Dr. Laine A. Scott

How did a French major become a professor in a college English program?

Via a long, unpredictable road through the terrain of Life Experience. All along the way, the operative word in my life has been "opportunity."

A native of Mobile , Alabama , I earned my bachelor's degree at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. My aptitude for foreign languages led to my taking courses in German, Russian, and Spanish, with a specialization in French .

And English? I took a couple of linguistics courses, but the sight of those English majors lugging their Norton anthologies around campus convinced me to stick with la langue française .

I graduated a semester early, as a belated member of the Class of 1979. At that time I had no intention of ever pursuing graduate studies, much less of becoming an educator, in French or in any subject.

Instead, immediately after college I moved to Washington , DC , where I parlayed my liberal arts degree into an entry-level job at a small ship brokerage firm. In addition to playing matchmaker (for a commission) between ship owners and charterers with cargoes of grain, ore, and other bulk commodities, I learned how to keep track of vessel positions, monitor weather conditions at sea, draw up charter parties (the legal contracts for each chartered ship), and run voyage profit calculations.

Back in those days—the early 1980's—there was no e-mail, and fax machines were still a novelty. We conducted all of our business via telephone, telex (teletype), and snail mail, and every broker's desk held a copy of Lloyd's Maritime Atlas .

Within my three years at International Navigation Corporation , I discovered that as much as the shipping industry fascinated me (and still does to this day), I didn't (and still don't) enjoy making phone calls. I also began to regret not having spent my junior year abroad. So primarily for the opportunity to live in France, I quit my job and enrolled in the French School at Middlebury College.

Middlebury's master's program involved a summer at the college's Vermont campus, followed by an academic year in Paris, France , where I studied at L'École Commerciale de la Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie de Paris (ECCIP) and at the Nanterre campus of the University of Paris . Building upon my work experience in ocean freighting, I wrote my master's thesis on the maritime industry of contemporary France. Along with my M.A. in French , I earned a Diplôme Supérieur de Français des Affaires from ECCIP.

From Paris I moved to Frankfurt , Germany , where, thanks to my five semesters of college German and my high school typing class, I was hired as the Administrative Manager of the Frankfurt USO . During my two years with this non-profit organization, I handled various clerical duties for our main Frankfurt office and its three branch facilities.

Highlights of my stint in Deutschland included a visit to a U.S. Army training exercise at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Bavaria, a tour of the East German border at Fulda, and the opportunity to lead a couple of bicycle tours along the Rhine and Mosel rivers. The central location of Frankfurt makes it a natural hub for trips all over Europe, and I traveled every chance I could, from London to Prague, from Stockholm to Rome, from Bordeaux to Berlin.

When I returned to the U.S. in the summer of 1986, I moved to Ambler, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia). A former USO co-worker invited me to live with her family until I found full-time employment and could afford my own place. Once again my German and keyboard skills led to a terrific opportunity, this time in the law department of Henkel Corporation , Germany's answer to Procter and Gamble.

My duties at Henkel involved preparing patent and trademark applications for filing in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. When my supervisors noticed that I had an independent streak and could be trusted with increased responsibility, they created a special position just for me: International Patent Coordinator . At last—my own private office with my name on the door! My primary duties now consisted of filing and maintaining Henkel's intellectual property of U.S. origin in numerous countries around the world.

All employees in Henkel's Law Department were expected to speak and read German, but some of my co-workers found that the local community college courses moved too fast for them to keep up with. Using my old college textbooks, I spent my spare time tutoring these co-workers in German at a more comfortable pace. These wonderful women encouraged me to become a professional educator.

Although I enjoyed my work in the Law Department, including my position as captain of our bowling team, I soon reached another plateau. Then Henkel offered to send me to law school at company expense. Due my lack of technical expertise, however, a career as a patent attorney was not possible. Instead, Henkel would move me into corporate law—contracts, mergers, and acquisitions—ugh. Telling Henkel "Thanks, but no thanks," I resigned and relocated to Washington, DC, where I hoped to join one of the many firms that specialize in intellectual property.

