New Faculty Feature: Dr. Deepa Jani

Dr. Deepa Jani, visiting assistant professor, is teaching English and Oxbridge students during the 2015-2016 academic year. Jani loves cinema, listens to cool jazz, rides her bike to school and is originally from India.

Jani got her bachelor’s and master’s degree in English at the University of Pune. She then went on to be a documentary photographer in India.

“After becoming disillusioned with the academy,” says Dr. Jani, “I thought, I will change the world with photography.”

She documented social issues including prostitution, poverty and her largest project—the anti-dam movement. Jani’s photographs have been published and brought international attention and aide to victims of the building of massive dams.

After five years as a documentary photographer Dr. Jani got a second master’s degree in English with a concentration in Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University.

“Life on the road can be stressful after a point. I missed teaching and researching, and I thought I was always at heart an academic,” said Jani.

The choice to come to the United States to further her education was based on her desire to study critical theory.

“I always struggled with whether I should study literature or philosophy. Critical theory helped me to study both. In India you could not get a Ph.D. in critical theory; critical theory happens in U.S. universities,” said Jani.

To get a Ph.D. in English with a concentration in Critical and Cultural Studies, Jani transferred to the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Jani wrote her dissertation on a South African writer named J.M. Coetzee and analyzed how this postcolonial writer engages with the legacy of Western humanism. Jani is currently working on a book that will be a revision to her dissertation.

With so much education under her belt, Jani’s teaching career followed. She taught at the University of Pune, Carnegie Mellon, University of Pittsburgh and currently teaches at William Jewell College.

Jani is teaching the Jewell classes “Studies in Contemporary World Literature” and “Advanced Studies in Word Literature.” She is also teaching Oxbridge students “Advanced Critical Theory.” A secondary interest of Dr. Jani’s is world cinema and film theory, so she is looking forward to teaching a CTI 200 level course called “Film Worlds,” along with “Responsible Self” and “Oxbridge Global Literature and Theory” next semester.

Dr. Jani said, “At Jewell I am teaching courses in my areas of specializations, so I am really enjoying the courses and I have great students who are open to challenging questions.”

Initially, Jani was attracted to Jewell because of the courses being taught in the English Department and the Oxbridge Honors Program. During her visit to Jewell for a job interview, she had very positive experiences with students and faculty that confirmed her decision to take the job.

As a teacher, her education is not over; she continues learning from her students.

“Teaching helps you to never forget that you are among the first to learn,“ said Jani.

Jani tries to stay intellectually stimulated. When it comes to unwinding, she still doesn’t let her brain rest. She is very enthusiastic about solving the puzzles of murder mysteries. Jani’s evening ritual is watching detective fiction and murder mysteries.

“My most favorite is the classic Sherlock Holmes, but I only like certain versions of Sherlock Holmes,” said Jani. “I like the BBC productions and I like Jeremy Brett. He is the best Sherlock Holmes, way better than Benedict Cumberbatch.”

Along with murder mysteries, Dr. Jani also enjoys jazz music. She prefers listening to the cool jazz of Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

Also on her list of recreational activities is bicycling. However, the commute to Jewell is different than past trips to work, considering she has never lived in a suburb. She said it has taken her time to adjust to Liberty because of this, and she definitely misses living in the city. One of her favorite places to live is New York City, where she enjoys “its madness and unpredictability.”

Despite the change from that sort of culture, she seems excited about being able to see a new city.

“I want to explore Kansas City on foot, that is my upcoming project, I plan to do that during fall break,” said Jani.

From India to Kansas City and many places in-between, Jani gives Jewell students words of encouragement and tips she has learned along the way.

She advises her students to “work, work, work. The only way one can find oneself is in one’s work.”

To students who are soon to graduate and start out into the real world looking for jobs, Dr. Jani spoke from experience of being on the job market and offer advice.

“Its very relevant to me because I was on the job market, I want my students to be practical, but not to lose their ideals,” Jani said. “Market yourself but do not lose your legitimate strangeness.”

Kansas City and William Jewell are just one stop on Dr. Jani’s career path, as she will be back on the job market next year looking for a tenure track position and working on her book. So while she is here, stop by her office in the third floor of Jewell Hall and meet her—she will surely have a word of advice or a murder mystery story to tell.

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