Briding the Gap With Professor Payne

Melissa Rosman, Copy Editor

photo by Indiana Nash
photo by Indiana Nash

Dr. Payne serves as a passionate and enthusiastic professor of English here at SUNY Oneonta. However, before pursuing his passion of teaching, Payne began his life after college as a lawyer. Upon finishing his undergraduate degree at Union College, and his law degree at Albany University, at 26 years old Payne was working in the state legislature. Within two years he was appointed to council committee where he was running a senate. Although he enjoyed his job in law, Payne was working on a novel at night while holding his day job. He soon realized that maybe law wasn’t for him. Payne decided to quit his job while he could and attended graduate school for English. “Law and English require the same skill set: close reading, critical analysis and persuasive writing. The big difference is the stuff we read in literature is a lot more fun,” said Payne.
Payne enjoys all aspects of his field, but he focuses most of his time learning and researching environmentalism in literature. Before discovering his next step in the English field, prior to his dissertation, Payne was hiking through the White mountains of New Hampshire when he was inspired by Thoreau falls. “It was beautiful, it was a great waterfall in the middle of nowhere. You could see the whole presidential range and I said, ‘This is what I want to do.’” Payne went on to successfully graduate from Buffalo University with a PhD and began working shortly after as a professor. Since, Payne has published three nature-writing books, with another two on the way, has hosted the John Burroughs’s Nature Writing Conference five times, and teaches multiple literature courses on this campus.
When asked why he loves teaching and studying the environment, he responded, “It’s an inexhaustible topic. There’s always something new to learn and I love that it’s interdisciplinary. Environmentalism is becoming more of an issue in recent times because of things such as climate change so my interest has definitely stayed relevant.” As for being a professor, Payne loves his students and says that teaching is “fulfilling and inspiring, I wouldn’t say it keeps you young, but it definitely keeps you interested and inspired.” Payne enjoys seeing students passionate about his subject and seeing students at their best. “Teaching basically means that I get to be an eternal student. If you’re intellectually curious, there isn’t a better job in the world,” he explains. His love for nature and for making students understand his passion is priceless, “I would do it if they didn’t pay me and very often they don’t.”
Dr. Payne currently teaches American literature, environmental literature, creative non-fiction and screen writing.

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