Dr. Sarah McFarland is an undergraduate professor of English and is on the graduate faculty at Northwestern State University.
I’ve had the pleasure of being one of Dr. McFarland’s undergraduate students since the spring of 2020. In that time, she’s not only shown me that she’s a wonderful professor and advisor, but that she’s also empathetic, caring and a wonderful role model for any young person, particularly her English students.
Dr. McFarland has written multiple academic papers on the theories of ecocriticism and human exceptionalism and recently published her first book, “Ecocollapse Fiction and Cultures of Human Extinction.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic shifted how classes had to be taught, I was in her English 4230 class, “Literature and the Environment.” This class was the gateway into a long-term interest in ecocriticism and the feminist theories around our relationship with nature and how we, as humans, interact with the rest of the world.
Dr. McFarland pushes students to re-evaluate how people have historically and continue to write about the world, through novel, film and learned experience.
And then, as the course continues, she encourages students to evaluate for themselves. Dr. McFarland pairs presentations and essays to gauge the level of critical thinking and understanding that each student is displaying about a specific subject, relevant to the course material.
As the pandemic continued to worsen, Dr. McFarland was quick to put her students first by making sure that the course load was still manageable as many students were displaced and confused. She’s always eager to hear from her students and wants to be available to answer any questions or offer advice- or cheerleading, as the case may be.
Dr. McFarland also heads the two-part senior seminar that every English major needs to complete their degree. This seminar is offered for each concentration of English majors to compile what they’ve learned during their time at NSU, and later present and share this project at their choice of events, including LitCon, Research Day and the Demon Writer’s Guild Semester reads.
While the first part of the seminar was held virtually, we met twice a week via Microsoft Teams, where Dr. McFarland helped nurture the natural and learned creativity of myself and my classmates.
Now, I’m putting that research to use in the second part of my senior seminar, under Dr. McFarland’s lead and advice.
She encourages each student to focus on what they want to do with their degree, on what makes each individual happy and she reiterates that the class’ project is not intended to make us miserable. It should be challenging but not something we dread doing.
Dr. McFarland is always willing to give feedback, criticism and a new perspective. She encourages critical thinking and pushes each student to come to know themselves and what they love to do, regardless of background or plans for the future.
Dr. McFarland is a huge inspiration to myself and many other students, and I can truthfully say that she’s one of my biggest role models.