You wear many hats -- teacher, writer, researcher, coordinator, co-director. Which hat do you enjoy most?
Probably the teaching hat. I really love the interaction with students. I love thinking about how people learn. ... The fun part of doing it in the classroom is that you get to work with one group of people consistently a couple times a week for 15 weeks.
What is the best part about being a university professor?
That you can, within some pretty broad limits, do almost anything you want. What I mean by that is that in any course, you get to figure out, "How am I going to try get students to learn this, what do I do?"
The worst part?
The worst part is the paperwork and meetings.
You once considered becoming a rabbi?
Yes. In part because a rabbi is a teacher. That's what the word means. So, that appealed to me. I had done a lot of work with the Jewish congregation I was a part of. I'm interested in spirituality. But it didn't work out because the Hebrew classes at Macalester College were canceled my freshman year, and I needed to learn Hebrew.
What do you like most about Youngstown?
I like the size. It's very manageable in terms of getting around. It's a small enough community that I feel like I know a lot of people and I know what's going on, and I feel kind of connected. I like that there's a lot of awareness of ethnicity here.
Who are your heroes?
People who have managed in their lives to do a really interesting combination of things, like be activists and organizers, be writers, be teachers, be leaders and who manage at the end of the day to have this incredible combination of anger about injustice and a wonderful sense of life and passion and joy. Tillie Olsen is a good example. I have a colleague at Trinity University, Paul Lauter, who is a wonderful example. I had a friend, Constance Coiner, who was killed in the TWA 800 crash, who was one of those kind of people.
Name three people, alive or deceased, that you would like to have dinner with?
Constance would be one, because there are some things that have happened since she died. ... Steven Spielberg. I love his movies a lot, but I also get very frustrated by them, so I'd love to talk to him. And Greg Brown, a singer/songwriter whose work I just like a lot.
What is your all-time favorite movie?
This is a terrible movie to be the favorite of someone who is the co-director of the Center for Working Class Studies, but probably "The Philadelphia Story," a very upper-class movie with Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.
When you're not working, what would people find you doing?
In summertime, I work in the garden. My husband does all of the vegetables, but I do a lot of weeding and harvesting and just going out every day to see how they're doing. I do the flowers and the herbs. I love to cook. I like to read. Biking.
What's your pet peeve?
People who are convinced that things can't be changed, and unfortunately I hear more of that than I would like to.
What is your dream vacation?
My dream vacation, to give you some idea of the state of my life these days, is to go sit on a beach for a week with a pile of books. I don't get enough time to just sort of sit. Beyond that, I would love to do a walking tour in Italy, where you stay in a little inn and walk maybe 10 miles to the next place the next day. Then you stay at another little inn and eat really good food and then walk it off. So you get to see a lot of the Italian countryside.
What do you watch on TV?
"West Wing." I think it has great dialogue and good stories. And it gives me the image of what I wish our politicians were really like.
What's your favorite food?
Well, we're in tomato season, so probably a really good BLT, with one of those really good tomatoes that are available now.
What are your aspirations, professionally and personally?
Not to get bored.