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Lotts to be thankful for

After earning her Ph.D. in English, Deshae Lott ‘94 maintained a steady career in academia, all while managing a rare congenital disease called Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy (LGMD).

By Haley Venglar ‘19

Few truly embody the Aggie core value of excellence better than Deshae Lott ‘94. After earning her Ph.D. in English, she maintained a steady career in academia, all while managing a rare congenital disease called Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy (LGMD), which causes muscle tissue deterioration and prevents it from rebuilding.

As a student with a physical disability, Lott had to rely on disability services, bus drivers, personal care attendants, and staff members to facilitate accessibility during her time at Texas A&M.

“Living with a combination of a physical disability and a driven mind requires a team effort to help my body and mind maximize within my physical limitations,” said Lott. “This lifestyle makes me keenly aware that each life is fragile, that our choices and circumstances deeply affect one another, and that team efforts create many unexpected, positive possibilities.”

While at Texas A&M Lott enjoyed learning, teaching, traveling, and working with her service dog–Ulina–as well as participating in Aggie traditions like Muster. Lott also had the opportunity to work alongside faculty members who enhanced her educational experience including Larry Reynolds, Robert Boenig, the late John J. McDermott, and College of Liberal Arts Dean Pamela Matthews.

“Deshae Lott is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met. I was fortunate enough to serve on her Ph.D. advisory committee and see first-hand that she’s also an intelligent and sensitive reader of literature and life,” Matthews said. “Her ability to connect reading, thinking, feeling, and just being is more highly developed than it is for most of us. It’s no wonder she has gone on not just to succeed as a faculty member, but also as the visionary creator of an outreach organization that helps people with severe disabilities achieve their dreams.”

Lott believes that the liberal arts have influenced her career, passion for volunteerism, advocacy, healthcare management, and overall lifestyle through the skills and principles that are cultivated within a liberal arts education.

“Whether it was as an English professor, volunteer, advocate, or author, my liberal arts background informs my interest in and enhances my capacity to help others cull communication, research, and abstract thinking skills,” said Lott. “Critical thinking and communication skills, when embraced, can provide lifelong benefits professionally and even personally.”

Fully aware of the challenges that graduate students with physical disabilities face as well as the limited amount of scholarship funds available, Lott decided to create a scholarship with the help of others.

“We created the Lott-Sadow-Cleveland scholarship to fulfill a badly underserved need and to benefit society as a whole by helping such individuals cultivate and enhance their interests, perspectives, skills, and talents in ways that contribute to the workforce and their communities,” said Lott.

Despite her disability, Lott has enjoyed a flourishing professional career. Her primary research interest involves the intersections of literary works, social practices, and American religious cultures, especially those which are mystical and syncretic in nature. Lott has presented her scholarly works at conferences across the globe and has been published in numerous academic journals including Resources for American Literary Study.

“Throughout high school and undergraduate school I tutored others in English and mathematics. English felt integral to my lifestyle in practical ways and as a hobby,” Lott said. “As I was taking what I thought would be last undergraduate English course in British romantic literature with Professor Jim Lake, I decided that I wanted to teach English at the university level for a career.”

Over the past 25 years, Lott taught courses at Texas A&M, Louisiana State University Shreveport, and the University of Illinois-Springfield, but she did not always think she would be a professor.

“Living with a disease process like mine has some vulnerabilities and potentially devastating life circumstances,” said Lott. “Whatever our most serious challenges, I hope we each maintain stamina, resilience, and creativity and that our own humbling experiences inspire our compassion for others and our desire to help others and ourselves to whatever degree we can.”