Work of a Jasper: Ashley Cross, Ph.D.

by RikkiLynn Shields, Staff Writer

Ashley Cross, Ph.D. is a professor of English at Manhattan College. Cross has been a professor at Manhattan for 19 years, and is currently in her fourth year as the Chair of the English department.

She grew up in Middlebury, VT, worked as a waitress and soda jerk throughout high school, and considered herself to be very willful.

“When I was very little I was quite rambunctious. When I went to high school, I was a very good student and did all of the things I was supposed to. Though, I always had a division between being a good girl at school and bad at home. My parents would go to conferences at school and the teacher would say ‘Ashley is so lovely and great’, and my parents would respond, ‘That’s not my child!’” Cross said.

Photo Courtesy of Ashley Cross

Cross attended Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Penn. where she got her degree as an English major and philosophy minor. For two years, she was a math major, and took all of the core math classes. After taking a poetry class, Cross realized what she really loved was English.

“I was always better at math on the SAT’s, but I always had a love for English and modern poets, like T.S. Elliot and W.B. Yeats,” Cross said.

After graduating college, Cross put herself through graduate school by working in a 24 hour convenience store.

“After I finished graduate school, I was teaching in a college in Illinois for three years. I wanted to move, so I came to New York and was getting ready to adjunct, when Brother Horner, who was the chair then, hired me to be a visiting assistant professor along with Dr. Marinaccio. The next year, Manhattan was looking for professors, and since Dr. Marinaccio and I survived that search we became full time professors,”  Cross said.

After coming to Manhattan, Cross later found out that her great grandfather attended Manhattan College, along with her great uncles, one who was a supreme court justice in New York City and the other was a police commissioner.

Here at Manhattan College, Cross teaches a variety of English classes such as First Year Seminar and College Writing, non-majors and English majors, and core classes. Some classes she teaches include Introduction to Literary Study, along with the second part of the British Literature Survey, Literature by Women, Gender Literature, and Literary Criticism.

Cross is motivated by the ever-new exposure she has as an English professor. “I love reading and writing. I love my subject matter, and I love my students. I think young people are amazing, alive, interesting and engaging,” Cross said.

Along with teaching, as a professor Cross also works on her scholarship, research, committee work and service on campus. She also chooses speakers and organizes events for students.

Currently, Cross is finishing up her book, which will be released in July 2016. The book is about Mary Robinson, a late eighteenth century writer. “Mary Robinson had a very flamboyant life. She was a celebrity for her time. She was an actress, had an affair with the Prince of Whales and then went on to become an author of some renown. The book is about her relationship to all romantic writers like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Wollstonecraft, Godwin and Southey.”

The three people that Cross considers to be huge influences on her life and her work today, she says would be Mark Taylor and June Dwyer, previous faculty members at Manhattan College, and her mom. “They are role models, and my mentors in all kinds of ways.”

Cross considers working as a professor at Manhattan College the most interesting and wonderful job she has ever done.

“I think teaching is a very rewarding profession. It’s a different kind of profession from other things. It’s always new, it always changes. Even if you’ve read and taught the same book ten times, it can still be different the next time you teach it,” she said.

“Maybe because you notice something different, your students have changed or your life has changed. Then it becomes something new. Teaching is intellectually rewarding because it’s always changing.”

Cross likes to remind her students to be passionate about what they do, and to be kind. “Fall in love. Try things. Challenge yourself. And I don’t mean fall in love with a person, although a person can be wonderful. Fall in love with something you do. Make yourself step outside of your comfort zone. College should rock your world, and it should change the way you see the world as well.”