Faculty Directory

 

Department Chair

Deborah Marrott


Faculty

Melinda Bender

Chitralekha Duttagupta

Thomas Henry

Joshua Hilst

Jacqueline Preston

Sheri Rysdam

Elena Garcia

Benjamin Goodwin

 

Adjuncts

Karen Diane Carter

Sarah Chambers

Lawrence Curtis

Valarie Meade

Maren Miyasaki

Marie Knowlton

Brian Owens

 

 

CHAIR

Deborah Marrott

Welcome to Literacies and Composition! Because you have the right to expect that your courses are being taught by caring, qualified people, here’s a little about my educational training and teaching experience: I am a professor in the Department of Literacies and Composition where I have taught courses for nearly 20 years. I am also currently the chair of the department. I have two degrees in English from Brigham Young University where I taught composition and literature for several years before coming to UVU. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Utah in the Department of Education, Culture, and Society, a program devoted specifically to social justice in education.  My emphasis in that program was educational linguistic anthropology and Basic Writing. I love observing and researching how people use language, teaching students in the Literacies and Composition program, and seeing the ways in which gaining confidence in writing can change students’ lives. In my personal life, I am married to a wonderful man, Joe, and we have two adorable Miniature Schnauzers, Wolfgang and Hank.  I love to read, hike, eat, watch NFL football (go Steelers!) and have a terrible online shopping habit.

 I also think students should know their teachers’ philosophies of teaching: why and how do we teach what we teach?  I have a social and rhetorical approach to teaching Basic Composition.  That means that I believe that reading, writing, and speaking are social acts that occur in particular contexts and that “good” reading, writing and speaking depend on the social situation.  When I ask them, most of my students say that they are in my classes because they are “bad at English.” I don’t believe it! I have found that the vast majority of my students, regardless of their educational backgrounds, are quite proficient at using English: they communicate successfully in all kinds of situations every day, and they have important home and community languages that serve them well. In other words, I believe that we all use a wide variety of ENGLISHES (plural) in order to reach our goals, depending on the situation and the audience. For example, if your goal were to show your grandmother what a nice young man/woman you are, you wouldn’t write to her in the same way you would write to your best friend. Likewise, if you wanted to prove to a group of snowboarders that you’re cool, you wouldn’t use the same vocabulary as you would in a job interview. “Proper” English isn’t always powerful or appropriate English!  Linguists (people who study language) call the ability to use a variety of Englishes depending on the situation “code-switching”; doesn’t it make sense that the more “codes” we know, the more successfully we can achieve our goals as we communicate to a variety of audiences? That’s what my courses are all about: we’re not trying to “un-do” the many Englishes you already know and use; we’re just introducing you to additional kinds of Englishes that may help you achieve certain educational, professional and personal goals.

 

FACULTY

Melinda Bender

Melinda Bender is a Professor of Literacies and Composition. Originally from Oregon, you might find her (when she has a few free minutes) shooting baskets or watching basketball, football, or baseball. Although she graduated from Oregon State University, she quietly roots for the Oregon Ducks (University of Oregon football)!

In her graduate program at OSU, she fell in love with teaching and has been teaching since.  She taught in Kiev, Ukraine and stood in Red Square while in Moscow and toured the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.  Her international experience gave her an appreciation for teaching students from all cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds.

She loves working with students and learning from their wonderful ideas while they create amazing projects in her classes.  She expects students to be respectful in their interactions with each other and practice and practice and practice reading and writing.  She encourages students to take the tools learned in class and apply these to their academic, daily, and working lives.  When she has a few more free minutes, she enjoys hiking in the mountains and desert, walking on the beach in Oregon, cooking and creating crazy gluten-free recipes, growing plants and flowers, curling up with a good book, dabbling in writing poems and short stories, and she adores animals.

 

Chitralekha Duttagupta

Hello students! Please call me Dr. D.  I teach Literacies and Composition at Utah Valley University. Teaching is my passion. I teach because it lets me interact with students, and I teach writing to help students learn to communicate better. I believe students have interesting things to say and I like to encourage them to say it, both on paper, and by sharing their ideas in the classroom. Even though I am a teacher, I also see myself as a student, since the classroom helps me constantly learn new ways of teaching, new ways of knowing my students and their interests, and new ways of using technology for instruction. I love reading both fiction and non-fiction, and I always hope my students love to read too, so we can have a good conversation.

