Snapshot of VPS grad success: Sarah Faulkner

Not everyone discovers a career-defining interest in high school, yet that’s exactly what happened to Sarah Faulkner. At Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, a reading assignment touched off Faulkner’s decade-plus study of literature, particularly British female writers of the Romantic era. Recently the doctoral candidate and award-winning instructor took time to reflect on her experience at VSAA, give book recommendations and discuss her future.

Your love of Jane Austen’s novels began at VSAA. What sparked your interest?
My then-teacher-now-wonderful-friend Gretchen Grey-Hatton assigned [Jane Austen’s] Pride and Prejudice my senior year and I was instantly hooked. At first it was the romance, the dancing, the dresses. As I matured and studied English in college I appreciated new things—the social critique, the biting wit and, most importantly, her ability to make me cackle loudly in public every time I read her novels.

How would you reflectively describe yourself as a student at VSAA?
Curious, hopeful, and energetic—how I still am now! I was immensely happy at VSAA; I had wonderful friends, inspiring teachers and incredible opportunities for every type of growth. The arts school gifted me a deep awe of learning and passions for community and creativity that I’ve carried with me through life—and which have served me well as an English instructor at University of Washington for the last five years!

Were you involved in extracurricular activities?
I was a very busy high school student and I loved every second of it. I danced at Schell Dance Studio for six years, took private voice lessons and performed in numerous shows at VSAA. I was a member of National Honor Society and the Associated Student Body [student council], and served as our representative to the school board. I also planned many of the high school dances, which was always an adventure.

After your 2008 graduation from VSAA, which schools did you attend?
Chapman University in Orange, California, for my Bachelor of Arts, University of Edinburgh for my Master of Science and University of Washington in Seattle for my doctorate!

What is your proudest accomplishment?
I am most proud of the Jane Austen bicentenary event I hosted at UW last year called JaneFest! We had over 800 members of the public come to campus to take dance lessons, play Austen trivia, see first editions of her novels and even dance in full Regency costume to a live three-piece band! Since I first stepped on UW’s campus it was my dream to host an Austen-themed celebration there; it was a really special day—and so many VSAA alums came to celebrate!

What books would you recommend to someone who has never read Austen?
I definitely recommend starting with Pride and Prejudice. From there I would move to Sense and Sensibility if you want something similar, or to Persuasion if you want something more mature and sea-pining. Northanger Abbey’s famous chapter five defense of the novel is a must for all book-lovers.

What’s next for you?
I recently completed a one-month research fellowship at the New York Public Library and am doing a three-month research fellowship at the National Library of Scotland! Then I’ll fly home and defend my dissertation on Romantic women’s writing on Aug. 14. It’s been my goal to get my Ph.D. in English since I first read Pride and Prejudice in 2008, so this is a huge moment for me! This fall I’ll hopefully teach at UW while searching for full-time teaching and/or administrative positions in higher education in the Northwest!

Above: Sarah as a student at VSAA and, more recently, as a doctoral candidate at University of Washington

“The arts school gifted me a deep awe of learning and passions for community and creativity that I’ve carried with me through life.” —Sarah Faulkner