What is your educational and professional background?
I got my bachelor’s at Virginia Tech. I actually started out in chemical engineering and discovered that I didn’t understand calculus well enough to stay an engineer. So, I switched to English and graduated from there with my bachelor’s. My master’s was also an English [degree] in the teaching of writing and literature at George Mason University. And then, I got my Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Again, a Ph.D. in English, this time with a concentration in rhetoric and composition. I have been a professor mostly at public colleges through my career. I was at North Carolina State for seven years and then I worked at Northeastern for a semester. And then I got the job here at Framingham. [I’m] very happy at Framingham State – much happier than anyplace else I have been. So, I’ve been a professor of English throughout my career, but always teaching writing.
What does your current job entail?
I have multiple hats that I wear. I am the “cat herder” for first-year writing, which mostly means that I help the English department chair informally as the chair of the first-year writing committee, and as the official coordinator of writing placement and the writing studios to manage first-year writing. So, I look at the placement. I had been responsible for developing and maintaining the writing placement exam, as well as our studio program for students who come in needing extra support in writing. I also coordinate the minor in science communication. I teach a course called Writing About Science, but I also work with students who intern as they get their minor in science communication. I will have a new hat in the fall, which will be the chair of general education, which I’m very excited to work on. This has been a long time coming.
What will your responsibilities be in this new position?
This is a brand-new position. … General education as a program area has not existed and does not currently exist. It will exist come July 1 when I take responsibility for this. … I will be responsible for making sure that systems are in place so that data is gathered about general education and our learning outcomes for general education. And so that that data can be used then in those decisions that will be made by governance which will make recommendations on those, but the decisions will be made through bodies like the University Curriculum Committee, as they should be.
What led you to your upcoming position as the chair of the new General Education Program Area?
I have worked with first-year students my entire career, and I have always been interested in how people make the transition from high school to college, and how they find their place in college. As I said, I started out in chemical engineering. Everybody in my high school would have pegged me as a math and science kid. I was not when I got to college, and I never would have known about things like how much I enjoyed literature if I hadn’t taken a literature class as part of general education. I consider general education to be this experimental space where you can take a course in nutrition and see if you really like it. You can take a course in political science and see if you really like it without it derailing you if it turns out the answer is, “No, you actually don’t [like it].” I joined the University Curriculum Committee in 2010 and we began work on the revision to general education that is now our current … domain model for general education. I worked with the committee that designed that and I chaired the full University Curriculum Committee as part of that. During that time, I got very interested in looking at what other universities do – how they manage this part of the curriculum. That is really central in a lot of ways, but is also set to the side and doesn’t seem to be as embedded in the general degree as we’d like it to be. I don’t think we succeeded with the domain model in doing that. The domain model, like most everything [at the] University, was a compromise, which means to some extent, everybody is unhappy with the result. But I think that the work that needs to be done in this area is really important.
What advice do you have for FSU students?
Try something new. Whether it’s a class you know, as I was talking about with general education, or a club, or a sport, try something that you’ve never done before. College is one of the best opportunities you have to try things out in very low-risk ways. When you leave college, you lose some ease of connection. You don’t have as easy access to things like clubs and organizations. You have to do more work to go out and get into those. [It’s] easy enough to walk to McCarthy and find something going on and just join it. Take a class that you are interested in, but you know nothing about, just to find out. … Just experimenting – it’s really important.