During more than two decades at Yale, English professor Linda Peterson has taught graduate seminars, chaired the English Department and advised University officials on issues such as library renovations and library heads. But among colleagues, she is still best known for her commitment to undergraduate education.
Peterson has taught at the University since 1977, specializing in Victorian poetry and prose and natural history writing. She was a long-time director of undergraduate studies in English and served as department chairwoman in the late 1990s. Peterson currently co-chairs the Bass Writing Program.
Although she is a senior faculty member, Peterson has continued to teach some of the University’s most well-known undergraduate English courses, such as Daily Themes and English 120. She is married to English professor Fred Strebeigh, who also teaches at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
“We would like more senior faculty to teach courses that allow for close contact with students,” English Department Chairwoman Ruth Bernard Yeazell said. “[Peterson] is very committed to that.”
Peterson contributed to the Committee on Yale College Education’s undergraduate curricular review released last spring. She chaired a group that advised the committee on undergraduate writing programs, recommending that Yale continue to offer undergraduates many of the writing courses she has taught throughout her years at Yale.
In addition to her various academic commitments, Peterson has taken on leadership roles throughout the University. In the past, she chaired committees to elect the heads of the Yale Center for British Art and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Peterson declined to comment on her potential candidacy.
Yeazell said she thinks Peterson’s unique blend of administrative leadership and dedication to undergraduate education makes her a strong candidate for the office of Yale College dean.
“I would say [the administration] knows the same things about [Peterson] that we on the English faculty know of her,” Yeazell said.
English professor Matthew Giancarlo said he thinks Peterson not only has the directorial experience and competence to serve Yale College dean, but also the ability to work effectively with others.
“She has a great knowledge of the faculty and student body,” Giancarlo said. “I think she would bring a high level of professionalism, personality and knowledge of the bureaucratic structure [to the office of dean]. She’s a very pleasant person to work with.”
Other faculty members in the English Department said Peterson’s friendly disposition has been a great asset to her success at the University. English professor Traugott Lawler — who has known Peterson for about 20 years — described her as “unusually thoughtful” and a “good friend” to many faculty members.
“I think she’s very efficient and, at the same time, extremely warm and personable,” Lawler said.
Peterson is general editor of the “Norton Reader,” a collection of classic and contemporary essays.