Reinventing Oneself: Writing Program Lecturer Cissy Ross Retires

By Julia Nguyen

After six years of teaching in the Writing Program at UC Santa Barbara, Lecturer Cissy Ross retired in January 2018. Ross has been a Gaucho since long before her teaching days; she received her Ph.D. here in 2008.

Reinventing herself: Cissy Ross, a Lecturer in the Writing Department is retiring at the end of 2017. (Photo by Richard Ross)

Reinventing herself: Cissy Ross, a Lecturer in the Writing Department is retiring at the end of 2017. (Photo by Richard Ross)

Ross first graduated from Syracuse University with a B.A. in Journalism and English Literature in 1970. By the time she returned to school more than three decades later, she had charted an extensive career in journalism, from freelance writing to working as reporter and editor at both the Gainesville Sun in Florida, and the Santa Barbara News-Press.

At the News-Press, Ross covered local and business news, and the arts. She edited the business section and other feature sections of the newspaper, including its Scene entertainment magazine. Once on faculty at USCB, Ross taught Academic Writing, Writing and Research Process, Writing for Social Sciences, and Journalism and News Writing.

I sat down with Professor Ross during her last quarter, to hear more about her time on campus and what lies ahead for her after retirement.

Q. How long have you been teaching here?

A. I’ve been teaching here for six years. An interesting thing — aside from my husband teaching here (in the Art Department) — is that both of my children went to school here. My daughter got her B.A. in Art. My son got his Master of Education. And I got my doctorate here, so we’re very UCSB. I have taught as a lecturer for six years. I took a break a couple of years ago for breast cancer treatment

Q. Why have you decided to retire?

A. I don’t like to call it retiring, I like to call it reinventing. I’ve had to reinvent myself a several times. I was a journalist for 30 years. Then when I was 55 years old I went back to school to get my doctorate. I wanted to learn how to do real research after being a journalist where you have to work really fast. I’m leaving because I would like more time to do political work and help my daughter and her new baby. This is really important to me because when my children were little I was working so many hours a day that I would miss their childhood. My husband did everything back then. So I would really love to look into the eyes of my grandchildren.

Q. You have a very high student rating on Rate My Professor with an average of 4.4 when 5.0 is the highest rating possible. Why do you think that is?

A. First of all, I wouldn’t take it (Rate My Professor) as the gospel truth. Of course it’s very flattering to get a high rating but I think that my kids wrote some of those reviews. We have student evaluations as part of my regular teaching. I’ve seen my evaluations go up over time, which is good. I hope it reflects that maybe I learned how to be a teacher a little bit better as time went on.

Q. When you retire, do you think “reinventing” yourself will include (freelance) writing?

A. Yes, I’m sure I’ll do some writing. I’d like to do some personal writing. I think you write to find out what you think. It’s a long-term habit for me to use writing as a way to solve my problems and reflect on what I’ve done — and what I want to continue to do.

Julia Nguyen is UC Santa Barbara student majoring in Global Studies. She is the video editor of the The Bottom Line, a student newspaper, and an intern at the Santa Barbara Independent