Alumni Issue: Teaching, travels and a life of service

Friday, October 7th, 2016 at 12:36 PM
Alumni Issue: Teaching, travels and a life of service by Dakota Palmer

Caiden Feldmiller, Edinboro University Class of 2013, grew up in Albion, just a short distance from the university that would help shape his career.

Feldmiller graduated summa cum laude as a member of the Robert C. Weber Honors Program and was also named the Outstanding Departmental Senior for the English and theatre arts department. He was also the president of the Alpha Eta Chi chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society.

His eventual career started fairly early in his college years. In 2011, he received a scholarship from the Edinboro University English department to attend the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival, where he was assigned to poet Frank Gaspar’s workshop.

“All Frank did was encourage me to keep doing what I was doing in my work. And that’s all any young poet needs: encouragement,” Feldmiller said.

At the festival, he met and befriended author Ruth Thompson, who also encouraged him. She eventually would present him a contract in 2014 to publish his first book, “Pig, Smoking,” through her press, Saddle Road. The book was previously his creative writing thesis.

In 2012, Feldmiller received a fellowship through PASSHE for a summer honors program, which allowed him to study in Oxford, England. He received six credits for two courses — “Topics in Self & Society” and “Topics in Arts and Humanities” — and presented the paper he produced for the courses at the 2012 Fall Faculty Conference of the English Association of Pennsylvania State Universities.

“It was the experience of writing and presenting my research, I think, that got me interested in becoming a graduate student in literature rather than creative writing, but I struggled choosing between the two for a couple years,” Feldmiller said.

Since graduating, Feldmiller has been teaching college-aged students. He volunteered for AmeriCorps the fall after he graduated and taught English as a second language to international students who attended Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh. This work was done through the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. He taught for four months in the basement of Pittsburgh’s Third Presbyterian Church, in addition to completing various community service projects around the city. He taught four classes, ranging from low-level to advanced-level English speaking, to people from all over the world, including: Brazil, China, France, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Russia and South Korea. Altogether, his teaching and volunteer work amounted to more than 575 hours of service.

After he and his wife, Julia, moved from Pittsburgh, he worked with both undergraduate and graduate students as a training support coordinator at Penn State’s Materials Characterization Laboratory.

“Julia is my best friend and main source of support...because she loves me and because she’s really the only person I speak to about my teaching methods or let read my early drafts.  Her love is my most powerful motivator,” Feldmiller said.

Now, he lives about 15 minutes away from Penn State’s University Park Campus where he teaches rhetoric and composition and studies American literature. Feldmiller is currently in his last year of his M.A. program at Penn State. After he receives his master’s degree next May, he will begin working towards his doctorate, which he should earn by December 2020 or May 2021.

Feldmiller has been working on a full-length collection of poems that he plans on finishing by next August. Additionally, he is beginning to outline a dissertation that he hopes to evolve into his “first scholarly monograph on modern and contemporary American poetry and poetics.”

“I see myself writing poetry and writing about others’ poetry for the rest of my life,” he said.

When asked who his favorite author was, Feldmiller said, “I have a new favorite every day, but here are the names of some of the poets whose work is always in circulation around my desk: Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, George Oppen, Robert Creeley, Ted Berrigan [and] Eileen Myles. I’m obsessed with writers of the Pound/Williams tradition, of the New American Poetry, etc.”

Last April, Feldmiller won the 2015-16 Master of Arts Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given by Penn State’s program in writing and rhetoric. Additionally, he helps manage social media for the Williams Carlos Williams Society. “The William Carlos Williams Review” is published by the Penn State University Press.

After he receives his doctoral degree, Feldmiller would like to become a professor of English. “Penn State is the perfect place to train as an aspiring Americanist. Few people outside the field know that PSU is the historic home of American literary studies or that its Center for American Literary Studies hosts the First Book Institute, which presents excellent opportunities for graduate students to get to know early-career professors working on their first monographs,” Feldmiller said.

“I’m proud of Penn State’s English department and proud to be a part of its graduate program. The program has given me many opportunities to do the work I want to do as a scholar of modern and contemporary poetry and poetics and as a member of the field of American literary studies, including bringing poet-critics like Rachel Blau DuPlessis to campus. I’m the secretary of Penn State’s Modernist Studies Workshop,” he said.

“I think it was the exposure to various methods of good teaching at Edinboro that prepared me most for my career, and I consciously incorporate the best elements of those in my own approach — in my own classroom.”

Dakota Palmer is the voices editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at voices.spectator@gmail.com.

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