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New Prof Comes Full Circle at MCLA


Hannah Noel

When she was a child, Dr. Hannah Noel would play outside MCLA’s bookstore as she waited with her father for her mother, who was employed at the campus shop, to finish work for the day. Now an assistant professor of multi-ethnic studies and the digital humanities on campus, little did she know that one day she would join our faculty.

Noel is a native of nearby Florida, Mass., where her mother’s family has lived for generations. Her father, who is from North Adams, majored in Latin American history and geography at the College during the mid-1970s.

“My dad’s interests started here, and they no doubt impacted me, and some of my choices,” she explained. “Most MCLA students do come from Massachusetts, and I think I have an understanding of what it’s like to grow up here.”

A graduate of Drury High School in North Adams, when it came time for college, she didn’t go far from home: she attended Williams College. “I entered Williams thinking I probably would be an environmental studies major, or do something less humanities-based,” Noel explained. “But, I decided that I really liked courses in Latino studies and in American studies. And it made sense, because I’d always loved history, English and American studies.”

She ended up earning her Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in American studies, with honors in Latina/o studies. Noel also holds her master’s degree and Ph.D in American culture, with a graduate certificate in Latina/o studies, from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Previously a visiting assistant professor of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino studies at Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, her research interests include media and cultural studies, race, ethnicity, new racism and immigration in the United States.

Noel’s interdisciplinary training, she explained, allows her to contribute across the curriculum. Because she specializes in cultural and racial theory, as well as in ethnic studies in general, she expects to bring to campus courses that examine those topics.

By returning to the area where she grew up, “I would say I came full circle,” Noel said. “I honestly never thought I would have the opportunity to come back home because what I studied was so specific and specialized I didn’t think a position that would include teaching cultural and racial theory would be offered.”

When she saw the job posting at MCLA, Noel knew she had to try to come back to Berkshire County. “I lucked out,” she said. “I’ve taught at a few institutions, and I think MCLA students so far are my favorite. I find the students here to be really welcoming, warm, and eager to learn.”

A member of the English/Communications Department, this semester Noel is teaching “Introduction to Literature” and some college writing classes. “But next semester I’ll be teaching “Essentials of Film,” “Immigration and the Media,” and more college writing.

Among the possible courses she could teach in the near future are those in “U.S. Racial Theory” and “Latino Cultural Studies.” Because both of those classes would be interdisciplinary, she explained, they would bridge the gap between English and communications.

What’s the most important thing she hopes her students learn from her? Noel wants them to become careful and critical thinkers. “Whether you’re writing a college essay, analyzing literature, studying a cultural theory or you are consuming media, being a careful thinker will help you in your daily life.”