Could a passion for the arts and university life be something ingrained in someone's DNA? That seems the case for professor and Ph.D. student Aza Pace.
Raised by two visual artists and college professors, Aza was introduced to creativity and academia at a young age. Watching her parents maintain their creative side while spending time in their classrooms helped her pursue a similar path. While visual arts may be a passion for her parents, Aza found her artistic fit in wordsmithing and storytelling, focusing her interest on poetry.
After learning of her acceptance to the Creative Writing Ph.D. program at UNT, Aza immediately became drawn to the creative community developing on campus and in Denton. With the university's long history of supporting the arts, she knew UNT's Creative Writing program would lead her down the right path to round out her educational journey.
Not only has UNT helped her complete her terminal degree, but it also has become a place of belonging for Aza. As a student, she served as the Editor-in-Chief of UNT's national literary journal American Literary Review, which became fully student-run during her editing stint in Spring 2022. In this position, Aza managed graduate students, solicited work, and oversaw publishing among other responsibilities.
During the height of the pandemic, Aza was in her comprehensive exam year at UNT. With feelings of isolation and worry about the electricity going out (we all remember the winter storm of 2021), Aza began to prepare for her oral defense via Zoom. With the help of her mentor and dissertation chair, Jehanne Dubrow, Aza navigated this process.
After completing Dubrow's workshop on writing in a series, Aza found her dissertation topic -- creating a series of feminist poems reimagining the Greek goddess Circe as a modern-day East Texas transplant. Drawing parallels from her life to those of Circe, Aza created a haven for storytelling to kickstart her dissertation. Keeping attention to line and image she explored at Dubrow's workshop, Aza honed and sharpened her writing skills, earning her poems a place in published, respected journals; The Southern Review, Copper Nickel, Tupelo Quarterly, Crazyhorse, New Ohio Review, Passages North, The Adroit Journal (and elsewhere).
Aza is now in the process of applying for tenure-track and visiting professor positions around the country.
For those wishing to follow in her footsteps, Aza says to stay determined in the pursuit of your goal and be intentional about making time for what you're passionate about.
"Keep working toward it even if you have to take small steps or go down a more winding path than you expected," Aza says. "When you're busy with teaching, coursework and other responsibilities, it can be easy to push your creative work onto the back burner, but that's probably the work you're really here to do."