Laura Halferty, an adjunct professor in the English and creative writing department, recently earned the Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence for her encouraging, versatile and creativity-cultivating style.

Nominator Leigh Wilson, Distinguished Service Professor and chair of English and creative writing, praised Halferty as “one of our department’s strongest and most effective teachers” who “distributes joy to her students as much as she distributes the self-discipline and skills young writers need.”

Noting that Halferty has three degrees from Oswego -- master’s degrees in both English and history, plus a bachelor’s in English -- Wilson said Halferty has filled a variety of key roles in a quarter-century of teaching at the college. “For those 25 years she has been one of our most popular and certainly the most published adjunct on our faculty,” Wilson wrote.

Wilson also explained that Halferty “publishes what she teaches, having garnered a national online reputation for creative nonfiction writing,” including writing regularly for PopMatters, the largest popular culture criticism online site.

Halferty’s many publications and contributions range from her most recent, the memoir “All the Times We Didn’t Die” published last month in “Under the Gum Tree,” to an award-winning history piece titled “Oswego’s Irish Immigrant Women” to a range of published fiction, screenplay editing, national columns, photography and more.

In her 25 years, Halferty has taught courses on fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, literature, culture and media, Western heritage and more -- while inspiring students along the way.

‘Meaningful and memorable’

“My experiences in her classes are still so meaningful and memorable to me, even years later, and I have fond memories of them to this day,” wrote 2016 graduate Lindsey Moses. 

Halferty “does not simply teach; she fully immerses herself in the course material and imparts this love and dedication onto each and every one of her students,” Moses wrote. “The discussions I had in Professor Halferty’s classes were always exciting and engaging; she constantly encouraged us to share our insights and ideas, creating a supportive classroom environment conducive to student learning. … Her constructive criticism helped me see things in new ways, which ultimately enabled me to grow as a writer.”

Moses credited Halferty for a “life-changing” impact through positive feedback, praise and solid support, which encouraged Moses to enroll in graduate school. “Professor Halferty helped me see the good in myself, encouraged me to explore my talents and strengths, and gave me the confidence I needed to succeed,” Moses wrote. “As exaggerated as this may sound, I don’t think I would be where I am now without Professor Halferty’s kindness, encouragement, passion and wisdom.”

“She taught me that to cultivate a good piece of written work you need to be vulnerable while maintaining a level of honesty that the readers can trust, which has become an invaluable skill I utilize to this day,” wrote 2011 alumna Laura Mitchell.

Empowering mentor

“At a time when students are on a journey of self-discovery, Laura’s courses provide a platform investigate the influences that define ‘the self’ and challenge students to think critically of the media-enriched world around them,” Mitchell said, adding Halferty’s “passion for education and ability to empower her students leaves a lasting impression. ... Laura continues to be an excellent role model and mentor as an advocate for social change and higher education.”

Sophomore Brianna Bruno took introductory fiction and non-fiction classes from Halferty and said such classes help students grow as writers. “By being introduced to a variety of texts and styles, students are allowed to gather a strong skill set before applying it to their own writing,” Bruno wrote. 

“Professor Halferty’s way of teaching makes the foundation of a student’s work strong, while fostering creativity,” Bruno said. “Furthermore, she helps students cultivate their ideas, and helps guide them with robust discussion. There were days in which we wrote down ideas and passed them around wholesale to all of the class for honest comment and input. The creative energy! What a wonderful way to learn.”

While serving as a mentor to students, Halferty credits her “life’s work” of teaching to Robert Moore, professor emeritus of English and creative writing, who asked her to teach two first-year writing courses in 1994 after she earned her master’s in English from Oswego. 

“I was an excellent student, though inexperienced and terrified of failing,” Halferty recalled. “But he saw something in me that I didn’t. And for the last twenty-five years, that one seemingly insignificant offer, that risk my mentor was willing to take on me, has made it possible for me to have a career I thrive in and to pay it forward every day.”