Professor Susan VanZanten certainly loves her subject: she is currently an SPU professor of English, as well as a co-chair of the department of languages, cultures, and linguistics. She specializes in 19th century literature, and has significant expertise and research in South African literature and Christian higher education.
She has published multiple books throughout her career, as well as a number of articles about her areas of expertise, both peer-reviewed and for a general audience.
One of her notable works was her academic memoir, “Reading a Different Story: A Christian Scholar’s Journey From America to Africa,” which was published in 2014 by Baker Press.
She has also written several books on author Emily Dickinson, and others about being a Christian professor and scholar.
In total, she has written seven published books and several articles.
“In our currently bleak times, it is a good idea sometimes to remember the good things: God’s grace, warm friendship, joy in nature and celebratory feasting,” she said.
On May 23, in VanZanten’s last lecture at SPU, she focused on her favorite authors and texts, and the ways that those authors talk about the good in life.
The lecture was fittingly on the ground floor of Marston, the home of the language and literature departments where she has many colleagues, and where she has spent so many hours of her SPU career.
The lecture was entitled “The Good Life: Grace and Gratitude, Feasts and Festivals.” It focused on life’s celebrations and beauties, and the good moments in some of VanZanten’s favorite literature.
VanZanten has taught at SPU for 25 years, and has impacted many groups of students and fostered various relationships. She has had the opportunity over her time here to share language and literature with many students and faculty.
As a lover of and expert in language, she used her last lecture at SPU to talk about the things she adores most about her subject, and the ways that those things can positively impact those who consume them.
“The last lecture, which was part of the Arts and Humanities symposium series, was fairly low-key. I just talked about how some of my favorite authors and texts present aspects of the good life in their work,” VanZanten said.
While she has accomplished many things at SPU and impacted the campus in her time, she is leaving to pursue other significant opportunities.
She expressed that she feels enthusiastic about what’s coming, but also cannot deny that she has had a positive experience here.
As for many of us, the relationships she and her family have fostered here are what she least looks forward to leaving.
“While I will miss my many dear friends, colleagues and students, I believe it’s time to enter the next stage of my vocational journey,” VanZanten said.
VanZanten plans to move to Indiana as soon as her final grades have been inputted, so that she can prepare to become the dean of Christ College, the honors college at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.
It is an honor and an important opportunity for VanZanten, who expresses her excitement for the coming years at Christ College. The new environment will provide new experiences, and she is optimistic about the values of her new home.
“I’m excited to join a nationally recognized honors college celebrating its 50th anniversary,” VanZanten expressed. “Christ College’s motto is ‘Honoring Intellect, Enlivening Faith, Engaging the World,’ which are three practices I enthusiastically embrace. I’m looking forward to becoming part of a new intellectual community that affirms and supports the liberal arts.”
However, no matter how good the coming years will be, VanZanten knows she will always love and miss SPU and the community here.
“SPU will always remain in my heart,” VanZanten said. “My son is a graduate [from SPU], and I’m so grateful for the good teaching, advising, and personal support he received here.”
She is proud to have been a part of this school, as a professor and as a parent of a student who received an extremely positive experience at school. She also knows that she will miss the beauty of a Pacific Northwest spring and summer once she moves to Indiana in June.
“Seattle has been putting on a glorious goodbye show for me in the past weeks of blue skies, snow-capped mountains, blooming trees, vivid rhododendrons and abundant flowers,” she described.
However, she joked that she will not miss every part of Seattle.
“I will miss … parts of the Emerald City, but I won’t miss the traffic and outrageous housing prices,” she said lightheartedly.