I grew up in northern Illinois, where I loved the big prairie skies, reading, and dreaming of ways to save the natural world, end poverty and violence, and create better community. After a few years of traveling and working for citizen’s lobbies across the country, I returned home and attended college, eventually graduating from Northern Illinois University, summa cum laude, and earning a fellowship to Washington University in St. Louis, where I took a PhD in English literature in 2002. I wrote about the ways that literature represented one of the greatest landscape and social changes in England, that of the enclosure movement, which dispossessed small-scale farmers and rural residents. My scholarly and teaching interests are still energized by exploring how underrepresented people use forms of writing to challenge authority, to assert the value of traditional community, and to create images of the often threatened natural world.
I have two positions at Bates, where I am able to pursue both my passions, for the environment and the teaching of writing and literature. As a Lecturer in Environmental Studies, I regularly teach an FYS, Reading the Wild in Film and Literature, and I’ve piloted a writing capstone, ES 450, Environmental Writing in the Public Sphere. This course challenges students to engage in public discourse on an environmental topic students select. In this W3, seniors develop an online portfolio of their writings for the course, which typically includes a major work, such as a feature-length essay or series of blog posts, along with trial attempts at several other genres, and a reflective essay on what has been learned about writing and the central topic. This year, I’m looking forward to teaching my first W2, Literatures of Agriculture, which brings together my longstanding interest in laboring-class literature and the environment with my commitment to writing. In my second position at Bates, as Writing Specialist in the Humanities and Interdisciplinary Programs, I help faculty with the teaching of writing and work with students and faculty on their writing. My work is fed by my belief that writing is a way of deepening thinking, a means of empowering individuals to speak, create, and engage in the world’s struggles, challenges, and joys.