ROE R. Cross Distinguished Professor
Amy Sage Webb
2012 - Amy Sage Webb
She has been called Wonder Woman, dynamic, and superhuman based on how much she is able to accomplish.
“She does it all,” says student Rachel Marshall in the April 19, 2012 ESU Bulletin story reporting Webb’s selection as the 2012 Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor.
In the same story, another Emporia State student, Michelle Thompson, describes Webb as "fun, motivational, and energetic. I like how she's really dynamic. I think she does a really good job of emphasizing the creative part and letting us go free reign."
“I don’t know how she reads everyone’s work and knows exactly what happened and what goes on in each story," added Marshall in a letter to the Roe R. Cross selection committee.
Lindsey Bartlett, graduate teaching assistant in the English department, wrote that if not for taking Webb’s creative writing course, she would not be the person she is today.
These praises are just a small sampling of what the Emporia State University community treasures about Webb.
Joining the Emporia State faculty in 1996, Webb is Professor of English and Co-Director of the Creative Writing program. Besides being honored as the 2012 Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor, other official accolades include receiving the Ruth Schillinger Award in 2011 for service to the women of Emporia State, as well as awards from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for Excellence in Teaching in 2007, and for Outstanding Service in 2008.
In an April 2011 Bulletin story about the Schillinger Award ceremony, the ESU Director of Multicultural Affairs said that Webb "often seems superhuman in her ability to accomplish so much and do it so well."
Webb makes a west coast jaunt about 20 days a year to teach and serve as national pedagogy specialist for Antioch University in Los Angeles, giving lectures and readings.
Webb’s poetry and fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals such as “Fourth River” and “Clackamas Literary Review.” In 2007 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
She has edited several literary journals, including Kansas Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review and Flint Hills Review. She has served as managing editor for Bluestem Press and continues to serve on the editorial board of Woodley Memorial Press and as a reviewer for the Kansas Arts Commission and Ohio Arts Council.
Webb's collection of short stories, set in the Flint Hills region near Emporia, Save Your Own Life, has drawn much praise for its image-conjuring descriptive characters and landscapes.
"These are stories rooted in Kansas soil, in country roads and small towns, in characters you swear you have met before, men and women who tug at your heart and get under your skin, wrote author Sharman Apt Russell in a review of the collection. "The landscape where they live is both familiar and exotic, deeply felt and vividly described, from a writer clearly at home in the natural world. Save Your Own Life is a strong and satisfying collection, with language that can punch you in the solar plexus-just the right phrase, just what you have always known."
Added author Thomas Fox Averill in another review, "Reading Amy Sage Webb is a delight. Save Your Own Life is full of mismatched people attracting and repelling each other. The robust stories in Save Your Own Life are full of surprises, are clear, open and singing all through."
The strong sense of place in her writing comes from her experiences. Webb grew up in Ohio, where she learned the love of nature and a sense of urgency about the loss of rural areas and local agriculture to strip malls and highways.
"It also provided me with an abiding appreciation for people of all types: diverse backgrounds and faiths, different races and cultures, and every type of work or profession,” said Webb. "My mother was an artist who taught me to seek beauty in the world and to experience wonder. My father was a scientist working very successfully in business. He taught me curiosity of mind, discipline of habit, practicality, and innovation. Both of them practiced compassion for others and service leadership. They laughed often, and they built diverse communities of friends whom they kept their entire lives."
She earned a Master of English from Kansas State University, and a Master of Fine Arts from Arizona State University before coming to ESU as professor of writing, literary editing, and American literature.
When asked why she chose to teach, Webb countered that teaching chose her.
“My heart knew from the very beginning that this was what I was supposed to do. I just had to develop the good sense to listen to it.
“Higher education is transformative in the lives of those who experience it, both the teachers and the students. Both sides are questioning assumptions, investigating concepts, and adding to existing knowledge. This is a dynamic process. It is work that demands the most of me intellectually and as a person.”
The passion she strives to instill in her students is difficult for them to avoid. A significant reason is how she models her own dedication to her work.
"My passion is creation,” said Webb, "Whether it is building a story from an image, a book from a theme, a course from a question, a program from a curriculum, I want to build something each day. I find meaning and purpose in building something fully and well, in collaborating with others in the process, and in sharing the fruits of that labor. To create something of value, one must continually develop and draw from one's scholarship and professionalism. My career at ESU has been especially enriching because it has given me so many opportunities to create and build courses, programs, policies, publications, and experiences with colleagues and with students."
When an Emporia State student enters the classroom with Webb, he or she enters a world of great opportunities and the promise of involvement, as well as working directly with the teacher-writer in what becomes a two-way street of learning.
"One of the great things about an academic career at ESU is being able to involve undergraduate students as well as graduate students in research and creativity," she explained. "Students are essential to my scholarship and writing. They bring new perspectives and experiences to my subjects, which challenge me and help my work to continue to grow.”
Once they graduate, Webb says she hopes students emerge with significant personal growth and abilities:
“I hope they have self knowledge and self respect. Knowledge of their subjects, and a lifelong passion to deepen and share that knowledge. The ability to break down complex tasks into manageable pieces and to work diligently through them in order to build something of value. Compassion for others. Confidence to be the thing they wish to see in the world.”