English & Communication Faculty & Student Spotlights
The Department of English and Communication recognizes the achievements of our faculty members and outstanding students. There are so many great things happening in the in the department that you should know about!
Writing and Study Skills Center Tutor Publishes Second Book
Currently serving students in the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College’s Writing and Study Skills Center (WSSC), Dr. Balaskovits has recently published her second book: Strange Folk You’ll Never Meet. Published by the Santa Fe Writer‘s Project, this new collection of unusual, fabulist fiction leads you down strange paths for dark encounters with familiar fairy tales, odd people from history, and weirdos who may be living right next door.
Among the characters in these bizarre stories, a starving beauty finds a beast who can save her village, a man eats everything in sight but is never full, a woman gives birth to bloody animal parts, and a daughter is forced to dance every night to the reenactment of her fathers’ murder.
These tales invite you to spend time with people who, in the maddest of circumstances, chew their way forward. With elements of psychological horror, sly humor, and the fantastic, these stories will burrow under your skin, haunt your dreams, and make you wonder what worlds lie just beyond that tiny hole in the wall.
Look back at some of the other achievements and past recognition for the great work being done at UC Blue Ash College in the English and Communication Department.
Brian Bailie, an Associate Professor of English in the English and Communication Department at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College, recently published an article in Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society. In "So, Richard Spencer Is Coming to Your Campus. How He was Allowed on, and How You Can Confront Him,” Dr. Bailie opens the article explaining how the University of Cincinnati kept Spencer off its Clifton campus by charging an extra-security fee. Next, Bailie explains why this wasn’t the best solution, and finally, he provides an organizing strategy to create a community driven way to keep Spencer—and other speakers like him—off college campuses. Bailie closes the article explaining how such an organizing method creates a reusable solidarity network as well as claiming that a grassroots campus movement to block white nationalist speakers (like Spencer) reaffirms the value of students, faculty, and staff of color; their right to be on campus; their right to safety; and their basic humanity.
The Department of English and Communication is proud to announce that four faculty members have been awarded academic leave (sabbaticals) in 2021-22. Here are their names and a description—in their own words—of the projects they’ll pursue on their sabbaticals.
Libby Anthony, PhD, English
During my sabbatical, I will study the intersections between the pedagogies of writing instructors and knitting instructors. I plan to examine what educators—and especially writing teachers—can learn from the literacies and pedagogical practices of knitters and knitting communities, and my project asks how the literacy practices of knitting content creators can extend our understanding of learner-centered pedagogies. This area of research—craft rhetorics and pedagogies—is new to me, so I’m looking forward to having an entire semester to fully devote to beginning this new research project.
Brian Bailie, PhD, English
I’ll be on academic leave for spring semester 2022 to work on the community written book (tentatively titled), This Place of Ours. This book is a collaboration between the various writing groups affiliated with or previously connected to the Peaslee Neighborhood Center in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood. Professor Chris Wilkey (of Northern Kentucky University [NKU]) and I are serving as the editors to this anthology, which will include poetry, transcribed oral histories, excerpts from various community newspapers, artwork, and essays challenging the gentrification of OTR by 3CDC and the city of Cincinnati. This book already has a book contract with New City Community Press/Parlor Press that covers both printing and distribution and will be marketed to academics and community activists who study, teach about, and participate in university-community partnerships. This Place of Ours is a case study and demonstration of how writing can be used to mobilize desire as well as organize communities towards specific, quantifiable goals.
Shaorong Huang, PhD, Communication
I will have a one-semester academic leave during Spring 2022 to conduct research on the governing power of China’s current abbreviated political slogans. The main research method used in this project will be textual analysis and on-site interviews. In this project, the following questions will be explored: Can the common people and lower-level government officials remember the full contents of these abbreviated political and policy-specified slogans? To what extent do they understand the meanings of these slogans? Are these slogans mere symbols or something real to them? In what way do these abbreviated slogans affect their daily life and work? How helpful and successful are these slogans in governing the country?
Political slogans are a special form of language, the fittingly worded phrases or expression, the shared symbols, and above all, the persuasive rhetoric. This project will be a continuation of the research path of mine, since my research interests are in cross-cultural communication and political rhetoric. Moreover, the increased knowledge of China's political slogans will provide me with more examples I can use when I address issues of culture and intercultural communication in my communication classes.
