Office Hour: Professor Joanna Howard


Hi! I’m Alina Joharjian, a first-year at Brown from Cranston, Rhode Island. Although I am plenty acquainted with life in Providence since I am a local, I am super excited to delve into the world of academia at Brown and take you on that journey with me! In the Office Hour column, learn more about the brilliant professors of the Brown community.I walked into the Brown English department, enamored by its simple beauty and colonial-inspired elegance. Stumbling through the second floor hallway, I stopped at the only decorated door, covered with pictures of book covers and other eye-catching images.

Within that striking frame, Professor Howard — or as she told my class on our first day to refer to her, Joanna — awaited me. As I talked to her, I learned her academic background: 10 years on the Brown Literary Arts Faculty after degrees in Creative Writing. She is also the author of two fiction books.

This semester, she is teaching a fiction workshop as well as a First Year Seminar called Writers on Writing, a contemporary literature class that includes visits from the authors that are read. Pre-frosh may be specifically interested in learning about First Year Seminars. First Year Seminars may not be a Brown novelty; through my fair amount of college research it seemed to be fairly common to have certain types of classes that were designated for first year students only. However, what defines the experience at Brown is that these classes are no less enriching than the other classes at Brown. In my own experience, my first year seminar has been even more enriching than my other classes because it is held in a small setting. The small group discussion is rare for lectures (they occasional happen if you have conference sections), and as a first-year taking intro lecture it is a great change of pace.

In fact, in the case of Writers on Writing, Professor Howard lauded the class for being accessible, an “option without thinking about it as a concentrator would,” and a mecca to build critical writing skills.

Being in this class myself has been a super cool opportunity… How often do you remember the fact that there are authors out there who are actually alive? Weird, right?

Besides, as someone who is not a humanities person, it allowed me to dabble in a humanities subject without the pressure of being with upperclassmen who knew a lot more about the subject than I did. Isn’t that what Brown is all about? Professor Howard seemed to agree, saying that the “open curriculum” is her favorite part of Brown.

Students who are interested in the Literary Arts program at Brown, which Howard referred to as “avantgarde” and “[having a] good national representation” on the Literary Arts website here:

Any questions or comments? I’d love to respond to you! Reach me at


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