Talented writers have a knack for weaving words and ideas, sometimes in some of the most unexpected and thought-provoking ways. This description perfectly fits English major Christian Farrior, a senior at Saint Leo University who aspires to teach English at the college level.
Farrior, 24, is originally from Killeen, TX but has lived in several places since his dad served in the U.S. Army for over two decades. He now lives in Tampa, FL. He has an older sister, Chelsea, and a dog named Georgia.
Farrior is an alumnus of Wharton High School in Tampa. In the summer of 2016, he began his college career attending Pasco-Hernando State College where he earned an Associate of Arts degree. It was a professor there who suggested he consider Saint Leo University’s English degree program.
“I took several English classes at PHSC,” Farrior recalls. “I formed a nice mentorship with Prof. Wesley Johnson, one of the English professors there who had graduated from Saint Leo. We talked about how I wanted to pursue English and he told me about how nurturing of an environment the program was for him.”
Johnson’s wife, Heather, also works at Saint Leo University. He connected Farrior to Dr. Kathryn Duncan, a longtime English professor at Saint Leo.
“Dr. Duncan and I talked about the English program before I even started,” Farrior says. “Right after that conversation, I knew Saint Leo was where I wanted to go. She was very comforting and she told me about the amazing curriculum in the program with critical thinking and analyzing literature in a unique way. I also felt like I wasn’t just going to be a number and that I’d have some really supportive mentors like I had with Prof. Johnson.”
In the spring of 2018, he enrolled in the English degree program with a focus on literature and cultural studies.
Top-Notch Faculty in the English Major
When asked about his favorite instructors, Farrior immediately points out several faculty members who teach in the English major at Saint Leo University. One professor who fits this category is Dr. Allyson Marino.
“I had Dr. Marino for an American literature class,” he says. “We went in depth into the history of the texts and what these works actually mean. I also wrote a paper in this class that I’d later use as a writing sample for the graduate programs I have applied to recently. I’ve gotten an amazingly positive response on this paper from every school.”
His paper was on Christianity and its relationship with the African-American community, specifically examining how Christianity has been used as a tool of resistance and assimilation within American society.
“I talked about Phillis Wheatley and Frederick Douglass in order to make their points about abolition. Then I related it to modern-day African-American pop culture personalities like Tupac, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar.”
Another course in his English major that made an impression on him was with Dr. Lee Hobbs on the journey of a hero through comic books.
“We talked about how character archetypes are formed through comic books. Being able to explain theories through this really cool platform was amazing.”
Plus, he thoroughly enjoyed the Star Wars storytelling and literature class with Drs. Anne Barngrover and Allyson Marino. The students used the Star Wars series to explain various literary and cultural theories.
Overall, he says he owes so much to his instructors at Saint Leo.
“My professors have shaped me into someone who truly enjoys writing and literature. My goal is to get a Ph.D. and teach English at the college level.”
Farrior’s Approach to Writing
He has a solid grasp of what he believes his role is as a writer.
“As English majors, it’s our job to understand older and more complex texts, but we also try to simplify these texts and relate them to more modern-day aspects of our society. I’ve really focused my writing on making connections between the past and present.”
He explains what he enjoys most about writing.
“I love having the ability to get ideas that are bubbling around in my head down on paper. It’s nice to know I could be informing or helping someone learn something new that they didn’t know before.”
Duncan, his mentor, has some words of praise for her high-achieving student.
“Christian is a really great student who makes interesting and unexpected connections,” Duncan says. “He's well-steeped in canonical lit and finds these connections to Tim Burton films, superheroes, and other pop culture references.”
Outside of the Classroom
Aside from academics, Farrior currently serves as vice president of the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society chapter on campus.
“It’s a fun community of English majors who come together to talk about the books we are reading. We have a lot of fun. During the pandemic, we’ve done these themed readings on Zoom where students, staff, and faculty have all come together virtually to read poems, short stories, and other works that we’ve written ourselves or works from other authors. For Valentine’s Day, we did a session on bad romance.”
He was also involved in a library book club hosted by Prof. Angel Jimenez.
“We read books together and had in-depth discussions on the importance and relevance of them.”
He describes his favorite genres to read for pleasure.
“I enjoy reading modernist American literature. Some of my favorite works are The Great Gatsby, The Awakening, and To Kill a Mockingbird. I also like British literature and poetry, especially from the Romanticism time period.”
Along with his studies, he has worked at a local YMCA facility in Tampa.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping older kids,” he says. “I worked as a summer camp leader and ran a separate camp for kids ages 12 to 14 called Leaders in Training. I helped kids learn leadership skills so that they’d become leaders in their communities and personal lives.”
Acknowledging Saint Leo University’s Core Values
According to Farrior, a few of the six Saint Leo University core values have specifically defined him as a student.
“Community is a big one,” he explains. “I feel like I’ve truly developed here as a person because of the community around me. I’ve taken a few classes with Dr. Elisabeth Aiken in which I had a real sense of community because everyone in the class came together to discuss important issues of contemporary literature. We all worked together to answer the questions presented to us in these texts.”
Personal development is also notable to him.
“With personal development, there is so much I’ve experienced through each professor I’ve had at Saint Leo. They’ve all helped me learn and grow by giving me really good advice that has shaped me into the individual I am today.”
Earning a Degree During a Pandemic
As for how his education has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, he says the positives have outweighed any challenges he and his classmates have faced.
“The professors have put a lot of effort into making everything work. Some have used the breakout rooms on Zoom for us to do group work and get to know our classmates a little better. I’d say they have all made sure students don’t feel alone, and they will reach out to students who might be struggling to help.”
He believes this dynamic will benefit him in his future graduate studies and career.
“This has been good practice for me,” he says. “When I go to grad school, I know there will be a lot more independent work, so I know all of this has prepared me well for that.”
As of this writing, Farrior has been accepted into all four literature and cultural studies graduate degree programs to which he has applied. He’s excited for a new experience.
“I’m a military brat, so I moved around growing up. I’m looking forward to spending two years in a new place and getting to see new things.”
He has some wise words on what attending Saint Leo University is really like.
“You’re going to grow here. You’re going to see yourself get exposed to new ideas and perspectives. Plus, you don’t just get to know the students in your major, but the professors are also here for you. They’re in your corner. You can ask them to help better explain your homework assignment, get life advice, or go to them with literally anything on your mind.”
Awards and Recognition
In 2020, Farrior received the Kurt Wilt Prize for Student Writing for a nonfiction essay he had published in the Sandhill Review. (Check out Farrior’s essay, “Dear Friend.”)
“This was really my first actual published piece of writing,” he says. “Drs. Marino and Barngrover helped me a lot with this essay.”
In addition, another research paper on how the late hip-hop star Tupac is a Byronic hero was accepted by the Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society. Farrior was supposed to present the paper at a conference in Las Vegas, but it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our own Sigma Tau Delta chapter on campus stepped in and we held a virtual meeting for me to read it. There were students, faculty, staff, and even my old Prof. Johnson from PHSC were in attendance for that.”
Free Time Fun
In his rare spare time, he enjoys reading and writing for fun, building Lego sets, and participating in activism events in the community.