Dr. Lisa Riggs has served as an English and Literature professor at Oklahoma Wesleyan University for six years. Her love for literature has influenced and inspired many students. Recently, she sat down to share her story with the Eagle.
Dr. Riggs’ journey at Oklahoma Wesleyan University started when she was an undergraduate student here. She recalls the moment she knew she was going to become a professor: “On my way to Math Survey, as I was entering the Science Building, I felt the Holy Spirit saying, ‘You have a purpose and reason. You do not need to worry.’” After hearing the Holy Spirit, Dr. Riggs did not worry about her purpose in life.
Eagle: Your love for literature shapes your work as a professor. Where did it start?
Dr. Riggs: I have always loved reading, but my passion for literature did not really start until I came here to OKWU. The more I was exposed to literature the more I began to fall in love with it. I fully believe that God gave me that desire and passion. I love the art of words!
Eagle: You have such a deep and thorough knowledge of literature. How did that happen?
Dr. Riggs: I have kept all of my class notes from undergraduate and graduate school. I refer to those notes and use them in every class. I also re-read the books I teach in class. I gain more from the second reading than the first. And I love reading critiques, which give a new perspective on what I am reading.
Eagle: You have said that poetry is your favorite type of literature. Why is that?
Dr. Riggs: I have always loved poetry. I believe God gave me this passion. Poetry is condensed and beautiful language. Denise Levertov is probably my favorite poet. She is a poet who writes from a Christian perspective. Every time I read something of hers, I feel God’s presence. I also love poetry because of what I learn from the students. The Inklings club is something I love. There is nothing better than to hear students’ poems. It is my favorite thing I get to do as a professor.
Eagle: Some literature and poetry deals with themes that are rather dark. How do you deal with this as a Christian?
Dr. Riggs: When reading those types of literature I find how I can relate it to Christianity. Life is dark and has a lot of dark moments. During those dark nights of the soul we as Christians call out to God. As Christians we have hope. We all have struggles in life but through our hope in Christ all will be learned. When reading dark poetry through a Christian perspective we can transcend that darkness through Christ. A lot of poets were not Christians and sadly for them there was no hope. By reading dark poetry or literature it makes us more empathetic and sympathetic towards others. In the end it makes us better human beings.
How do you apply your view on Christian apologetics personally and in the classroom?
Dr. Riggs: Personally, apologetics is incredibly important because of secularization and postmodernism in our world today. The best thing we as Christians can do is witness to others. Through witnessing, Christians fight for why they believe in Christ.
In the classroom, I am able to pass my knowledge on to the students. For example, in one of my [English] Comp classes, students knew they were Christians but did not understand why Christians believe Jesus is the absolute Truth. Through this discussion, I was able to bring Christian apologetics into the classroom and teach them Jesus is the Son of God. It does not matter if we believe it or not, because Jesus is the Truth of the universe. Christian apologetics deepens the study of analyzing literature. Reading different perspectives that are not Christian leads Christians to analyze the text from a Christian standpoint. Ultimately, it helps train our minds to defend what we believe is the truth in Christ.
Eagle: Lastly, what are your goals for your students and yourself?
Dr. Riggs: My mission statement is to teach students about Christ. I want to shepherd them into knowing who Christ is and His love. I have always felt called to Oklahoma Wesleyan University and I do not want to be anywhere else. I am certain I am called to teaching, and I want my teaching to be at the center of God’s circle.