Corey Hickner-Johnson loved teaching middle school. However, this rewarding experience in the classroom didn’t allow her sufficient time to pursue her passion for literature.
Hickner-Johnson followed this passion to graduate school at the University of Iowa where she is a doctoral candidate in English and a certificate student in Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies. A recipient of a Graduate College Post-Comprehensive Research Award, Hickner-Johnson studies literary characters and women writers who experienced mental illness.
Q: Why did you pursue graduate school / become a researcher?
A: I was a middle school teacher before I came back to graduate school full-time. I loved teaching, but my job did not allow me to pursue my scholarship and its cultural resonances in deep ways—so I came to grad school where I could do those things.
Q: Describe your research in non-expert language?
A: I study mental illnesses and disabilities in literature by women writers. I want to show how literature provides us with really important and rich details about how it feels to have a mental illness. Literature conveys powerful feelings and human experiences.
Q: What impact has your work had on the field/world? What impact do you hope to have on your field/world?
A: So far, my work contributes a new consideration of mental illness and literature to disability studies as a field. I am also contributing a new consideration of mental illness and disability in literary studies as a field. My greatest hope for my career is that I can publish my work in journals and in book form and work as a tenure-track professor.
Q: What programs or resources (on or off campus) have influenced or supported your academic goals?
A: My advisors, Doug Baynton and Doris Witt, have been the most influential and supportive to me. They are good at encouraging my ideas—but also at helping me focus-in! They are both excellent scholars and mentors.
Q: Do you have any role models, mentors, or inspirational people who have encouraged you to pursue your work?
A: The people I look up to the most are feminist scholar Adrienne Rich because of her commitment to her scholarship, activism, AND creative work, and Barack Obama because of his commitment to building a better world and his scholarly work.
Q: How has your graduate experience shaped your career goals?
A: My graduate experience has made me want even more to achieve my goal to be a professor and to be able to teach, research, and write throughout my career.
Q: If you could go back to a time at the beginning of your graduate career, what advice would you give yourself?
A: I think I'd tell myself what I tell myself now: Do your very best, and if it doesn't pay off in the way you hope, at least you can be proud of your work.