The Catholic University of America

Lindsay Puvel

Senior Discovers Passion for Teaching

Senior Lindsay Puvel, like many college students, was never sure of what she wanted to do for a career. She started out at CUA as a philosophy major with a pre-law concentration. In her second semester she became an English major, dropping the idea of a law career and picking up a theology minor. During her junior year, she briefly considered nursing school.

However, in her final semesters at CUA, she discovered that her ideal career path was the one she had been resisting all along: teaching.

“I avoided teaching because I thought that’s what everyone expected English majors to do but now, here I am,” she said.

Throughout her years at CUA, Puvel has thrown herself into University life, and her leadership and service experiences have all drawn her toward her chosen career path, she said. Ultimately, however, it is her passion for literature and for passing on her faith that has led her to teaching.

“Studying literature makes me think a lot more deeply about humanity and the person’s relationship to the divine, that question of ‘why am I here,’” Puvel said. “I realized that when you study literature, and ultimately literature is about people, you’re studying God, just like to study an artist you would study his works. We are the creation, we are the painting that God has made, so if we want to learn about him we have to study his work.”

Puvel hit the ground running in her freshman year. A member of the University Honors Program, she took on a leadership position as co-organizer of the program’s monthly symposia, events at which professors are invited to share a meal with students in the honors residence hall in order to get to know them outside the classroom. She continued coordinating the symposia throughout her sophomore year.

In the second semester of her freshman year, she became one of the founding members of the CUA English Society, a literature appreciation group open to students of all majors.

The group hosts monthly book club discussions led by Taryn Okuma, clinical assistant professor of English, a literary trivia night once a semester, the English department fall and spring parties, and occasional field trips to author lectures or the annual National Book Festival. Puvel has served as society president since her sophomore year.

As a freshman she also applied to be a Resident Assistant (RA) and was placed during her sophomore year in Flather Hall, which houses freshmen. The experience provided her with the first hint that teaching might be a good fit.

“Working with those girls who were just transitioning to college and going through all those freshman growing pains led me to realize I really like working with people of this age group,” she said.

As a junior, she became an RA in Gibbons Hall, a residence for sophomores and juniors and the home of a newly founded upperclassman honors residential community.

Inspired by her professors, Puvel founded a new program in the residence hall, modeled after similar programs at other universities, called the Hitchhiker's Guide to Culture. This series of lectures takes place in the Gibbons Hall lobby every other week.

Professors were invited to give interactive talks on an aspect of culture that interested them, not limited to their academic field. The brief lectures covered topics in the arts, music, literature, history, and science.

In addition to her campus involvement, Puvel has excelled academically. In 2011, she presented a literary paper at the James Madison University Mad-Rush research conference and has been on the Dean’s List every semester at CUA, earning Dean’s List with Distinction three semesters.

Somehow she also found the time to serve as a copy editor for the CUA student newspaper, The Tower, in her junior year and to co-lead a weekly Renew group, a residence hall Bible study group, this year as a senior.

As a freshman and sophomore Puvel volunteered with Students for Life. This year she became the group’s volunteer coordinator with the Northwest Center, an organization in Washington, D.C., that provides services for pregnant or parenting women, including a maternity home for women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless due to pregnancy.

“To be pro-life means so much more than to be simply against abortion. It’s this huge holistic way of living. It has a lot to do with the way you raise your children and the way you conduct yourself every day. It has a lot to do with the relationships you have with everyone around you,” Puvel said.

Puvel says she is open to the many forms teaching can take, but one day hopes to teach high school women “in the context of what it means to be a young woman today and still authentically Catholic,” she said.

When it comes to passing on a culture of life, Puvel has a broad vision.

“It’s not just about addressing abortion and euthanasia. It’s about addressing homelessness and about broken families and hunger and even environmental stewardship. Really you’re just fighting for human dignity and that takes many different forms.”

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Lindsay Puvel

Hometown: Thurmont, Md.

Major: English, minor in theology

Favorite Professors: In the Department of English, Daniel Gibbons, assistant professor and director of undergraduate studies, and Taryn Okuma, clinical assistant professor. “They have gone out of their way to develop me as a person, not just as a scholar.”

Favorite class: Special Topics in Theology: Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI, taught by Joshua Benson, assistant professor of systematic theology. “I loved that class because it helped me understand who Pope Benedict is. He became such a pastor for me; he wasn’t just this Pope very far away in Rome.”

Favorite spot on campus: Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center Gallery (glass windows overlooking the lawn)

Favorite book: Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Fun Fact: Puvel is currently training for her first marathon, which she hopes to run in May.