Salisbury Labs 233A
+1 (508) 8315000 x6561
Affiliated Department or Office
Writing & Rhetoric
Writing Center
AA Pasadena City College 2000
BA University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) 2002
MA University of Pittsburgh 2008
PhD University of Pittsburgh 2012


When new acquaintances find out I teach writing, it’s not unusual for them to lament a broad decline in the nation’s writing skills. How does it make me feel, they ask, that students, say, don’t know the difference between adjectives and adverbs? Or, can I believe it that people hardly even know what apostrophes do, let alone where to put them? As someone who treasures good, careful prose, I’m sympathetic to these worries. But as an educator, I think it’s important to steer the conversation in a different direction. What makes us think that students’ knowledge of the parts of speech would “fix” their writing? What assumptions underlie our surety that ignorance of grammar or punctuation is what’s holding students back? That those are the things most important to reviving literate culture? I turn the conversation to these questions because it’s easy to forget that in literacy education, we have choices about what to prioritize. And those choices should rest on careful reflection about what we value (where we want students to end up) and careful interrogation of the assumptions we hold about how students get there.



Writing and thinking about writing depend on this kind of self-reflection and awareness. In all of my work, I try to remind my students, my colleagues, and myself of this importance. In my research, I’m interested in the philosophies of writing that we inculcate in our students--in high school, community college, and the university--and in the ways that those theories implicitly inform how writing instruction is positioned within school curricula. And in my teaching, I ask students to become more aware of these often-conflicting positions of what writing is and does, and therefore how it should be taught—even in my courses that seem to just be, on their face, about how to write better (after all, how can we learn to write “better” if we don’t know how we define that term?). WPI is a great place to do this work. Because project-based learning asks students to engage with real problems in real-world contexts, these questions of how, for whom, and for what purpose become especially visible and especially important.


Scholarly Work

“The Education Before You: When Student Complaint, Criticism, and Storytelling becomes Scholarship.” Writing on the Edge 25.2 (Spring 2015): 15-36

“Remapping the Terrain of Knowledge: Telling Stories from the Two-Year College.” Reader: Essays in Reader-Oriented Theory, Criticism, and Pedagogy. Winter 2010

Professional Highlights & Honors
, 2007
University of Pittsburgh English Department
, 2009
University of Pittsburgh English Department


The Academic Minute
The Unexpected (and Expected) Benefits of Projects in the Humanities

In this episode of The Academic Minute podcast, Ryan Madan, associate professor of teaching in the Department of Humanities and Arts, discusses the results of a WPI alumni survey which suggest WPI's project-based humanities and arts curriculum helps students explore themselves, the human experience, and equips them with tools and perspectives that deepen their learning in STEM fields.