailing views on the topic and further develop their own ideas on the subject. Dr. Vitanza also stresses the importance of selecting a captivating topic, as research demands long and thorough contemplation on the subject.

Dr. Vitanza encourages students to fully immerse themselves in their academic endeavors. While studying for her doctorate, she sold her car to study abroad in France and drew academic inspiration from her time abroad. Consequently, she encouraged one of her current thesis students, Alyssa Leavell, to apply for an URSA grant that would allow her to travel to England and further her research on Thomas Hardy. Last summer, Leavell travelled to Dorchester and Dorset, the model for Hardy's setting in the Wessex novels, and carefully examined Hardy's notes on his copies of select Greek tragedies. By encouraging experiences abroad, Dr. Vitanza inspires her students to fully engage with their research topics.

In her administrative roles at Baylor, namely as the current Chair of the English Department, the director of Undergraduate Studies in English, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and vice provost for Academic Affairs, Dr. Vitanza demonstrates a vested interest in the academic development of undergraduate students. Dr. Vitanza remarked that her favorite part of working with undergraduates is the mentoring relationship that emerges from thesis work with her students.

According to Dr. Vitanza, undergraduate research is critical to the development of scholars because it teaches them to confront intellectual ideas on a deeper level than term papers can facilitate. As a student explores a topic, they begin to realize the different elements that contribute to the larger work as a whole. As they plunge beneath the surface of a text, the best argumentation is found in the particular attention to details. With a desire to share her passion for learning, Dr. Vitanza continues to serve as an advisor for Baylor undergraduate research.