March: Meet Jennie A. Harrop

Dr. Jennie A. Harrop

Assistant Professor, Department of Professional Studies

George Fox University

12753 SW 68th Ave., #224

Portland, OR 97223

Office: 503.554.6024

Cell: 503.707.1252

Dr. Jennie A. Harrop holds a PhD in English from the University of Denver, an MFA in creative writing from Colorado State University, and a BA in journalism from Pacific Lutheran University. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry degree through George Fox Evangelical Seminary. After several years as a news reporter in the 1980s and 1990s for such newspapers as The Oregonian, the Chicago Tribune, and The Tacoma News Tribune, Dr. Harrop returned to academia to focus on teaching. Since that time, she has taught English and writing courses at five colleges and universities, and she has published a variety of books, essays, book reviews, and short stories. Dr. Harrop currently teaches writing and Christian apologetics in George Fox University’s Department of Professional Studies. A fifth-generation Oregonian, she lives in Sherwood with her husband, Karl, and their five children.

Professional Journey

I started my journey as a news reporter. On one of my first assignments, my editor slung a cumbersome Canon camera around my neck, handed me a reporter’s notebook and pen, and ushered me out the door with a map pointing my way to the tiny town of Quilcene, Washington. I had never used a Canon, I had never heard of Quilcene, and I had no idea where to locate anyone who might know about the school superintendent’s sudden dismissal. I found my way to a baseball game in Quilcene where half the town was gathered, and I quickly learned both the complexities of shutter speeds and aperture settings, and how to ask questions that made people ponder rather than recoil.Quilcene, Washington. I had never used a Canon, I had never heard of Quilcene, and I had no idea where to locate anyone who might know about the school superintendent’s sudden dismissal. I found my way to a baseball game in Quilcene where half the town was gathered, and I quickly learned both the complexities of shutter speeds and aperture settings, and how to ask questions that made people ponder rather than recoil.

Several years later, I worked as a reporter in Chicago, covering crime for City News Bureau, a 100-year-old wire service, and later for the Chicago Tribune. I learned to juggle pepper spray, ball-point pens, and reporter’s notebooks in phone booths as I called in my stories, ever-fearful of the unwitting error that could cost me my job. I visited the county morgue regularly, asking the overnight clerk what bodies had arrived in my absence. I tossed pens aside as quickly as they froze in sub-freezing temperatures when I wandered a north-side neighborhood for hours one night, interviewing anyone I encountered to unearth why a gas line had exploded three homes that night, shooting debris high into the air and killing those inside. Months later, I shivered for two weeks at the edge of the Chicago River, grilling police, fire fighters, and public works officials to find out who was to blame for the Great Chicago Flood of 1992; what a thrill it was to see my byline on several front page Tribune stories.

But when I stood in the Area 3 Police Department late one Christmas eve night, my forehead pressed to the pay phone as I propped my reporter’s pad on my hip and recited details of a carbon monoxide poisoning that had killed a family of eight, I felt a heaviness that surpassed the homeless men sleeping at my feet. I was finding it increasingly difficult to look past the emotional pain of each story. After two more years as News Editor and Managing Editor of two weekly suburban newspapers, I moved to Colorado to pursue an MFA in creative writing.

For the next decade, I enjoyed the challenges of graduate school. After my years on the streets as a journalist, it was a pleasure to sit in writing workshops, pondering poetry and fiction with my peers and learning to teach undergraduate classes in creative writing, composition, and literature. When my three-year MFA program drew to a close, I was not finished. While I had had my fill of peer workshops, there was still so much I wanted to learn about Renaissance poetry and William Shakespeare and – in particular – the literature of the American West. I began my PhD in English in 1997. Two-and-a-half years later, I finished the last of my coursework and teaching load just a week before my first son was born. I changed diapers and waited somewhat guiltily for the muse of inspiration to arrive to help me write my doctoral dissertation – one year, two years, three years. When I was pregnant with my third child, I knew the dissertation had to be written before she was born or I might never finish. After a month or two of research, I started writing in September of 2002. Three months, 422 pages, and a baby later, I had finished. I was awarded my doctorate in May of 2003 – with three small children in tow.

Over the next few years, I had two more children. While home life was a lively muddle of graham cracker crumbs and runny noses, I whetted my intellectual appetite by writing monthly book reviews for Denver’s Rocky Mountain News newspaper and revising my doctoral thesis into a book titled Angling for Repose: Wallace Stegner and the De-Mythologizing of the American West (2010). I also taught a weekly women’s Bible study that grew in eight years from a handful of women to more than 80, allowing me to teach via microphone headset to women who ranged in age from 20 to nearly 90.

In late 2010, I moved our family from Colorado to Oregon. After growing up in southwest Portland, I had not lived in Oregon in more than 25 years, and it was a relief to come home: to family, rain, good schools, the Cascades, the Oregon Coast, and a Portlandia-esque open-mindedness that I had missed. In those first years back in Oregon, I taught composition and technical writing courses for Chemeketa Community College, and composition and literature courses for Liberty University online. I was reveling in my return to the work world after a decade home with my children, although I realized in the fall of 2012 that I was overreaching when my schedule boasted nine university-level courses at once. In that time, I also enjoyed a year-long contract with Oxford University Press, during which I wrote and published three oversized children’s storybooks.

When I first started teaching in George Fox University’s Department of Professional Studies program in March of 2013, it felt like yet another homecoming. After walking the adjunct path for several years, I was thrilled to begin a full-time professorship. Our students are adults who are returning to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree, and I find myself very much at home with the practicality of andragogical instruction. As I balance my administrative responsibilities with my teaching load, I also am pursuing a third terminal degree: a Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics and Future Studies through George Fox Evangelical Seminary. I have been an elder in the Presbyterian church for more than a decade, I preach occasionally at our home church in Sherwood, and I am enjoying the opportunity to further my understanding of church history, theology, and the relevance of Christianity in our 21st-century worldview.

I recently kicked off a new two-course series of required adult writing courses in our DPS program, and I am currently writing a grammar/writing book geared toward adult learners. I coordinate George Fox’s Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program, and I occasionally teach a required Christian Faith and Thought course that provides a wonderful window into how students are conceptualizing faith in their daily lives. I look forward to seeing the directions that higher education turns, particularly in light of technology, faith, and andragogical principles.


(1)  The world is full of disagreeable, unethical people; what can you learn from them? We have all experienced unfortunate bosses, unfortunate coworkers, unfortunate neighbors. Rather than repelling them, take time to observe: How do they speak, walk, plan, delegate, organize, enter a room? What would you prefer to see? How can you become the boss, coworker, or neighbor you wish you had?

(2)  Failure is not the antonym of success; it is the catalyst. The beauty of failure is that it begs questions, moving us upward toward something better. As Winston Churchill said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.” Embody that kind of enthusiasm, and the negativity that surrounds the word “failure” will become meaningless.

(3)  Wonder: about the world, about life, about possibilities. If something is tedious, inefficient, or draining, ask yourself how you can make improvements. If something is beautiful, awe-inspiring, or mysterious, ask the hows and whys to hold yourself a little longer in its presence.

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