In my spare time, I like to watch movies, watch YouTube music and dance videos, update my Facebook status, chat with family and friends worldwide on Facebook and WhatsApp, and sleep. I also like to travel and see as much of the world as I can. I dislike cooking, I am not much interested in food, and I like my car only because it transports me to work and back home. I also don’t like snow and keep daydreaming about retiring somewhere warm and sunny, with a beach close by. Till that day, I am at Utah Valley University, and I hope to see you in my writing classes!

 

Thomas Henry

Hello! I’m Dr. Tom Henry, Associate Professor of Literacies and Composition. I completed my BA and  MA in English at Northern Arizona University. Then, I completed my doctorate in Rhetoric and Technical Communication at Michigan Technological University. I’ve been teaching since 2000, and I love teaching at Utah Valley University. UVU is awesome! Why teach? Well, I love to share knowledge, and teaching seemed the best way to do it. With regard to scholarly pursuits, I’m very interested in technology and multimodal literacies.  Also, I maintain an academic website (www.basiccomposition.com), which I use to help my students with their coursework in my own classes and beyond.  When I’m not working, I ride my bike and spend time with my family.

 

Joshua Hilst

Prof Hilst originally hails from sunny Los Angeles, California. He didn’t really like the subject of “English” in high school. He didn’t start to gain any interest until he began to read and write for himself during his time in the Navy. It was there that he took interest in the idea of writing and reading “for yourself.” Later, while he was in college, he was drawn to rhetoric after he took his first course in the subject. Rhetoric was about how to write well, but, more than that, explained a lot about why we do things the way that we do. He fell in love with the subject and never looked back. Years later, as a professor, he is grateful to be able to do what he enjoys every day, and he loves being able to teach students about these ideas. Interaction with those students is pretty much his favorite thing.

His course will be a course in finding something that you want to write about, and that you want to read about. He will tell you what you need to know in order to do well, provided you’re paying attention. You will imitate the examples, because it is through imitation that you get practice. Then, you learn to change up what you’re imitating. Then, after changing enough, you create something new. He’ll expect you to act like a professional. You may not like the subject, but you still have to work at it (a lesson that was driven home for him many times in the service).

In his spare time, Prof Hilst loves hanging with his wife and daughter. They love community theater and being active in it. Prof Hilst is a rabid college football fan (Go Clemson Tigers!) and also loves comic books (particularly Daredevil), Game of Thrones, and plucking the banjo.

 

Jacqueline Preston

Hi, my name is Dr. Jacque Preston. I’ve been living in Utah now for just a little over four years. I’m an avid hiker and a camper, so you can imagine how much I love living in Utah. I’m a transplant from Madison, Wisconsin where it’s cold, cold, cold in the winters and before that I lived in Ohio. While at the University of Wisconsin (UW), I was the Assistant Director of the English 100 program, and taught both first-year writing and advanced research and writing. I have a PhD in English- Composition and Rhetoric from UW and two masters degrees, one in Humanities and the other in English. At UVU, I teach English 1000, occasionally English 1010, Gear Up bridge courses and the UC Senior Capstone. In addition to teaching, I’m a researcher and a writer. Not too long ago, I completed a 3-year study in which I looked at how communities developed what I called “collective rhetorics.” This study included looking at how college students negotiate the transition to college. Most recently, I’ve been examining students’ experiences in project-based writing classes, and I’m noticing that students are not only improving their writing but also they are seeing that they have a lot to offer as writers. That’ really exciting to me!

What’s project-based writing? Well, this is the approach to writing that I use in my classrooms. In a project-based writing classroom, students choose their own topics and spend the semester writing, designing, and then proposing a project on a topic they’re passionate about. I believe that students bring with them to the classroom everything that they need to write well, precisely because you come with a history, experience, ideas and beliefs, and this is the stuff that I think “good writing” is made of.  You’ll have a chance to draw from your interests and experience, and use writing to design and propose your project. Topics can be anything from snowboarding to photography to promoting the bike culture in Orem. That last example is what one of my students, Scott, worked on in one of my classes. He even went so far as to host a musical festival the following summer. Another student, Austin, created a video on the risk of concussions in little league. Austin is a little league coach, so he was pretty excited about helping other coaches and athletes understand the dangers of these kinds of injuries. You can see, I don’t think writing should be painful and I do think it should be meaningful. Project-based writing is designed to give you the opportunity to read and write for real-world situations, to see writing as worthwhile, and build your confidence as a writer not only across disciplines and in your other classes but also in the workplace and in your personal life. Throughout the semester, if you are taking one of my classes, you’ll have many opportunities to write for all kinds of situations and to write in many different genres, for instance, you’ll write short stories, analyses, interview questionnaires, surveys, blogs, proposals, and more. And my hope is that you’ll leave class confident that you can meet just about any writing challenge that comes your way.

