In her own words
In the end, as in the beginning, it’s about the students. So smart, so curious. Such vision and creativity and commitment. Always inspiring—even (or perhaps especially) the ones who struggle. I carry their exuberance with me into this strange thing “retirement.”
I remember some 30 years ago, when my grad school mentor stopped in Ann Arbor on a cross-country trip with her spouse to celebrate her retirement. We lifted the obligatory glass and toasted the pleasures of no longer having to read papers and assign grades, and then they drove off into what seemed an endless and bountiful horizon. It’s only now that I realize the stew of feelings she must have held inside.
I won’t miss grading papers, it’s true (though I’ll miss being floored by what students are capable of writing).
I will miss the joy being a small part of an astonishing enterprise. In my first, wobbly year of teaching at the RC, back in 2003, when I was struggling to figure out why I’d said yes to such a daunting job, I asked a faculty colleague what he liked about teaching. His answer was immediate. “To be there when a student makes a discovery.”
Ah, yes. And the amazing thing is it happens every semester. In the middle of an otherwise slow class, during office hours or on email, in a suddenly revelatory revision of a first or second draft that seemed to be going nowhere. What did you learn about yourself during the semester? I often asked students on the last day of class. “I learned that the written historical record doesn’t tell the whole story,” one first-year student answered. “I learned that I also have things to contribute to that story.”
So I lift a figurative glass in thanks to all my friends at the RC—to the exceptional staff, who year-in, year-out make this the best place on campus to work; to my colleagues on the faculty (including one former student!), who amaze me with their consistent energy and integrity and devotion and brilliance; and, always and ever, to the students: past, present, future. You are the soul of this institution. What an honor it’s been.
From Residential College Director Catherine Badgley
Leslie Stainton has been a Lecturer at the RC intermittently since 2003. Her educational background is in Drama, with a BA in Drama from Franklin and Marshall College and an MFA from the Department of Theater at the University of Massachusetts. She managed the Hartford Stage Company Youth Theater in Connecticut, shortly after receiving her MFA. She also has advanced training and professional experience as a writer and editor. She worked as writer and editor for the UM Museum of Art, School of Public Health, and LSA Communications. She was a managing editor for Borders, Inc. and edited the Inside Borders magazine.
Leslie has written three books, including a biography of Federico García Lorca, a history-memoir entitled Staging Ground: An American Theater and its Ghosts, and with fellow biographer Helen Sheehy she co-authored an annual desk diary on writers and writing. She published numerous essays for academic journals, newspapers, and edited volumes. She has also written two playscripts, one about Lorca, another about Picasso. Her creative accomplishments have been recognized with several awards, including seven awards between 2010 and 2015 for Findings magazine of the School of Public Health; a Fulbright grant to work in Spain on her biography of Lorca; and a creative nonfiction fellowship from the Prague Summer Writers Program.
Lucky for the RC, Leslie has taught in the First-year Seminar Program and Creative Writing Program for many years on themes of creative nonfiction, biography, and memoir writing. Two of her signature classes are “The Personal Essay” and “Writing Lives.” Her students have praised her teaching style and her skill as an effective instructor, and her E&E scores have been notably high over multiple years. She has been a vigorous and supportive member of the RC community, and has organized various events to improve the engagement and well-being of students.
Leslie has a strong commitment to racial justice as manifested in her involvement in the RC DEI Committee and her long-standing engagement with two organizations that are dedicated to acknowledging and repairing the legacies of slavery in the United States; these organizations are Coming to the Table and the Slave Dwelling Project. Leslie organized a virtual event last winter with Joseph McGill, founder and director of the Slave Dwelling Project, for members of the RC community; this event consisted of a virtual tour of the slave cabins at Magnolia Plantation in South Carolina.
Leslie, we thank you for your dedication and creative energies on behalf of the RC and wish you a fulfilling retirement!
Leslie Stainton taught in the creative writing and first-year seminar programs at the Residential College from 2003 to 2007 and in the first-year seminar program from 2017 to 2021. She is a former editor and writer at the U-M School of Public Health and U-M Museum of Art and a past recipient of a Fulbright fellowship. She has written three nonfiction books: Lorca: A Dream of Life (1999); Staging Ground: An American Theater and Its Ghosts (2014); and the forthcoming Being Scarlett: A Family Reckoning. Her articles and essays have appeared in The Sun, The American Scholar, River Teeth, The Southern Humanities Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review, among others.