Neely McLaughlin, PhD, English
During my sabbatical, I am studying what we as a society can learn about the current relationship between race and Christianity in the US by analyzing the intersection of Christianity and nineteenth century US literature. I focus on African Methodist Episcopal itinerant preacher Jarena Lee’s narrative, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Martha Finley’s popular Elsie Dinsmore books. I am excited to have the opportunity for deep engagement with ideas that clearly matter today. It is an honor and privilege to have the time to focus on a project that is personally and intellectually compelling to me.
When the University of Cincinnati Police Department (UCPD) decided to improve their writing skills, they called on Dr. Sana Clason for guidance. Working in coordination with UCPD Chief Maris Herold, Training Officer Lt. Robert Gutierrez, and Training Consultant Dawn Moore, Dr. Clason developed a four-hour in-service Technical Writing training session to address the specific needs of the UCPD.
Since the initial pilot training sessions to UCPD Leadership in February 2019, Dr. Clason has taught six sessions with many more scheduled throughout the 2019-2020 academic year. The curriculum design teaches effective writing strategies for creating persuasive, ethical documents that respond effectively to UCPD’s broad and varied audiences’ needs, abilities, and interests; practical information on planning and organization strategies; and how to develop a writing process of composing, revising, and editing that creates effective writing using correct sentence structure and grammar.
Dr. Clason is an Associate Professor in the English and Communication Department where she teaches English Composition and Applied Workplace Writing in UCBA’s Bachelor in Technical and Applied Studies program.
Sonja Andrus, Associate Professor of English at the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College, is one of three co-authors to be published in the September 2019 issue of Teaching English in the Two-Year College (a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English). Dr. Andrus along with Howard Tinberg and Sharon Mitchler produced the article, “Teaching for Writing Transfer: A Practical Guide for Teachers,” which introduces two-year college composition faculty to the TFT (Teaching for Transfer) curriculum and to help those faculty make the leap into using it in their own local contexts. The article opens with a brief historical discussion of transfer theory in the discipline, and then examines the TFT curriculum, as it was developed in Writing Across Contexts (by Kathleen Blake Yancey, Leann Robertson, and Kara Taczak) and how it can be successfully modified to be implemented into open-access, two-year college writing classrooms, using our own experiences and modifications to share how to do it. Dr. Andrus also serves as the Composition Coordinator for the English and Communication Department at UCBA.
Has politics changed…or have we changed? Moreover, why is it so difficult to talk about politics these days? These are the two central questions that lay behind two of Dr. Jennings’ recently completed research projects. “State of Arousal” is a rhetorical study that examines the language behaviors of presidential candidates over the past seventy years. With the aid of computer analysis, the tones of political hopefuls can be contrasted against each other in ways that often are overlooked. That data that emerges presents the case that the reliable and normative stylings that brought Harry Truman and Dwight to the White House have been incrementally replaced by a more volatile and emotional one.
In a related study supported by the Scripps Foundation, Dr. Jennings studied the interactions of forty Cincinnati-area voters and their attitudes about politics. Seated in six different focus groups with three ideological perspectives (conservative, liberal, and mixed), these participants managed to discuss their feelings about government, politics, media, their fellow citizens and the idea of building common ground. By isolating key expressions and their use, Dr. Jennings concludes that the group participants engage in a practice called “virtue signaling” which implies a political ideology without expressing it explicitly. The findings from “Seeking Common Ground” will be presented at the Ohio Communication Conference on October 6, 2018.
In recent years, Dr. Jennings has been using games in the classroom in order to teach particular practices and concepts to students. One of the most successful of these, “Pandemic” has been used to teach collaboration and planning to future managers. However, a careful examination of the game reveals that it could be usefully deployed in a wide array of classroom settings including biology, mathematics, and informational technology courses. Dr. Jennings’ chapter on cooperative games in the classroom will appear in Learning, Education, and Games from ETC Press / Carnegie Mellon University in Autumn, 2018.
Dr. Jennings is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Communication, where he teaches courses in the areas of Public Speaking, Persuasion, and Image Management.
Please join us in welcoming Jessica Fergerson, PhD this fall to the UCBA Communication department. Originally a Texas native, Jessica recently joined the Faculty at UCBA after serving as the Director of Debate at Western Kentucky University for the past five years. This is actually a return to Ohio for Jessica as she completed her PhD at Ohio University in 2014. Jessica has a vast teaching background that covers everything from Public Speaking to Electoral Speech Writing and Analysis and she truly loves being in the classroom and working with students!