 

Sheri Rysdam

I am an assistant professor here at UVU, and I have been teaching college writing since 2003. Here’s a little about my educational background: I earned my BA in English, Discourse Theory from Eastern Oregon University, my master's degree is in Creative Writing from Western Washington University, and my PhD is in Rhetoric and Composition from Washington State University. My scholarship and interests are in new methods for responding to student writing. I also do work in rhetorics of political economy and social class, and I am interested in feminist rhetorics and advocacy.
  
In my free time, I teach a vinyasa style of yoga, and I practice Bikram yoga. I also work as a volunteer doula for women who otherwise would not have support in during childbirth. I’m learning to knit and play the piano. When I’m not responding to student writing, I also read for fun, and I write a lot—everything from status updates to creative writing to newsletters.
I obviously like to write, and I love teaching writing and helping students improve their writing skills. In our course, I will facilitate many opportunities for you to compose and respond in ways that are meaningful and engaging to you. It is important to me that, through the course of your college experience, you learn more tools for critical thinking and learn to express that thinking more powerfully through writing. I hope that my class supports you along the way. 

 

 

Elena Garcia

Greetings UVU students! I’m Dr. Elena Garcia, though I prefer to just go by Elena. I came to Utah in the summer of 2013, traveling all the way from Michigan for the opportunity to be your teacher. I came to UVU with my husband, Ben Goodwin, who also teaches in Literacies and Composition. We love working together and sharing teaching approaches and materials — we are both better teachers because of this collaboration.

If you end up taking one of my classes, you can expect a deliberately structured class that provides you with plenty of writing support and a chance to practice using a wide variety of reading and writing strategies. Within this structure, though, I will ask you to make a lot of decisions with your work, anything from choosing a topic to write about to figuring out exactly how you want to present information. Because there is no one correct or best way to write, my goal is that you learn how to make effective and efficient decisions.

I also strongly believe that our best opportunities for learning are moments where we reflect on work we have completed. You can expect many of these reflecting moments — moments where you examine your own successes and struggles — throughout the semester. You might find this to be a little difficult, especially if you aren’t used to self-examination, but you’ll get better with practice.

Ultimately, my hope is that my class is challenging but supportive, provides freedom and structure, helps you learn technologies commonly used throughout the university, and encourages you to become a reflective student. I want you to take chances, to experiment, to explore, and to take control over your own education.

 

Benjamin Goodwin

Well hello there! I'm Benjamin Goodwin (most people call me Ben) and this is my dream job. I've always wanted to teach writing for a living, and I can't think of any place I'd rather do it than a up-and-coming University like UVU. Not only that, but I get to spend every day working with my best friend and love of my life Dr. Elena Garcia. I'm originally from the mountains of North Carolina, but I've spent some time living in Michigan, have toured all across our great nation and many others, and even spent a few months living in London for a semester abroad. Moving here to Utah has been an interesting experience for someone raised in the deep south by parents from the North-East, but I'm slowly getting used to how things work here in the happy-valley.

I've wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, and although I started my teaching career with High School English it's obvious to me now that my rightful place is in the Basic Composition classroom. I think being a strong, effective communicator is one of the most important skills anyone can have, and not just when it comes to writing. I can connect all of the success I've encountered in my life--my marriage, my career, my relationship with friends and family, and so much more--to having the skills and strategies to adapt my communication to best fit my audience and my goals.

In my classroom you'll be expected to have an open mind, to take risks with your writing, and to follow along with me on an education journey designed to work with your existing knowledge, skills, and abilities and help you evolve into a successful and effective writer and college student. Students who take my courses and the work I ask for seriously come out on the other side better prepared for the rest of their college journey, their career, and their lives.

