Outstanding Southeastern Faculty & Staff

Meg Cotter-Lynch

As a teacher, director for the Southeastern Honors Program, and author, Dr. Margaret Cotter-Lynch continues to evolve, while leading her students to their own evolution. A mainstay in the community at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, her impact reaches beyond any one department.

This profile seeks to explore in more depth her upbringing, her various roles at the University, and what makes “Meg”, as she likes to be called, the unique human that she is.

She was born and raised mostly in Schenectady, NY, but her family lived both in Los Angeles and Virginia for a while during her upbringing. After her graduation from Niskayuna High School in her hometown in New York, she decided to attend Brown University in Rhode Island. A double major in comparative literature and classical studies, she found literature to be her passion. While an undergrad, she spent a semester studying abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Wanting to further her education, Cotter-Lynch added to her already impressive resume by earning her master of arts degree and the PhD in comparative literature at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. During this time, she spent a summer abroad studying in Siena, Italy. When asked about these experiences, one can tell how meaningful her travel as a young scholar was to her path as an educator.

Her first job out of college, was as teacher and dorm parent at a Swiss boarding school (Collège du Léman, in Versoix, Switzerland) and while there she decided she loved the autonomy and ability to craft her own curriculum that comes with teaching college.

“Outside of crafting my own curriculum, I had completely fallen in love with the Middle Ages,” said Cotter-Lynch, “since that is not consistently taught in K-12 education, I figured I’d aim for teaching college.”

So, one may wonder, just how does someone from New York, who taught in Switzerland, who went to school in Michigan, end up in Durant, Oklahoma? It was a case of opportunity, timing, and a little bit of uncertainty. She and her husband moved from Michigan to Dallas for his job as an associate professor of literary studies and program coordinator at the University of Texas at Dallas. She was teaching part-time at UTD, and wanted a more permanent position in the higher education world.

“I literally drew a circle on a map with a 120-mile radius around UTD, and applied for every higher education teaching job that I was even vaguely qualified for,” she said.

She claims she was lucky to be interviewed by Southeastern, for the opportunity has led her to where she is today, 12 years into her career at SE. Although the job was initially contingent on her desire for a new job, Cotter-Lynch says she now loves this University.

“I’m privileged to get to be a part of a small school that makes a big difference in students’ lives,” she said.  “I get to know students on an individual basis, unlike UTD, and often have them for more than one class over their college careers, so I get to see them grow and learn over time.”

Now more than a decade into her career at SE, the world scholar plays multiple roles at the university, saying “I was just joking the other day that I think I have at least three jobs!” Her first job, and first love, is teaching: she teaches in the English department and in the Honors Program. This semester, she is thrilled about teaching a 4000-level Medieval Literature seminar for the first time, as well as Critical Approaches to Literature, which she has taught almost every semester since 2006.

In addition to teaching, Cotter-Lynch recently took over as director of the Honors Program, which involves a “little bit of everything.” Here, she recruits new students, advises existing students, apportions scholarship money, helps organize events, coordinates honors course offerings, helps students find internships and jobs, and “writes about a ‘gozillion’ letters of recommendation for awesome kids who want to do fantastic stuff.” This semester, the Honors Program is taking students to two conferences, and Dr. Cotter-Lynch is working on study abroad opportunities to Italy and France in 2018.

At this point, one can’t help but be astounded by her ability to be in so many places at once at the University, but that’s not all. For her third “job”, she is co-chair with Dr. Tim Boatmun, Dean of Graduate Studies, for the university’s re-accreditation report to the Higher Learning Commission.  This involves looking at things university-wide and within the context of higher education nationally.

With all of these responsibilities, when asked what makes her job so special, she quickly responds, “The people, of course, especially the students.”

“I often joke to my colleagues, but it’s not really a joke that I like the kids better than the grown-ups,” she said.  “Our population of students makes this especially meaningful because many of our students are good, smart, hard-working people who come from backgrounds where they did not have opportunities that allowed them to fulfill their potential. We get to help them find those opportunities and take advantage of them, and that is the greatest privilege of my life.”

Outside of her professional life, she likes to hang out with her family; children Mabel and Ruby, and husband Sean.  She enjoys reading, “obviously” and is also what she calls an ADD crafter. She really likes the learning curve of starting a new hobby, but gets bored pretty quickly. For this reason, she has supplies and half-finished projects for: sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, jewelry-making, crocheting and embroidery.

If you didn’t already think Dr. Cotter-Lynch was pretty cool, her recent authorship will definitely persuade you. Her book just came out this fall: St. Perpetua across the Middle Ages: Mother, Gladiator, Saint. She goes on to say that the book is about St. Perpetua, who was a 22-year-old nursing mother who was executed in 203 AD in Carthage, North Africa, for being a Christian. In the book, Meg begins with her prison diary, and looks at who retold her story, when, where and why, over the course of the next 1,000 years. Her thesis is that everyone always agrees that Perpetua is an exemplary Christian woman, but they disagree about what that means.  As a result, we see her story retold differently, and in different contexts, according to the inclinations of various authors.

In a culmination of so many characteristics and responsibilities, Dr. Cotter-Lynch represents a microcosm of Southeastern’s faculty. Her commitment to her students and their intellectual journey comes first; her impact reaching far beyond departments and classrooms.