Jessica's educational background is in rhetoric and gender studies which drives her current research interests including feminist rhetoric, political communication, image repair, and popular culture. As an avid fan of television show creator Shonda Rhimes, Jessica is particularly excited about her upcoming book chapter "Abortion in Shondaland: Daring Departures from Oppressive Industry Conventions." She is currently working on her first book: The Battle for Birth Control: Discourses of the Movement from 1914-2014.
Welcome Eric Van Hoose as he steps into his new role as Manager of the Writing and Study Skills Center. Eric has worked as an academic tutor at the center since 2010. In addition to working closely with students in one-on-one support sessions, he is working with other tutors in the center to co-create and co-lead the college's English Conversation Group, which promotes community and understanding across languages and cultures. In March 2018 he and the rest of the WSSC staff will be leading a workshop on starting inclusive student support groups as well as holding a roundtable discussion on how student reflection can be used to help support students in tutoring sessions at the Eastern Central Writing Central Association Conference. Eric is also hard at work in UC's doctoral creative writing program for fiction, where he volunteers as an editorial assistant for The Cincinnati Review. Eric's essay on novel writing was recently published in Full Stop Quarterly. His piece of short fiction "Sunday Night"won first place in the 2016 short prose contest at the University of Texas at Austin's literary journal, Bat City Review.
University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College Associate Professor Kevin Oberlin has several recent publications in poetry journals. "Eastern Neck" was published in Parks & Points in its April 2017 celebration of National Poetry Month, and "Dormant" was published in Roanoke Review in their Summer 2017 issue. Both poems explore the personal connection we as individuals make with specific places in nature. A series of his poems was also published in Ghost Proposal in July of 2017: "Book Whose Belief Punishes Silence After the Awkward Pause," "Book of Permanent Goodbye," "Like Soup Whips the Apple," and "The Decay of Collective Memory." An additional poem from this series, "River, Like Other People, is Never Herself," is forthcoming in December 2017 in Pacific REVIEW. Poems in this series are part of a chapbook manuscript that experiments with a grid structure as a way to investigate the thought process of each poem's speaker and invite the reader to explore different approaches to reading and interpreting the poem. These poems build off of the formal innovations of poet Leah Nielsen, whose work piloted this type of chart as an organizing principle for poetry.Dr. Oberlin's poetry chapbook, Spotlit Girl (2008), was a winner of the Wick Student Chapbook Competition, and is available from Kent State University Press. Dr. Oberlin is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Communication, where he teaches courses in the areas of Composition, Creative Writing, and Literature.
A new book by University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College English professor, Rhonda Pettit is receiving critical acclaim from noted poets around the country. Riding the Wave Train is the latest book of poetry produced by Pettit, who makes her home in Northern Kentucky. "Wave train" is a term used in the sciences that refers to a succession of waves occurring at periodic intervals and traveling in the same direction, especially a group of waves of limited duration," says Pettit. "The book could be read as an innocence to experience narrative, though at times experience invades the innocence stage. It might also be seen as movement from the personal world to the public one." The book is receiving very positive reviews from noted poets, including Cathy Smith Bowers, the 2010-12 Poet Laureate of North Carolina, who highlights a passage from one of the poems.
I was the grand-daddy long-legs thrown hard against the garage door today, and I was the hand that threw it.
Thus concludes one of the most stunning poems in Rhonda Pettit's new collection Riding the Wave Train," says Smith Bowers. "As exquisitely structured as it is lyrically compelling, this book is a must have for lovers of fresh, original, insightful poetry." This is the second book of poetry that Pettit has published; she also serves as the contributing poetry editor for various publications and has developed programs and events to keep the interest in poetry alive, both at the college and in area high schools. "At a time in our history when verifiable facts can be called "fake news," we need more than ever the kind of authentic truth that poetry can give us -- whether it's about a single moment in an individual's personal life, or a response to a larger social concern" says Pettit. "Personal honesty and authenticity set the stage for public honesty and authenticity. Poetry cleanses and clarifies." Pettit will be featured, along with other local poets, during a book signing at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Crestview Hills on September 26 from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. The book is also available for purchase online.
