Amy Ng & John Vito d’Antonio-Bertagnolli
Tucked away on the fourth floor of Cullimore is the office of Dr. Jonathan Curley, the complete opposite of what one would imagine the quintessential professor at a STEM institution to be. Hand-drawn maps of Newark decorate its walls. A packed bookshelf beckons to its visitors.
Curley, who has been a Senior University lecturer as a part of NJIT’s Humanities Department since 2011, teaches Humanities 101, 102, and the senior seminar “Newark Narratives,” a course which tries to map the city of Newark through textural and non-textural materials including poetry and prose. This multidisciplinary seminar, as he states, is “an attempt to try to make a more deepened connection between the university and the city.” He runs it like a cultural studies or urban sociology class in efforts to impart a more intensive focus of the reality that surrounds our campus.
His love for Newark is complex, extending well past his career in teaching. In tandem with sharing his excitement for the grand city with his students, Curley enriches his creative pursuits by collaborating with Newark based filmmakers, writing texts and performing voiceovers for short films. While his works were originally showcased in the Newark museum, his contributions were finally acknowledged and featured at the Newark Airport in 2014.
The multidisciplinary thinker believes strongly in rooting NJIT into the fabric of Newark. On a similar note, Curley states that that he wishes to see more connections between the University’s different departments. “There are many practical ways to fuse different discourses together, and what would emerge would be some incredible project.” This is the exact premise on which the annual Humanities Department’s Enid Dame Poetry contest, a poetry initiative that is organized in part by Curley, is based. By accepting student submissions, Curley believes, the department is able to tap the creative and critical energies of students who wouldn’t normally gravitate towards the arts.
“I believe that students and faculty should get into the habit and practice of seeing how all of these disciplines in STEM and the arts contribute to the intellectual evolution of students regardless of what their specific field is,” Curley expresses. “What I attempt to do as a professor is to braid together a consciousness of how everything goes together, as opposed to being squarely defined. There is a challenge and satisfaction in helping one’s skillsets across the board in analysis and clarity of thought, and trying to find useful connections between disciplines.”
With teaching, Curley maintains that it’s the students that allow him to further evolve his thoughts about the world. He believes that the unique community, which NJIT fosters, has really contributed to his growth as a person, scholar, and presence in the world. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree at Brown University and receiving his Doctorate at NYU in English and American literature with an emphasis on Irish literature and cultural studies, he in fact, “find[s] that the most competitive students at NJIT are at the same level as those found in Ivy leagues.” Having taught at Stevens Institute of Technology and New York University before landing at NJIT, Curley attests to the comparable caliber of NJIT to top-tiered state schools.
Giving back to the community, Professor Curley serves as a writing consultant at the well-utilized Writing Center, located on the first floor of Cullimore. Here, he works with students of all different concentrations to provide objective analysis of term papers, prepare students for job interviews, build resumes and CV’s, and practice conversations, a service that is not widely known to be offered to ESL students. “We basically try to be a resource for anyone who would need us at any kind of capacity.” Curley remarks.
The avid poet, whose ambitions as an adolescent were always to write, now regularly publishes critical prose and poetry. He continues to share his enthusiasm of the art with his students, and has participated in local poetry readings at familiar locations such as the Intrinsic Cafe. Curley is currently working on several articles, another poetry collection, and a series of essays that he is hoping to fuse into a single book. His most recent publication, “Hybrid Moments,” is a tribute to identity crisis, paying homage to the breakdown and reconstruction of misshapen personae.
Professor Curley is indeed a huge proponent of collaborative effort. His passion for teaching his students to be multifaceted thinkers, pride for both his and his student’s work, and refreshing perspective of a widely regarded “devastated” community, contributes to his humble, yet forceful presence on campus.
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