Faculty Spotlight: Colleen Webster

Colleen Webster, Professor of English in the Arts & Humanities division, has a passion for the written word, art, and the environment. She teaches English 101, American Literature: Colonial Through the Civil War, American Women Writers, Great Writers: Lives and Works, and Multicultural Literature: The 20th Century and Poetry.

Her classes, many of which have an environmental focus, are interesting and engaging. Her students not only read and write about topics related to the environment, but they also take part in activities such as exploring the outdoors on nature walks around the HCC campus. On occasion, students use sidewalk chalk to write poetry on campus walkways, allowing them to express themselves while exposing the campus community to poetry. In her American Women Writers and American Literature classes, Webster uses Open Educational Resources to help save her students hundreds of dollars on textbooks and supplemental materials.

In addition to teaching, Webster is well known for the living history performances she presents to various organizations across the region. She performs one-woman shows on Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keeffe, Dorothy Parker, Rachel Carson and Emily Dickinson, and audience members describe her performances as riveting and engaging. Her next open public performance will be "Drinks with Dorothy" on February 21 at the Vandiver Inn through HCC's Continuing Education offerings. She will also portray Rachel Carson at the Havre de Grace Opera House on April 10.

"My whole life is hobbies, interests, living, teaching—all connected. From hiking, trail running, paddling, reading, writing, birding, inhabiting the lives of women I admire, I hope to give my students a rich experience of learning and a desire to live a full, intentional life," says Colleen. Over the years, she has been awarded three study grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). In conjunction with her latest NEH grant, Prof. Webster's students will read A Raisin in the Sun. Concepts from the play related to access to adequate housing will be discussed and compared to the same issue in Harford County.

Each summer she spends time studying and/or teaching writing and art at various places including The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA; Castle Hill in Truro, MA, and Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine. This summer she will be leading a literary tour of New England from June 18 to 21 that will explore the homes and favorite places of such greats as Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, Twain, and the Alcotts. This will be her fourth New England literary tour. In March 2015, she led a tour of Georgia O'Keefe country in New Mexico.

Webster is also an author; her most recent work, "Finding a Way Back," was published on Daily Good last summer. Her poetry, essays and book reviews have appeared in publications including The Maryland Poetry Review, ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, Tacenda, Milkweed Editions, Poetry Midwest, Isotope, Penumbra, The Women's Review of Books and the Disquieting Muses Quarterly Review. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry, one of the most honored literary projects in America, in 2002 and 2004; awarded the O'Henry Prize for Literary Excellence in Harford County; and appointed Poet Laureate of Havre de Grace in 2014.

She serves on several College committees including Safe Zone, which deals with issues related to the LGBTQ+ community; Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), which is responsible for faculty professional development; and the Sustainability Committee, which looks for ways to save energy and resources as well as methods to reduce environmental impact at the College. She also works with the Hays-Heighe House Committee to bring meaningful programming to the campus. Colleen says of her busy life, "Colleagues might be surprised that, while I am a hippie, born on the last day of summer in Sunnyvale, California, I am very organized."

Webster earned a BA from Notre Dame of Maryland University and an MA from the University of Delaware, where she has also completed all PhD coursework and exams. In addition to her academic background in literature, she has earned a Master Naturalist Certificate from Harford County Parks and a certificate in Environmental Studies from Johns Hopkins University.

Prof. Webster's true passion is community service. As a volunteer for the Harford Chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, Chesapeake Audubon Society, and the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, she leads nature walks in Havre de Grace and along the Susquehanna River. She has cultivated a partnership between Harford Community College and the Maritime Museum to provide funds for kayaks to be made available for use by the public.

She also teaches yoga and paddleboard yoga at various venues, including the Arena Club. In the summer, Colleen is a local kayak guide and paddle board instructor. Her motto is "Anything good is better outside and best on the water."

Colleen's concern for the environment extends to the safety and wellness of animals. "I collect rescued animals . . . my limit on cats is the number of lives they have, so I am doing well, having only seven!"

A dedicated teacher at Harford for the past 26 years, Webster's enthusiasm for teaching and love of the great outdoors greatly benefits our students and the community. The College is proud to recognize Colleen for her dedication.

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