Dr. Grażyna Kozaczka, English professor and director of the All-College Honors Program, has taught at Cazenovia College for over 30 years. During this time, she has instructed a variety of classes, starting with academic writing and moving into English specialty classes. Some of the courses students take with her include American Literature, American Ethnic Literature, and Methods of Inquiry.

Some of Dr. Kozaczka's favorite courses are ones that she has developed herself out of a special interest. "Several years ago, I offered a class on vampires. The title was Bite Me and the course took advantage of the popularity of the Twilight books to introduce students to the classics of the vampire literature, such as Polidori's The Vampyre, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as well as work by Anne Rice," says Kozaczka.

Another favorite of Kozaczka's is the Cazenovia College team-taught seminars. These courses are instructed by two professors from different disciplines, who bring their views to the course topics. Kozaczka recalls an honors seminar called The Holocaust, which she team-taught with Dr. Sharon Dettmer, vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty. In addition, a course called Americans in Paris in the 1920s, which was offered with Fashion Design Professor and Program Director Karen Steen. Each professor brought her expertise and insights to the course material.

International Experience
Kozaczka brings a unique perspective to the Cazenovia College campus. Her European experience is like no other faculty member's on campus as she was born and raised in Krakow, Poland. She began her educational journey there and continues to travel back to Poland during the summers.

Kozaczka's international experience leads her to believe that travel is very important for students. She comments, "Experiencing different cultures, seeing people in their home environment, and learning how things might be done in a different way will open your mind. This is very, very important for all of us!"

It is for these reasons that taking students abroad is a part of her teaching philosophy. Coming from an international background, the passion Kozaczka has to share these experiences with her students comes through in her teaching. When given the opportunity to join the Canterbury Study Abroad group or teach a seminar that travels abroad over break, she is happy to do so.

"I have had some truly astonishing moments when traveling abroad with students. They have the 'ah-ha' moment and finally understand, not only the foreign language and environment, but their own Americanness through their confrontation," shares Kozaczka.

Personal Accomplishments
Kozaczka is not only known for her teaching, but also for her research. With two books and numerous articles already published, and more in the works, she is researching and writing when she is not in the classroom teaching.

Several years ago, she started to do more research and writing about ethnic and women's literature. As these two topics are underrepresented, Kozaczka's work is very important to the field.

"My newest book combines ethnic and women's literature. The book looks at women’s writing in the area of Polish-American literature and also looks at my own ethnic background, and combines these three things," comments Kozaczka. "Writing the Polish American Woman in Post War Ethnic Fiction will be published in the fall of 2018 by the Ohio University Press."

Kozaczka also holds many honors, including the 2016 Outstanding Pole of the Year award, which is given every year by the Polish Scholarship Fund to honor individuals for their contribution to Polish American communities. Kozaczka is the immediate past President of the Polish American Historical Association, an organization devoted to the study of Polish American history and culture as a part of the greater Polish diaspora. In 2017, she was honored by this organization with a Distinguished Service Award. She is also a member of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America, The Jozef Pilsudski Institute of America, and the Modern Language Association.

Student Engagement and Mentoring
Excitement and enthusiasm are key to Kozaczka's teaching philosophy. She is always changing and adjusting courses she teaches in some way to keep students interested from year to year. She comments, "To keep it fresh for myself, and also for students, I update the materials. I want them to get that sense of excitement. It is a moment of creating something together with the students."

In Kozaczka's class, she does not want students to listen to a lecture and transmit information. Her courses are designed to create knowledge together, while holding meaningful conversations and exchanges of ideas.

"We need to look at what is in front of us, and be able to judge and make decisions about what is happening. It is important to learn how to adjust and influence our reality," says Kozaczka. "If my students prepare for our class discussion, they are preparing to join me in that intellectual adventure."

Kozaczka continues, "Teaching a new group of students each year is always an adventure. To hear their attitudes, to see their reaction to the same book or an article in the The New York Times, to what is happening around us. It is always exciting and always new!"

When asked about her role as an advisor, she mentions that it is not just about helping students to select classes. Kozaczka plays a role as a mentor when she advises students on what courses will fulfill their requirements and what courses will help them achieve their future goals.

"Suggesting to students to try to take courses that will enrich them, that will add to their chosen major in a way that will not only make them a better individual, but also a better employee in the future, as well as a lifelong learner is really my job as an advisor and mentor," says Kozaczka.

