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Meet Purdue Global professor Josef Vice: Why your success matters

Josef sits at his typewriter in a sunny room, wearing a light linen blazer and a green patterned shirt.

Purdue Global faculty member Josef Vice says that teaching writing for students starts with building confidence. (Photo by Caleb Allison)

He’s devoted his life to providing students with the safety, support and odds for success that he didn’t have 

Raised in rural Alabama, Purdue Global English and rhetoric professor Josef Vice says if he can make a comeback, so can other working adults.  

I fully believe that writing is putting yourself on a page. It’s vulnerable. A lot of students don’t want to do it. But if they can see they have something worth sharing, they can see they have something worth hearing.  

One of the things I do to help students build confidence is talk about challenges. Lately, I’ve been telling them about my doctoral degree. I completed all my coursework in 1987, but my dissertation never got off the ground. I wanted to write about something relevant to LGBTQ+ issues. I knew that wasn’t of much academic interest at the time, so I proposed writing about the concept of “the outsider” in medieval literature. I was looking at Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” — some characters have less binary gender and sexual identities, so maybe there was something there. I was shot down immediately.  

At the same time, I was very involved in petitioning the university to allow us to create a student LGBTQ+ group. To rally support, I came out in a letter published in the school newspaper. I argued for equality: We’re your friends. Your family. Your teachers.  

I felt like my recent comeback was a reclamation of what should have been. I got to reach back 35 years and finish the doctorate I couldn’t finish at the time.

Josef Vice 
Professor, Purdue Global 

We won in the end. But when the letter was published, I lost my assistantship. I was also teaching part time at a local community college, and I was fired from that, too. They said it didn’t align with their morality clause. In that climate, writing a dissertation on what mattered to me seemed impossible. 

I felt like my recent comeback was a reclamation of what should have been. I got to reach back 35 years and finish the doctorate I couldn’t finish at the time. It energized me. It gave me a real sense that this is something that should be written about, researched and embraced by an academic community.  

A lot of my students have faced setbacks, but they’re here, giving it another try. I get to share my story with them and tell them it’s never too late. You don’t have to give up on that dream. There’s a good fight out there, and whatever you’ve been through, you can come back. Your dream is worth it. 

Josef sits casually in an armchair in a robin-egg blue room with eclectic, sunny decor.

It’s never too late. You don’t have to give up on that dream. … Whatever you’ve been through, you can come back. Your dream is worth it.

Josef Vice  Professor, Purdue Global