A few months of temp work kept me solvent until one fateful day in 1990. Wistfully perusing the classified ads in the Washington Post , I came across a job listing that changed my life. Salisbury State University , a small college located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, was advertising for Teaching Assistants. The primary requirement was a "major in English or the equivalent." Finally, my French studies would prove useful to my career.

Once I visited the SSU campus, I knew that I had to pursue this opportunity. I applied, they admitted me, and I have never looked back. Largely due to the influence of my first true faculty mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Curtin, I decided to follow the writing track instead of the literature track. As Robert Frost put it, that choice "has made all the difference."

SSU (now known as Salisbury University ) granted me an M.A. in English in May 1992. Shortly thereafter, I moved back to Mobile and spent the fall on maternity leave. In January 1993, I began teaching composition (including an ESL section) at the University of South Alabama .

The English Department at South soon made it clear to me that if I wanted full benefits and the chance to teach anything besides first-year writing courses, then I needed a doctorate. By the time I recognized this latest professional plateau, I had missed that year's application deadlines for most Ph.D. programs. Nonetheless, both Idaho State University and the University of Alabama offered me admission and an assistantship. My ultimate choice arose from strictly geographical considerations: as a single parent whose closest family members dwelled in the Heart of Dixie, I would roll with the Crimson Tide.

At Alabama my primary concentration was in Rhetoric and Composition . My secondary specialty in Early American literature materialized primarily because it seemed to be the least popular area among my fellow graduate students. Along the way I earned extra income by rating GED essays , an opportunity that taught me a holistic approach to grading writing.

After five years of completing additional coursework, teaching lower-level English courses, researching my dissertation, and raising a preschooler, I met my goal: I graduated with a Ph.D. in December 1998, with my son, Phelan, enrolled in kindergarten.

My dissertation ("Correctness and Craft: Strunk and White's Elements of Style and the American Character") examines the four (4) most significant editions (at the time) of The Elements of Style , exploring the book's theoretical assumptions, historical context, critical reception, and significance as part of American cultural history. I may publish it someday—perhaps around 2018, the centennial of the book's original publication. For now, though, I'm less interested in scholarly research than I am in becoming a more effective teacher.

LaGrange College hired me as an Instructor in the summer of 1998. Since then, I have advanced to Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and finally to full Professor as of September 2010 . Fully tenured as of 2004 , I served as chair of our Department of English from that point until June 2007. For three years I was the faculty advisor to our student newspaper, The Hilltop News , and I directed the campus Writing Center from Fall 2000 until Fall 2012. Beginning in Fall 2007, I accepted the additional responsibility of overseeing the Tutoring Center . In February 2009, these two responsibilities merged into a single operation, the Writing and Tutoring Center , located in the Moshell Learning Center at the Frank and Laura Lewis Library.

Effective August 2012, LaGrange College re-structured its academic units. At that time I became the Chair of the Department of Humanities , which encompasses our programs in English, religion and philosophy, and modern languages. In order to take on this increase in responsibility, I stepped down from my position as Director of the Writing and Tutoring Center.

Within the world of English, my academic interests include introductory and advanced composition, literary journalism, argumentation, writing across the curriculum, introductory literature, and American studies. I hold memberships in the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) , the Southeastern Writing Center Association (SWCA) , and the Thoreau Society . I am also a member of two honor societies: Sigma Tau Delta (English) and Omicron Delta Kappa (leadership).

Beyond my primary work as a teacher of writing, my scholarly interests are eclectic and too numerous to list. For example, ever the language fanatic, I took two semesters of Beginning Japanese, which I put to good use during my recent sabbatical in Japan. From mid-September 2008 through the end of January 2009, I lived in Ōmiya (a suburb of Tōkyō) and taught writing and 20 th -century American nonfiction at our sister institution, Seigakuin University—a truly unforgettable opportunity.

All in all, my teaching has been informed by my nine years in the business world, my ten years or so of post-secondary education, and my five decades of life experience.

As for the convoluted path of my life, Bilbo Baggins summed it up nicely:

"Roads go ever ever on…."