All-Honors Program
Over the past 10 years at Cazenovia College, Kozaczka has been the director of the All-College Honors Program. In the beginning, the group started out small with about six students and has grown to almost 70 students today.

Each year, the top students in each class are invited to join the program and study honors level courses. These students turn out to be leaders on campus, both in the classroom and in the community.

"Apart from the students' honors curriculum, many of them are involved in community service projects and fundraising for different charitable organizations, or working with our Cazenovia community on different initiatives," shares Kozaczka.

Being the director of the program, Kozaczka has worked very closely with this group of students. She shares some of the proud moments, "I do keep in touch with many of them and receive feedback from them. From those conversations, I can see that we have prepared them well for their academic journeys and careers. One student that I have spoken to recently is pursuing her Ph.D. and would like to become a college professor. That is certainly a wonderful moment for me to see somebody I taught wanting to pursue that career."

Why She Teaches
When asked why she became a professor, Kozaczka answers, "Life sort of works in mysterious ways. I have always wanted to be a teacher, because I was inspired by my high school teacher. It is a common situation when you have a wonderful teacher to look up to. I had an English teacher in Poland who was very, very dedicated, and we became friends for many years after I graduated."

Kozaczka continues her story by sharing how her English teacher in high school was someone she really looked up to. They had become friends and stayed in touch when she was going to college. It was that teacher whom she looked up to while earning her master’s degree in teaching English as a foreign language and a second in English literature, as well as her doctoral work in American literature.

A similar story arose when asked why she chose to teach at Cazenovia College. As she tells the story, "My husband and I were working at a college in Pennsylvania in the 1980s. We always took Route 20 to travel east to visit his family in New England, and we often passed Cazenovia and thought that the town was beautiful. We loved visiting the lake and the town itself. One day we saw an ad for jobs at the college, as they were looking for a library director and part-time English/Writing professor."

They jumped at the opportunity to work in the little town that they had loved to visit and applied for the jobs. They were both fortunate to be hired and never regretted the decision to work at Cazenovia College.

Favorite Moments
Kozaczka recalls that some of her favorite moments with students throughout the years were the trips that she took students on. She shares a memory she had of a student, "Several years ago I had a student in the honors program who was reluctant to travel to NYC, and I talked her into coming for the experience. The student really became interested in the city, and eventually graduated from Columbia University Teachers College with her master's degree."

As an international citizen, Kozaczka enjoys traveling to Europe with students. She has taken groups to Italy, Greece, England, France, and in May 2018 to her hometown of Kraków, Poland. "Seeing and introducing students to new experiences, as well as being there to help students who are uncomfortable with new experiences, really is the best learning experience. When they become interested and the learning fires their imagination, it is something that I really enjoy," adds Kozaczka.

For Parents
"I would like students and parents to understand that when students enroll in my classroom, they are pushed to think on their own, not to repeat things," says Kozaczka. "I believe in engaged learning; learning that requires students to pose questions and find solutions to their questions."

Kozaczka's classroom is filled with engaged students who ask questions, participate in discussions, and go on to search for the answers to their questions. This methodology helps to prepare students for life after college, by asking questions and finding the answers.

She continues, "I understand the importance of preparing one's self for the job market and to have marketable skills. The skills I teach in my classroom allow students to learn how to think critically and make conclusions from the information at hand."

In Kozaczka's classroom, learning comes from discussions and diving deeper into topics and issues that students are passionate about. This is one reason she advises students to take courses outside of their majors, so they can learn more about the world from different viewpoints.

Words of Encouragement
When asked what words of encouragements she would give future Cazenovia College students, Kozaczka responds, "Be open to new experiences and new fields of learning. Sometimes when you start your education, you are focused on one career. But our lives change so quickly that we should think beyond a very narrow education for a specific trade or specific profession."

Broadening an educational perspective allows students to adapt to the challenges that are thrown their way. In the fast-paced world of changing technology, it helps to be knowledgeable in many areas.

"I suggest that students take as many courses that are not directly linked to their major as possible, to explore other areas, to learn more, to see your talents in other areas, not just what you selected as a major," comments Kozaczka. "This will make you a more well-rounded individual and more adaptable to the workplace that seems to be very changeable these days."

Learn more about Dr. Grażyna Kozaczka through our Faculty Spotlight video.