Novotny Lawrence finds his place at Iowa State


Contributed by Novotny Lawrence

Novotny Lawrence is a third year Greenlee School and English associate professor.

Victoria Reyna-Rodriguez

First year Greenlee School and English associate professor, Novotny Lawrence, said he “came to do the work,” at Iowa State.

Lawrence was born in Illinois but grew up a military child, moving throughout his younger life.

He started college at the Garden City Community College before he moved onto the University of Missouri, Kansas City, where he completed his bachelors and masters degrees.

He received his doctorate from the University of Kansas and later began teaching at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he stayed for 13 years.

Prior to teaching at Iowa State, Lawrence did research on African American representation in film and media as a whole.

“If anyone knows my work, they know me because I do research on a body of films from the 1970s called blaxploitation films, a hybrid of black and exploitation,” Lawrence said.

Justin Remes, assistant professor of film studies, said when coming across Lawrence’s writings he found it all “erudite, eloquent and accessible,” and when he met Lawrence in person he was “immediately struck by his warm demeanor.”

Lawrence seemed to be just as pleased to come to Iowa State as his colleagues were to have him.

“I just had a really nice time, everyone in English was so collegial, they treated me so nicely and they gave me a tour of the campus,” Lawrence said. “It was just really impressive.”

Lawrence makes it a point to intertwine his research and passion for equality into all of his classes and studies.

“[One of my goals is to] advocate on behalf of marginalized populations, be that socioeconomic, political, whatever it is we’re talking about, because it’s all intercepted with media and the world more broadly,” Lawrence said.

His peer Tracy Lucht, associate professor and interim director of graduate education, identifies Lawrence’s goals to bring equality and justice to every room he walks into.

“It really is incredible, the connections he’s able to make,” Lucht said. “But I think it’s because he comes by it authentically and honestly; he really lives it. He lives principles of social justice.” 

Lucht called Lawrence an asset and a great addition to the faculty.

“I appreciate how well rounded a person he is and I’m just so happy that he’s here and part of our community,” Remes said. “Dr. Lawrence is a welcome addition to both Greenlee and the English Department. His lectures are dynamic and thought-provoking, and his scholarship on race and popular culture is relevant and revelatory.”

It is clear that both the Greenlee School and the English department are just as excited to have Lawrence as he is to be here.

“I like Iowa State, I’m proud to be here and I’m completely committed […] hopefully my students, and colleagues, and administrators and all will be thankful and receptive to it; and that’s the way it’s been so far,” Lawrence said.