Academic-Athletic Fellows Spotlight – Bill Gleason

Bill Gleason is a Professor of English who has been at Princeton since 1993. His research and teaching interests include: 19th and 20th century American literature and culture; American popular culture; American social and cultural history; African American literature; multi-ethnic American literatures and American material culture, among others. During much of his time at Princeton, Bill has also served as an undergraduate academic advisor.

1.    How would you describe your experience as an AAF?

It’s been a terrific experience. I’ve learned a great deal about varsity athletics at Princeton, gotten to know some wonderful student-athletes (both on the field and in the classroom), and have developed a rewarding relationship with the baseball coaching staff, particularly head coach Scott Bradley.

2.    Why did you become involved with the AAF program?

I became involved in the AAF program through Coach Bradley, who invited me to become a fellow after we met through a seminar I was teaching a few years ago on baseball and American culture. A few of the players on the team were in the seminar, and at their suggestion Coach Bradley came to several of the class meetings. We struck up a friendship, and through him I learned about the program and was excited to join.

3.    What is the greatest benefit you have derived from serving as an AAF?

In addition to the feeling of connection to the team (my kids are great fans, too, and often come with me to the home games), another major benefit for me has been discovering what a phenomenal teacher Coach Bradley is. I have seen that both at his practices and in the classroom — last fall he and I did something we had been talking about for several years: we team-taught a new seminar on “The Making of Modern Baseball,” a course we designed together, for the Program in American Studies.

4.    How has your perspective on student-athletes changed as a result of your service as an AAF?

Being an AAF has given me a much fuller sense of the dedication varsity student-athletes at Princeton have to both their sports and their academics. Since becoming a fellow, I’ve served as a faculty thesis advisor for a few of the students on the baseball team, even when they are not in my home department (English), something that might not have happened if they hadn’t learned of my interests through my service as a fellow. As a result, I know much more than when I arrived about how much student-athletes often have on their plates, and how hard they work to perform at their best in multiple venues.

5.    What advice would you give student-athletes to help them maximize their time at Princeton?

I would encourage them to develop strong bonds with their teammates but also to develop lasting friendships with people outside the team as well. I would also encourage them to try to attend at least one lecture/discussion hosted by their department each semester. These are sessions where they can see the faculty in their chosen field engaged in intellectual conversation with each other, and with faculty from other institutions, usually leaders in their fields, on fascinating topics. (The Q&A sessions are often the most engaging part.) Undergraduates rarely attend these sessions but those who do find them very rewarding!

6.    How has your service as an AAF helped you as an educator at Princeton?

In addition to making me more sensitive as a teacher to the demands on the time of student-athletes, it’s also helped me become a more vocal advocate for the needs of student-athletes among my faculty colleagues, many of whom are not as familiar with these needs.

7.    What interaction or situation as an AAF gives you the most pride?

I really enjoy meeting with prospective student-athletes when they visit the university and are trying to get a feel for the academic side of things. I’ve been teaching here since 1993 and have been an undergraduate academic advisor for much of that time, so I’m familiar with the contours of the curriculum and the various strengths of our different programs, and I enjoy giving students a sense of the broad range of disciplines they’ll be able to explore at Princeton.