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Laird Christensen: Going to College, Coming Home to Himself

Laird Christensen '91

When he graduated from high school, Laird Christensen wasn’t interested in college. He wanted to leave Oregon, strap on a backpack, see the world, and write.

For nine years he traveled the country, taking jobs at warehouses or in construction and occasionally publishing his work.

By 27, he’d tired of the lifestyle and realized that the money he was making from his writing wasn’t enough. He decided to go to college to study publishing.

At Keene State, he was excited to work with Dr. Richard Lebeaux, an expert on Thoreau. “At the time, that was the best way I knew to combine my interest in environmental studies and English,” Christensen explains.

He soon forged friendships with his professors that extended beyond the classroom.

Realizing that people could have inspiring, exciting conversations about literature “was certainly an epiphany for me,” he says. “Those friendships, and those professors I became close to, helped me imagine what it might be like to be a professor.”

Christensen balanced the intense reading of the school years with summers spent as a park ranger at nearby Mount Monadnock. It was the “perfect setting” for him to establish the foundation for the interdisciplinary work in English and environmental studies he’s done since.

After earing his BA in 1991, Christensen received a MA in English Literature from the University of Illinois. He found that the rigorous English curriculum at KSC gave him “much more exposure to literary theory than almost any of my classmates.”

He earned his PhD in English Literature at the University of Oregon and is now a professor of English Literature and Environmental Studies at Green Mountain College in Vermont.

Widely published, Christensen coedited two books in 2008: Teaching North American Environmental Literature (coedited with KSC’s Dr. Mark Long), and Teaching About Place: Learning from the Land.

He’s writing a book that explores the concept of growing roots in a place you’re not from—something he’s done since moving to Vermont 14 years ago and starting a family.

“It’s a series of essays that considers what it means to deliberately learn to become part of a place in a transient culture.”