English prof leads students to 'new frontiers'


As a reader and a scholar, Dr. Zack Finch most enjoys how literature opens up perspectives, cultures, persons, ideologies and time periods that we wouldn't otherwise have access to. 

As an English professor, "I hope my students leave my classes feeling excited about the prospect of continually sauntering into new frontiers of learning-with their appetites whetted for more, greater, and more challenging experiences," Finch said. 

One of six new professors to join the MCLA faculty this fall, Finch teaches a range of literary and creative writing courses - including poetry. In addition to plans to design some new courses, he will serve as a faculty advisor to Spires, the campus literary magazine.

According to Finch, the study of literature is the "absolute heart of a liberal arts education" because of the way it broadens one's understanding of the planet as a shared environment - full of overlapping concerns, common ideals and contesting interests.

As a poet, he most enjoys how writing can be an act of constant discovery, invention and intervention. 

"Writing a poem often feels to me the way that walking a tightrope strung between the two World Trade Center towers felt to Philippe Petit," Finch explained. "Basically I love how the music of poetic language lets us explore the wonders and difficulties and paradoxes of human experience - and non-human existence - in indirect and often surprising ways, which the pressures of 'ordinary' communication don't always allow."

At MCLA, Finch most looks forward to working closely with students - both inside and outside of the classroom.

"I'm also excited about getting to know the faculty across various departments at MCLA, in the hopes of working together to provide MCLA students the most stimulating educational experiences we can imagine," he said.

"There's something completely inspiring to me about the wide-ranging curiosity and the omnivorous appetites of college students who are excited to learn new things, take on new languages, meet new people, test out new ideas," Finch continued. "I just love the adventurousness, the creativity - and above all - the sense of promise you feel around a college campus. My students always spur me to be a better listener, to be a less settled thinker, and to take more risks in my life. "

As an undergraduate, Finch studied English and creative writing at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. After graduation, he spent several years doing social justice and community service work.  

"I went to Zimbabwe under the auspices of the Institute for International Cooperation and Development, and worked with homeless youth there. Back in New England, I served Bosnian refugees through the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program, and worked for two years as an AmeriCorps member to provide services to Vermont elders, in coordination with the Champaign Valley Agency on Aging," he explained.

He earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers in Asheville, N.C. Finch next was awarded a poetry fellowship for a year at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., before going on to earn his Ph.D. in literature, in the poetics program at SUNY-Buffalo.


"I loved the idea of a small liberal arts college which is also public and thus accessible to a wider range of potential students," Finch said. "I was completely impressed by the level of commitment to the students on behalf of both the faculty and administration."

"MCLA immediately struck me as a genuinely dynamic institution that is small enough to be able to adapt to its student needs and ambitions. I am excited to teach a wide range of courses, to explore service learning projects and curricula, and to participate in the work of developing the wonderful cultural and socio-economic potentials of the Northern Berkshires."