What is your current job title and responsibilities?
I’m currently the interim chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric in the College of Arts and Humanities.
What is your history at UCF and before UCF?
Prior to moving into the interim chair position, I served as the department’s Undergraduate Director. Before coming to UCF, I lived in snowy Durango, Colorado (props to you if you know whereabouts that is, and no, it’s not near Denver/Boulder). There, I was a tenured associate professor, director of the Writing Center, and helped serve as the co-director of the Writing Program.
What is your academic background?
I received my PhD in Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English (RCTE) at the University of Arizona in Tucson. I have many fond memories of my graduate school cohort and professors. My master’s degree is in Composition from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and I attended a small liberal arts institution in St. Louis (where I was born and grew up) for undergrad, Maryville University. As a graduate of the Bascom Honors Program at Maryville, I’ve always had a fondness for working with honors programs and have been involved with honors curriculum and development both at Fort Lewis College (where I worked in Durango) and at UCF.
What is your favorite UCF memory?
I’m still fairly new here, so honestly, it was coming to campus for my campus visit. I fell in love with Orlando, UCF, and the people in my department, and when I received the job offer a little later, I was ecstatic. I remember how the then-department chair hugged me at the end of my visit because we had had such a connection during my time on campus, and how friendly several of the faculty were when they emailed me to say welcome when they learned I had accepted the position. I still remember the nail-biting time period of “will they call?” in between the visit and the offer, though—that part wasn’t a favorite portion!
If you could change one thing at UCF, what would it be?
If it were only one thing, I would try to increase the opportunities for recognition and equal pay for faculty off the tenure track. I’ve worked at two institutions where faculty in non-tenure-line positions were the majority of my department, and I know how hard they work and how infrequently they are recognized for their achievements and their dedication. Having taught a 4/4 load of classes for many years myself, I empathize completely with how difficult it is to do that and have a social life, conduct professional development, engage in scholarship, and so on. If money and time was no object, I would make it possible for non-tenure-line faculty to have greater recognition, pay, and support in relation to their tenure-line colleagues.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with your colleagues?
Be nice to people. You never know when someone is going to be in a position to help you, and if you have a history of being obstinate or unpleasant, people are going to be less likely to want to extend their assistance to you. And it’s just better to be around pleasant people in general anyway. A good and truly collegial colleague is worth their weight in gold.
If UCF was going to name something in your honor, what would you like it to be and why?
I am the proud owner of three cats and I love them dearly. And I do some of my best writing and work with my cats nearby, a hot cup of tea, and a comfortable chair. So, UCF, please open the Vie Cat Café, where faculty and staff who need a tea-and-cat break can get away (and maybe some kitties can find new homes too).
If you could have lunch with anyone at UCF (who you do not normally eat lunch with), who would you choose and why?
It would be wonderful to have lunch with President Hitt. He’s done so much to support the Department of Writing and Rhetoric over the years, including offering the kind of financial support needed to establish the department in the first place and to move faculty off adjunct lines and into permanent instructor and lecturer positions. I’d love to hear more about how he’s experienced the power of the written word in his life and in his administrative leadership in particular.
Who at UCF would you like to thank for your success?
Of course Fran and Linda at the Center for Success of Women Faculty have been amazing for providing a safe and welcoming space for me and other women on campus to grow and develop. While she’s no longer at UCF, my former chair Elizabeth Wardle has been a wonderful mentor and I can’t thank her enough for all of the time and energy she’s given to me as I’ve learned more about the work of chairing a department. My associate chair Mark Hall and scheduler Debbie Weaver are my sounding boards and help counter all of the weird parts of my INTJ personality. They help me see things from a different perspective in ways that enrich my abilities to do my job.
Name and describe a teacher or researcher from your past who truly inspired you and why.
Dr. Frank Stary, my faculty advisor at Maryville University. I was a chemistry major when I began and even though I switched to English and only minored in chem, Dr. Stary always took plenty of time in his office to mentor me and talk with me about not only academics but books, television, movies, and Volkswagen Beetles. Even later on when I’ve reached out to him to say hello, he’s remembered me from his classes and engaged in conversation with me. Dr. Stary was my first real example of an academic who got research done but also enjoyed media and mentoring students. I’ve tried to do the same in my own academic life.
What undergraduate or graduate class/program/experience inspired you the most and why?
Again, being an honors student because I was able to experience small classes, dedicated faculty, and classes like astronomy—where we went outside in the middle of the night and looked at the stars. I received an education that I wouldn’t have gotten at a larger school that didn’t offer so much enrichment for students.
What is your favorite restaurant or food?
Ohhhhhh there are too many things to really list here! I will say that for breakfast or brunch, you can’t beat the pancakes at the Briarpatch in Winter Park, and Keke’s stuffed French toast is amazing. I love the burgers at Teak, the truffle fries at the Enzian, and of course all of the barbecue at 4Rivers. And if you love sushi like I do, go to Sushi Pop in Oviedo. You’ll thank me later if you eat their sushi and their KFC (Korean fried chicken wings). Amazing.
What is your favorite movie, book or music?
My favorite band is XTC. Favorite movie is a toss-up between Donnie Darko, The Princess Bride, or Super Troopers. And my favorite book is Stephen King’s The Stand, which I’ve read multiple times.
What is your favorite vacation destination?
I love Honolulu, which is like being able to visit Japan without going outside of the US. Lovely views, beaches, excellent food—what more could you want? Last time I visited I went skydiving for the first time and had a blast, and completed my first marathon (the Honolulu Marathon). Can’t wait until the next visit!