Before They Were Educators: Dr. Laura Wright

(Editor’s Note: The following is the fourth part of a series of articles looking at the lives of WCU faculty and staff before they were educators.)

Which professor sports a nose ring everyday in class and has a total of five tattoos? Long before Dr. Laura Wright became an associate professor for the English department or the director of graduate studies in English she was rocking out to bands like the Cure and The Smiths. Before she was responsible for enforcing the rules inside of her classroom, she was breaking the rules of her parents; Wright admitted that “they [her parents] were very strict, and I was very rebellious”; Wright confessed that while growing up she constantly got in trouble for lying. Rock music and a rebellious attitude, a true child of the 80s.           

Wright graduated from Page High, home of the Pirates, in Greensboro, NC in 1988. Wright played both soccer and volleyball at Greensboro Day School during her ninth grade year. Wright’s active teenage years foreshadowed how active she was going to be once she reached adulthood. Wright’s first was an orange 1974 VW Karmann Ghia convertible, which isn’t too surprising because it suits the bubbly personality she has as an adult, which I imagine was just as prevalent in her teens.

Aside from the Smiths and the cure, Wright was also a huge fan of REM while growing up. Early in her teens, Wright fell in love with any and all John Hughes and Tim Burton films; the movies she first loved as a kid are still some of her favorite ones today.

Duran Duran defined the 80s and Wright was just as obsessed and love sick with them as every other teenage girl. Over the years, Wright has traded the blonde hair, tight jeans, pop collars, and rocker bad boy image that the members Duran Duran were so infamous for, for the witty charm of a well known actor and comedian; Wright didn’t quite admit to being a crazed fan, but did confess “I have a slight crush on Seth Rogan” . Her celebrity crush is totally understandable after considering the sweet dance moves he introduced in “Knocked Up”.

If you have ever taken a class with Dr. Wright, you are well aware of worldly knowledge, especially her fascination with South Africa; her knowledge can be attributed to the trips and vacations she has experienced in her life time. When she was 14 years old, Wright took a cruise that visited ports in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. The following year, when only 15 years old, Wright spent two weeks during the summer months in Manhattan and remembers the time: “It was an amazing experience. Three summers ago Wright was fortunate to visit South Africa, which I am certain has been beneficial in courses she teaches at Western.

The free spirited and rebellious teenager that Wright was often led to trouble, although she assures none of it was too major. While in high school, Wright found opportunity in the fact that one of her friends were out of town on a family vacation, which left an empty, inviting house. Wright sprung on the chance to throw a party, which she got caught doing. She joked, “No one was very happy with me for a while; I got grounded and my friend didn’t speak to me for months!”

While most kids dream about one day becoming a doctor or airplane pilot, Wright admitted, “I don’t know that I really wanted to be anything prior to realizing that I wanted to be a college professor during my sophomore year in college.” Although her career dream seems to have been delayed compared to others, once she made her mind up she worked extremely hard to ensure that her dream would come true. Even though Wright was set on a career goal, there have been several points in her life where she has considered working with animals, but instead of pursuing a career that involves animals, Wright has done a lot of volunteer work with animal protection and rescue agencies.

Although Wright now calls Western home, and is proud to be a Catamount, she did receive her BA from Appalachian State University, but we won’t hold that against her. After receiving her BA, she attended East Carolina for her master’s degree and then finished her PhD at the University of Massachusetts.

When Wright isn’t busy in the classroom, she is almost always doing something active outdoors. Wright has been running since she was 12 years old, but hadn’t ever done it competitively until she became an adult because she never liked being on teams because her rebellious spirit didn’t like being told what to do. She is a long distance runner and on the occasion that she has to compete in a race, she almost always places, either overall or in her age group. Aside from running, Wright spends a lot of time hiking and said, “I’m a big fan of tubing down rivers in the summer.” In the winter, Wright enjoys to snow ski; she hasn’t been able to go in a few years and admits that she may have forgotten how. The very physically active Wright is also artistically inclined, which is no surprise considering her English background; she plays the piano as well as paints and course she writes, “A LOT.”  She typically dislikes shopping of any kind, with the exception of being quite fond of wandering through antique stores with no intent on buying anything.

Even with the impressive resume Wright has, she still found herself slightly star struck and giddy over meeting J.M. Coetzee, a South African author which she currently teaches in her courses, and who is notorious for his apathetic attitude toward winning the Novel Prize in Literature. Coetzee was the topic of Wrights dissertation, and in 2003, shortly after he won the Nobel Prize, he was scheduled to lecture at the University of Massachusetts. Wright was fortunate to be his escort from the airport, and was even able to have dinner with him. Wright remembered, “He smiled at me across the table at one point, and this is a really big deal because he NEVER smiles. [It] made my year.”

Wright is now most known for upbeat, engaging style of teaching and can certainly help you out when it comes to all things literature, if you ever need a new idea for a place to hike, or if you need help with Tim Burton film trivia, just be sure never to ask her to house sit.