Besides teaching, I enjoy working with computers and playing as many video games and I can find time for. I also have a lifelong-love for cooking and comedy, a passion for card and strategy games, and take great pride in the time and effort I devote to my marriage and the love my wife and I share. I try to live a simple life, to not take anything too seriously, and to maintain compassion and understanding in the face of a difficult world.

 

ADJUNCTS

Karen Diane Carter

So you want to know about me. The three most often used words to describe me by students are “open,” “passionate,” and “caring.” However, quite often I hear the word “crazy.” In my class we learn by reading, talking, (lots of talking), listening, and writing about sex, money, politics, religion, relationships, and what makes us high. We are all over eighteen, and it’s time to learn about what enriches our lives and what impinges on them. One thing about the class----it is unpredictable. Plunging into controversial subjects, examining the logic and passion supporting personal opinions, and being open to classmates’ experiences and ways of being changes us. And that is learning.

I think one of the most important things you can learn is an understanding of yourself, what you want, and how to get it. Critical thinking helps. “Critical thinking” is the buzz phrase of the university. It’s a skill. Facilitating critical thinking is fun for me, and like the process of writing, it can be a little messy. Racking up points by pleasing the teacher is a rehearsal in how to get what you want in the future from employers, spouses, and the numerous people with which you use ethos, pathos, and logic to get your way.

What I want is for everyone (that includes me) to get an “A,” learn the material, and have fun learning. That is what the ultimate success is in my classroom. Every student in my class has the capacity and opportunity to get an “A.” And I try my best to do my part to make that happen. If everyone gets an “A” then I have too. We all have learned the material, gotten an “A,” and have had fun.

Sarah Chambers

“In fact, everybody – everybody -- in the entire nation has enough stuff in their life to write about that’s interesting [enough] to write their autobiography.”
- American Writer Jane Smiley.

Although I have met people who were uninterested, never once have I met people who weren’t interesting. That’s the main reason I am a teacher: I am fascinated by humans – and by the individual and collective human experience.

I am also fascinated by the ways in which humans express their human-ness, especially through spoken and written stories: observation, recollection, consideration, reflection, and speculation. My class at UVU explores this. In class, we work together to discover accurate, precise, articulate, and authentic ways of expressing ourselves, particularly in an academic environment.

Teaching is my passion. I’ve taught in Utah for 23 years – at UVU for 5 – and not a day goes by that I am not grateful for the opportunity. I earned my undergraduate degree in theater from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon and my Master of Arts in Teaching from Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. The ten years in between these degrees were spent in the restaurant business – and a somewhat nomadic life in several states, time zones, and no regrets.

Currently, I live near the mouth of American Fork canyon and walk, hike, and breathe it year-round. I have a huge brown dog and a loud black cat and am devoted to my family.

 

Lawrence Curtis

Lawrence W. Curtis was born and raised in Washington DC before migrating to the West.  He began his college career at Prairie Dog State, a college lost in a loophole of the nation’s Bible Belt.  He soon flunked out and joined the army during the Vietnam Era and spent two years (and 13 days) in the military.  Using the GI Bill, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in language and business education from Brigham Young University and then received a fellowship to study at the University of Utah where he received his master’s degree in the humanities. 

From there he traveled to places he never dreamed of going:  Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Iran.  When he returned, he taught at and developed curriculum for the LDS Missionary Training Center for those who needed to learn Persian.  He spent several years on BYU’s administrative staff. 

Later he held jobs at the NSA and WordPerfect.  Since 1999 and semi-retirement, he has taught part-time at UVU in Literacies and Composition.  He cares about students and realizes that they can become excellent writers in spite of taking English.   His hobbies include music, cigar boxes, walks on the beach, and movies. His wife, Sherri, has put up with him for more than 47 years.

Valerie Meade

Valerie Meade is adjunct faculty and has taught basic English composition for over three years at UVU. She also teaches and has taught cybercrime, business law, marketing, professionalism, communications, and history at other universities. She hopes her enthusiasm for teaching students research and writing will be contagious and enjoyable. At the beginning of the semester she starts the class off with writing warm-up assignments and as their writing muscles are strengthened the class progresses into doing a more challenging and engaging project. Students typically have a vested interest in their project and enjoy delving into their projects as they practice the new writing and research skills they are learning in class.  It is important to Valerie that her classroom is a warm and accepting place where everyone feels comfortable sharing their diverse opinions and learning from each other. 