Alyssa Ferreri submitted her poem "Eyes" to Saad Ghosn's annual anthology, For a Better World 2017: Poems and Drawings for Peace and Justice by Greater Cincinnati Artists. During spring semester 2017, Dr. Rhonda Pettit encouraged her student Alyssa Ferreri to submit a poem to Saad Ghosn's annual anthology, For a Better World 2017: Poems and Drawings for Peace and Justice by Greater Cincinnati Artists. Alyssa's poem "Eyes" was accepted along with 2 of Dr. Pettit's, and they both had the opportunity to read together with other poets at the SOS Art Reading in June 2017 at the Cincinnati School for the Performing Arts in Over the Rhine (OTR). Alyssa's poem also appears in volume 24 of the Blue Ash Review, our college literary magazine, along with a second poem by Alyssa, "What Nightmares Are Made Of." The magazine is available in a print edition and will be archived online.
Dr. Brenda Refaei will end her term as the Department of English and Communication's Composition Coordinator, and Dr. Sonja Andrus will take over. Dr. Brenda Refaei will end her second term as the Department of English and Communication's Composition Coordinator on August 14, 2017. In her six years as Coordinator, she has worked with English faculty in the design, implementation, and assessment of composition and developmental writing classes. In addition, she has worked with faculty across UC on the University Composition Committee to develop course descriptions and outcomes.Dr. Refaei has excelled in this role, and she has found it gratifying, as well. "I was grateful to be the composition coordinator for the department during semester conversion," Dr. Refaei said. "I was able to work with faculty in the department and across the University to ensure that the semester courses were designed to meet the needs of UCBA students. Working with Ruth Benander and Sonja Andrus, I was able to support faculty as they adopted eportfolios in their classes. I am especially proud of the work Ruth Benander and I put into the redesign of English 0097 that allows students to work at their own pace. Determined students have been able to place into first year composition directly from this course skipping another developmental course." For this work, the Two-Year College English Association awarded Drs. Refaei and Benander an Honorable Mention in their 2017 Diana Hacker Awards for Outstanding Programs in English. Dr. Sue Sipple, Chair of the Department of English and Communication, has high praise for Dr. Refaei's work as Composition Coordinator. "Brenda has been a fantastic asset to our department. She has helped us hire quality part-time and full-time faculty; she has mentored those faculty to help them do their best work; and she has collaborated with our seasoned faculty and colleagues on other campuses to make sure our composition courses are doing all they should be doing. I am so grateful for Brenda's exceptional work, and I know that she will achieve a great deal in the future, even as she turns her attention to new areas of interest." Once her term as Composition Coordinator ends in mid-August, Dr. Refaei will focus her energy on her teaching and research, "I look forward to having more time to spend on developing my classes and researching how students learn. I am eager to work with Dr. Sonja Andrus as she assumes the Composition Coordinator position." The Department is grateful for Dr. Refaei's remarkable service to the department and to our students. Her leadership as Composition Coordinator has been exceptional.
Dr. Sonja Andrus has been elected as the Department of English & Communication's new Composition Coordinator for a three-year term beginning August 15, 2017. Dr. Andrus sees the role as a collaborative one. In her new position, she'll wok with English faculty and with faculty in other disciplines to support their efforts to help students become better writers. "Writing is at the core of so much of what we do at the college, and in particular in our department. Working with my colleagues on the questions we have about writing is exciting to me." Dr. Sue Sipple, chair of the Department of English and Communication, is equally excited to have Dr. Andrus in this leadership position. "Sonja will do a fantastic job of building on the work of her predecessor and of moving us in new and interesting directions," Sipple said. One of Dr. Andrus's priorities in her new role is to continue dialogue within the department about our values in writing and in writing instruction. She believes that these conversations are essential in helping faculty understand composition assessment outcomes. Dr. Andrus said, "I think that discussions of our values regarding writing and writing instruction can also help us to see how there are many paths to the same destination, help us see and value one another's varied pedagogical approaches to the course learning outcomes. While we want to know that assessment of the courses leads to valuable discussion of student learning, we must begin by knowing what we want to know, and sometimes that means backing up and knowing what we care about. I think we need to start there." Dr. Andrus understands that students are frequently challenged by college writing. "Each class makes writing seem foreign; the history professor wants it this way, but the science professor wants it that way. And it can seem like there is nothing tying those models together, and it can further seem arbitrary; what worked in that first science class doesn't seem to work in the second. Students with a really strong background in writing (not just a talent for writing, but a really strong, deep understanding of how writing works and why it works that way) will find the connections across their courses regarding the methods and means expected of them." Through the work she does in her composition classes, Dr. Andrus helps students "perform the practical tasks of writing in every facet of their lives, not just in college but well beyond." In her new leadership role in the department, she'll support faculty in their efforts to do the same. Congratulations to Dr. Sonja Andrus on her new position as Composition Coordinator!
