“Call me Sarah,” the petite woman said as she strolled into the classroom. Decked out in cobalt blue chords and a blazer, she seemed massively out of place in a room full of students dressed head to toe in Vineyard Vines and Sperrys. The professor adjusted her Ray-Ban Wayfarers before she continued to address the class.
“This is English 212,” she began while passing out the syllabuses, “and throughout this course we will be discussing Life in Death and Death in Life throughout world literature.” After one student raised his hand to ask what that actually entailed, Sarah simply stated, “Zombies.”
Spending half of her childhood and all of high school in Africa, specifically French-speaking West Africa and Morocco, Sarah Lauro is no stranger to the myth of “the zombie.” And after receiving her undergrad degree in English at the University of California-Berkeley, Lauro traveled across the country to New York University to work towards her Masters.
While in New York she participated in a project throughout which she studied Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and how it was influenced by other monster stories. Sarah discovered that Frankenstein was actually similar to other monster stories that were seen in Africa due to the fact that they both possessed slavery undertones. She describes this experience as having something “click” for her, and she found a kinship with monster and zombie stories because most of them originate from African oral narratives.
After spending the last decade researching and teaching her “zombie” theory in literature to the students of the University of California-Davis, where Sarah received her PhD., her career brought her to Clemson University. So far, she “loves it so far, especially the weather and the people.”
“The people here are so nice and the students are extremely respectful and polite,” she said.
Within this student demographic, Sara introduces a new teaching style that differs from many professors at Clemson. Like her mentor at the University of California, Mark Blanchard, she believes in breaking the boundary between professor and student.
“Having students call me by my first name eliminates the artificial propping up that many students grant to their professors,” she said.
Sara wants the students to feel “invited to share” their ideas and to see the importance of having an open mind when dealing with students who have many different beliefs. Although, she does admit that her intentions as a teacher are not always selfless: “Honestly I consider myself greedy in the fact that I want to learn as much from my students as they are learning from me.”