One of Valerie’s happiest teaching moments happened at the end of a semester as a very diverse group of students packed up to leave the classroom for the last time together.  They had respectfully debated each other on almost every topic discussed in class and sometimes a bit more passionately than others.  As they went out the door one of the more outspoken students asked “Hey, do you all want to go eat somewhere?  I am going to miss coming to Cheers every week and hearing what all of you all think about things!”  The others agreed and they all headed to Applebee’s.  Valerie was invited but had another class she needed to go teach. 

Valerie loves the outdoors, although she rarely does any extreme sports in nature, she is happy to just listen to the sounds of wilderness, hike,  and build a campfire.  She grew up in the Washington D.C. area with frequent visits to her Grandparents farm in North Carolina, so she is both a country and city mouse.  Her mother is from Finland and she can also transition into being a European if the situation calls for it.  After more than twenty years in Utah, she also calls Utah one of her homes. 

Maren Miyasaki

Coming from a background where I also struggled a little with reading and writing from my minor dyslexia, I love to help students realize and work on their writing weaknesses. While in class we do have a casual atmosphere where we listen to music, work in groups, and discuss ideas; I do require high standards in attendance, work, and revision. In my personal life, I love to read, watch TV and movies, listen to music, and do crafts like painting and decorating. I read and watch a lot of classics, fantasy, sci-fi, and mysteries. I listen to oldies, big band, as well as pop music like the Killers. I also like to travel. This last summer I went on a safari to Africa.

One of my most important teaching goals is to hold students responsible for their own learning. From my perspective as a former student and a teacher, I have found that responsibility has brought me the most success in my classes or jobs. One of the ways I try to instill accountability in class is by making my teaching student-centered as opposed to teacher centered or lecture centered learning. I try to open your eyes to other points of view and valid ways of thinking and gain, if not a love for the learning process—especially in regard to writing, reading, and critical thinking skills—at least an appreciation for it. 

Marie Knowlton

Marie Knowlton teaches English 1000. She also writes urban fantasy novels, does theater (especially Shakespeare), and watches Doctor Who. A proud alumna of UVU, she believes English is a playground, where the possibilities for creating, inventing, questioning, and creating social change are endless. Language and images are power – especially combined with technology. She encourages personal electronic devices in the classroom and is currently doing a study on their benefits for students and instructors. She encourages imagination, risk-taking, and critical thinking as well. Passionate about English, early modern British writers, and Elizabethan pop culture (among other nerdy things), she enjoys presenting her scholarly research at conferences such as the British Women Writers Conference, the Wooden O Symposium and Blackfriars (where overtime presenters get chased by a bear). She writes and teaches because it’s fun, powerful, and exciting, and hopes to share that with her students. 

 

Brian Owens

My interest in teaching first began when I taught English to Vietnamese refugees on the island of Palawan in the South China Sea. Since that time, I have taught at Boise State University, Penn State University, The University of New Mexico, as well as volunteer work at the Plaza Comunitaria in Idaho.

I am the first in my family to have graduated college. I know what it is like to not have help in understanding and going to college. I know many of the difficulties of work, school, relationships, and more. As your instructor, I try to always envision more than just the person in front of me. I try to see the many people that you represent to me, as my student. You represent not just yourself, but your parents, your siblings, your family, and perhaps your future family. A lot depends upon your success, and I am keenly aware of this.

I really enjoy writing and literature, especially well-written things that hook me and lead me into a new way of thinking that elevates my way of understanding. As we work together throughout the semester together, my goal is twofold. We will work towards not only your development as a writer, but as a thinker about what you read as a college student- helping you to become better at understanding (and writing about) the materials you will need to read and analyze as a college student.

I have a Master’s Degree from Penn State's Applied Linguistic Program. I also have two Bachelor degrees in English from Boise State University- Writing & Literature. In addition, I spent time at the University of New Mexico working on a PhD in Educational Linguistics. My 2nd language is Tagalog (Filipino). I love languages, so I have taken courses in Spanish, Classical Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Japanese. I really enjoy teaching, travel, other cultures & languages, the outdoors, racquetball, and especially my wife and children.