Great Leaders: Paula Moya

Paula MoyaWhy did you choose Honors?

I was the definition of a non-traditional student, a working mother with two small daughters. It was at the urging of Honors alumna Mary Evelyn Sorrell (Art, ’81), another non-traditional student, that I applied to the Honors program. My admission to and immersion in Honors was definitely one of the best things that ever happened to me; I really enjoyed it. It defined my University of Houston experience and helped lay the groundwork for my professional trajectory.

How did the Honors College prepare you to become a Great Alumni Leader?

My choice to become a professor was very much shaped by my Honors experience. The Human Situation course, under the tutelage of Dr. Estess, had a big influence on the direction of my career. I really thrived as a result of the interactions, both scholarly and personal, that I had with Drs. Estess, Zamora, and Zaretsky, as well as with other professors at UH. That, coupled with their enthusiastic engagement with ideas of the mind, allowed me to admire them even as it allowed me to imagine myself pursuing a similar kind of life. I remember reading and being very inspired by their scholarship, and I liked that they were engaged on a project of life-long learning. They showed me a model of success I follow today.

What was the most profound take away that has resonated through the years?

One of the skills that has been most valuable to me over the course of my career has been the skill of close reading. Both Dr. Estess and Dr. Zamora were excellent close readers. But I was also influenced by Dr. Zamora’s work on the apocalypse. It taught me to pay attention to the way certain urtexts in our society, like the biblical apocalyse, weave their way into our imaginations, and shape the contemporary narratives we use to make sense of our everyday lives.

My current scholarly work focuses on the socio-historical concept of race, and it is very much like that. Race is a story that we tell ourselves, and it powerfully influences our perception, shapes our behavior and affects our motivation. The skill of close reading, and an appreciation for the power of foundational narratives, are things that I can trace back to the UH Honors Program; both remain at the core of my work today.

About Paula Moya

Paula M. L. Moya is Associate Professor of the Department of English at Stanford University. She is the author of Learning from Experience: Minority Identities, Multicultural Struggles (UC Press 2002) and the co-editor of Doing Race: 21 Essays for the 21st Century (W.W. Norton 2010), Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postmodernism (UC Press 2000), and Identity Politics Reconsidered (Palgrave 2007). She is at currently at work on a scholarly monograph entitled: "The Great American Story: Race in the American Literary and Cultural Imagination."

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