By Trichelle Lee
Looking for someone committed to passion, learning, and growth? Look no further than Susan Wadsworth-Booth. Wadsworth-Booth believes in learning and intellectual growth, and it definitely shows with her long list of achievements.
The West Virginia native, who attended DePauw University, recalls that college was challenging at first. “It was definitely more demanding than anything I’d ever experienced,” she said. “But, I had wonderful professors and a number of fascinating classes, and I worked hard to make the most of my college education.” As a student in DePauw’s Honor Scholar program, she was able to explore a wide range of interests while pursuing her love of writing. When she was eventually rewarded with an invitation to join Phi Beta Kappa, she considered it a great honor. “Being elected to Phi Beta Kappa seemed such a strong validation of the effort and commitment I’d made,” she said. Wadsworth-Booth credits her liberal arts education for leading her into new interests. Classes in a wide range of topics in religion, science, and philosophy “made me think about different subjects, in different ways, and about the connections among them,” she explained.
After beginning a career in public relations as a staff writer, Wadsworth-Booth found herself yearning to work with deeper subjects. She soon got her chance. While completing her MFA in writing at the University of Pittsburgh in 1988, she accepted a job at Duquesne University Press as an assistant editor. “I’d always enjoyed writing workshop classes where we could help others improve their writing and better express their ideas, so the position really clicked with me immediately,” she said. “Not only could I help these authors and scholars polish their book manuscripts for publication, but I was learning about their subjects and helping to get that knowledge out to others.” She eventually rose to the position of editor in chief before being named director of the press in 1999.
Under her guidance, the Duquesne University Press garnered numerous national and international awards, most recently from the French Ministry of Culture and the PEN America Foundation. Wadsworth-Booth’s extensive academic experience also includes teaching at the University of Pittsburgh and an administrative role at Salem International University in West Virginia, where she managed public relations and campus publications.
In August, Kent State University announced that Wadsworth-Booth had been appointed as director of the Kent State University Press. She began her duties there on September 11. Kenneth Burhanna, interim dean of Kent State University Libraries, who chaired the national search for the press directorship, commented, “Ms. Wadsworth-Booth stood out from an impressive field of candidates, based on her long and successful track record in scholarly publishing, her strength as a change agent and her plans for faculty and student engagement.”
It’s safe to say Phi Beta Kappa’s motto of “Love of learning is the guide to life” has had an effect on Wadsworth-Booth. When asked if she had any advice to share, she stressed the importance of being an informed citizen and meeting the challenges of our world: “I think we all have to continue to seek knowledge and be open to new ideas, to follow our hearts and be committed to continuous learning.” She also advises people to choose a field that enables growth and allows them to interact and connect with others. For those interested in the liberal arts, she warns not to fear that they will be unemployable or that their degrees won’t be practical. “As a one-time English major myself, I know that what is most important is to learn to think creatively and analytically,” she said. “That can be applied to any job. Why else would we sometimes see Google hiring philosophy majors?” Wadsworth-Booth believes we should never get comfortable with the level of knowledge we’ve absorbed because the world is not a static place; we must often change or adapt. “Meeting new people, making connections, and considering new ideas,” she said, “are essential activities for creating a civil society.”
Wadsworth-Booth has a deep appreciation for Phi Beta Kappa’s support for higher education in the liberal arts. Not only did Phi Beta Kappa provide her with a welcome affirmaiton during her time as a student, her liberal arts education as a whole transformed her thought process and the way she saw the world—all of which influences the life she leads today.
Trichelle Lee is a senior at the University of Mississippi majoring in English. The University of Mississippi is home to the Beta of Mississippi Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.