The 2017 All-University Faculty Awards Celebration Honors the English Department's Ruth Bunander and Adam Burkey. With a dedication to student learning, attention to student engagement, and service to perpetuating excellent teaching, Dr. Benander has distinguished herself as a very deserving recipient of this award. She is always on the cutting edge of teaching strategies and has been ahead of the curve in implementing such new ideas as problem-based learning activities and flipped classrooms. Dr. Benander has also had a big impact on the college through her longstanding role as Co-Director of our Learning & Teaching Center. She has created, led and participated in Faculty Learning Communities that have transformed the teaching of its participants.
As someone who teaches developmental English, as well as first-year and second year composition, Dr. Burkey works with students from a wide range of academic backgrounds. One of his primary objectives is removing the barriers between the classroom and the students' personal lives, so they can see writing as an outlet for personal reflection and growth. Dr. Burkey's colleagues commend him for the creative ways he works to connect with students and help them understand difficult concepts. His methods include using Google Drive to provide real-time feedback on writing assignments and drawings with conversation bubbles that help students integrate different voices into their writing.
Awards were given to 2016-17 Outstanding Students in English & Communication, Briana Harper and Danielle Maraan. Briana Harper is a Communication major with interests in persuasion and human interaction. She has put these skills to work as a Student Ambassador and during her service in the military. Students and instructors alike have noted how readily she shares her time, energy, and ideas with those around her. Sharing her time easily, Briana combines an authentic curiosity about the world along with the creative talents to reinvent and improve it. Danielle Maraan is a Communication major whose interests seem boundless. Over the course of her studies at UCBA, Danielle has explored every facet of her major available at this campus. Her quiet commitment to quality scholarship has left a deep impression on those around her. It is this ethic that has been a constant presence in Danielle's efforts and mark her as a student who has earned the respect of her instructors and the admiration of her classmates.
Shaorong Huang received his Ph.D. in speech communication in 1994 from Bowling Green State University, USA. With a research interest in political rhetoric and cross-cultural communication, he has published one academic book, To Rebel Is Justified: A Rhetorical Study of China's Cultural Revolution Movement: 1966-1969 (1996) and more than twenty research articles. He has also published other books including translations and college English textbooks. His most recent books are The Romance of the Western Chamber, a Kunqu Opera: Translation, Introduction and Annotations (2013); Mu Guiying Takes Command, a Beijing Opera: Translation, Introduction and Annotations (2015); and Grand Occasion in the Golden Years of Zhenguan, a Beijing Opera: Translation, Introduction and Annotations(2015).
The basic writing program at UC Blue Ash College, designed by Dr. Brenda Refaei and Dr. Ruth Benander, has been awarded honorable mention in the Diana Hacker TYCA Outstanding Programs in English. The Diana Hacker TYCA Outstanding Programs in English Awards for Two-Year Colleges and Teachers are given annually and honor two-year college teachers and their colleges for exemplary programs that enhance students' language learning, helping them to achieve their college, career, and personal goals. The basic writing program at UC Blue Ash College, designed by Dr. Brenda Refaei and Dr. Ruth Benander, has been awarded honorable mention in this award competition. Drs. Refaei and Benander designed an emporium model basic reading and writing course for students to work at an accelerated pace to progress to college composition and skip a second developmental course. Course modules built in the LMS allow students to create an eportfolio of their writing. Pedagogical changes included abandoning whole class lectures for daily "just in time" personal instruction while students worked at their own pace. The modules provide guidance students need to move forward through their writing, while the instructors circulate, giving individual explicit instruction when necessary. A department committee judges the eportfolios as eligible to skip the next developmental course. In student satisfaction surveys, students overwhelmingly agree that they find this approach effective for their learning. Since the implementation of this program, fifteen students have moved from the introductory basic writing course directly into First Year Composition.
Please contact Sue Sipple if you have a faculty member or student who you think should be highlighted.
English & Communication Department
Progress Hall | Room 120B