Meet Professor Kelly Lehtonen

 Professor of English and Writing, Kelly Lehtonen poses for EST staff reporter Wes Parnell.

Professor of English and Writing, Kelly Lehtonen poses for EST staff reporter Wes Parnell.

 

Kelly Lehtonen, Assistant Professor of English and Writing, says that in a way, scholarship discovered her.

“I loved being a student and working with students.” Lehtonen said, “I just love everything about this profession.”

At a young age, Lehtonen watched her father refuse to accept things at face value and ask difficult questions. Because of this, Lehtonen developed a great love for learning.

Lehtonen was raised in a traditional Christian home on the fringes of Philadelphia in the suburb of Abington, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of a paper manufacturer and a speech therapist.

When Lehtonen left for college, she traded the outskirts of Philadelphia to live about a hundred miles outside the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. But, despite her love for people and passion for literature, Lehtonen did not immediately return to the classroom after graduating from James Madison University with a Masters in Technical Writing. Instead, she became a technical writer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Five years later, after learning more about agriculture than she ever cared to know, Lehtonen found herself following the yellow brick road back to the world of academia and to Pennsylvania State University where she graduated with her PhD in Comparative Literature.

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“I love reading and writing and that doesn’t really do much unless you’re sharing it with people and you’re interacting in different ways.” Lehtonen said. “And so, the two sides of my job are I read and I write about things and then, I work with students on those same things and I help them to think through the same issues.”

Possessing tremendous admiration for the great writers of the 16th and 17th century, Lehtonen wrote her dissertation on Renaissance Epic Poetry.  

These great men come from various Christian backgrounds, Lehtonen said, but they were all possessed one common interest: “the way that literature, poetry, can be used in celebrating this spirit of ecstasy, of joy, really of wonder and awe, and so forth at the Glory of God in various ways.”

Lehtonen finds this aim, and the means by which these men meet it, inspiring.

Though Lehtonen taught classes during her time at Penn. State, she is stepping out of her comfortable country campus into New York City with excitement for this next step in her professional career.

“There are so many opportunities when you’re located here.” Lehtonen said. “It’s amazing.”

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Lehtonen never dreamed of living in New York City. When asked why, Lehtonen replied that she never believed that she would have the “luxury” of choosing where she would live due to her chosen vocation. Now, Lehtonen is living the dream that she never allowed herself to have. Upon moving here, she has found that there’s a sort of “life” unique to New York, Manhattan, and The King’s College, itself.

“I think maybe one distinctive thing so far, in terms of my impression of students, is that students [...]have a real sense of purpose.” Lehtonen said. “They are engaging. They are digging in. They are finding opportunities. They are putting themselves out there, taking risks. I think that’s really hard to do. I think that’s rare. And, I see a lot of students doing it. That’s one of the things I find so impressive.”

And that “life” and “energy” that Lehtonen has found here is just one of the many reasons why the teaching position as Assistant Professor of English and Writing at the King’s College feels like such a good fit.

Here, everyone is connected Lehtonen remarked, when asked how she felt about beginning a new job in a new city. “There are so many opportunities for people to invest in you, to invest in other people, to feel like you’re kind of part of this incredible society, this incredible fellowship. And that’s true in the church, it’s true in school, it’s true in the community.”