As a composition scholar, I have two primary areas of interest: college students' extracurricular literacy practices and place-based pedagogy.

For the first area, my research focuses not just on students’ in-class literacy practices but also on their “extracurricular” literacy practices – that is, the reading, writing, and collaborating that they do beyond the walls of the classroom. As such, my work is located within New Literacy Studies and the parallel “public turn” in the field of composition. Out of these movements have emerged research projects aimed at focusing not on individual writers and their ‘private’ writing experiences but rather on the social and material conditions within which writers work, including within the “extracurriculum.” Anne Ruggles Gere employs this term to describe the “enormous number of individuals who meet in living rooms, nursing homes, community centers, churches, shelters for the homeless, around kitchen tables, and in rented rooms to write down their worlds,” whom she notes “bear testimony to the fact that writing development occurs outside formal education” ("Kitchen Tables" 76). Such recognition of this work means constantly broadening our notions of what counts as legitimate literate practices and subsequently creating pedagogies that acknowledge the extracurriculum as more than merely a site of disruption or distraction.

Below is the abstract for my dissertation:


Exploring Literacy Sponsorship in the Digital Extracurriculum: How Students'                          Participation in Fan Fiction Sites Can Inform Composition Pedagogy          

This dissertation examines the fan fiction literacy practices of six college students in two sites, FanFiction.Net and, and argues for the importance of inviting into the classroom students' literacy experiences in the extracurriculum to understand how they reveal prior understandings of reading and writing that inform students' practices within the curriculum. These sites, as I propose college composition courses should also do, invite participants to share their experiences in other discourse communities and offer opportunities for participants to co-construct writing ideologies, in part through their focus on reflection and collaboration. This study also reveals contradictions, including conflicted definitions of "constructive criticism" and authors' desire for feedback and yet their resistance toward reading it or revising accordingly.

This dissertation also demonstrates the value of using a framework of literacy sponsorship as articulated by Deborah Brandt, in combination with positioning theory, to interrogate how sites recruit, enable, regulate, and suppress (Brandt 2001) literacy and interactively position participants according to the circulating writing ideologies. The ideologies overlap significantly with those found in composition classrooms, including interaction, collaboration, constructive criticism, reflection, and correctness. Yet the ideologies also compete, as illustrated on one hand by the perceived importance of "correctness" in mechanics, reinforced by FanFiction.Net's Codes of Conduct, and on the other hand by the importance of what composition instructors consider "global" concerns, such as authentic depictions of characters and credible plotlines. I reveal how participants negotiate these writing ideologies, defining what constitutes "good" writing and "good" feedback by reflecting on their skills, experiences, and preferences as they design their profile pages and when they provide feedback on each other's stories.

The dissertation concludes by situating the study in conversation with the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing designed by the Council of Writing Program Administrators. This research of online writing practices offers evidence of students demonstrating in the extracurriculum some of the "habits of mind" the WPA describes as essential to success in college writing. Finally, I suggest practical ways to use the extracurriculum, and specifically sites in Web 2.0, to help develop students' rhetorical knowledge, critical thinking, and knowledge of conventions.


In terms of my second area of interest, I also position myself within the burgeoning field of place-based studies. Inspired by the work of Derek Owens, Nedra Reynolds, and other scholars writing about the importance of place, my co-authors and I wrote Writing Places five years ago because we realized there were not any textbooks that supported instructors' efforts to incorporate discussions of place. As we describe in our preface, "Writing Places invites students to develop writing skills through an inquiry into places from their past, present, and future. The act of place writing involves researching and writing about familiar locale as well as new ones via a range of inquiry methods and writing genres." Writing about place invites a variety of conversations, including conversations about gender, race, culture, technology, and the environment. Place-based pedagogies encourage students to become ethnographers, observing, listening, interviewing, researching the past and present, and placing themselves within larger social structures and ongoing civic debates. As we note, "As students become attentive observers and participants in a variety of places, they also practice the writing skills critical to academic success."

The anthology combines an eclectic range of place-based essays written by professional writers, community members, and college students whose work spans geographic areas from the United States and beyond. As editors, we feel the range of writers from professional to student is important, not as a model/antimodel approach, but rather because it presents place writing from people of different ages and locations, at different places in their own lives and in their development as writers. In the second edition, we will update the readings, guiding questions, and activities so that the text remains relevant for instructors and students.


As an offshoot of my interest in place, and inspired by my passion for food, I have begun to teach and research what I call "the culture of food." For the past two years, I have taught my sections of introductory composition with this theme, and I have been impressed by students' intellectual and emotional responses and by the ways in which food frames social, economic, and political discussions. My aim is to write an article about my experiences teaching composition through this lens and to establish a networked community of instructors, food writers, bloggers, and so on to host conversations and provide resources and connections.

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