Emily Simnitt

Emily Simnitt

English

esimnitt@uoregon.edu | 541-346-3517

Courses: First-Year Composition; Graduate Composition Pedagogy Seminar; Literature and Digital Culture

In my classes you will:

  • Make connections to lived experiences and real-world challenges.
  • Explore new perspectives.

I was invited into the Teaching Academy because:

  • I participated in the UO Summer Teaching Institute.
  • I was a Fellow in the Teaching Difference, Inequality, Agency CAIT Group.

In what ways are you working to make your teaching inclusive?

Writing studies scholar Marilyn Cooper describes agency in writing as the ability to “create meaning through acting in the world.” Writing is action. My students learn to recognize their rhetorical acts “make them who they are....affect others, and can contribute to the common good.” Writing is power. The academic writing students learn in first-year composition gives them voice in academic, professional, and public conversations. Staying open and resisting making claims while considering multiple perspectives is a cornerstone of the UO Composition Program. Students develop self-awareness and awareness of others as they consider the purposes for which and the audiences to whom they might write as members of the UO community. They learn to identify and unsettle assumptions.

In a recent term, I invited my multilingual international students to examine how writing shapes their undergraduate experience. Students rhetorically analyzed writing related to Core Education revitalization–the UO mission statement, UO Senate legislation, news and opinion pieces about core education, and essays and speeches about the liberal arts in the 21st century. As they read, students analyzed argument structures, authors’ purposes and intended audiences, and the exigence from which the arguments emerged. Students identified multiple perspectives and imagined those missing. Students then used writing to raise questions based on their educational experience and developed tentative claims to reason through in essays. Students become compassionate and critical readers for each other; they revise and reflect on other forms and audiences for their argument and reasoning. Throughout, students critically consider their relationship to power flowing through the language and forms of academic writing.

What do you do in terms of professional engagement with the teaching and learning culture on campus or nationally?

I seek to understand the writing landscape my students encounter after first-year composition and deepen my learning about teaching by I sharing with others. The University of Oregon is a vibrant, rich campus community, and I have had the good fortune to meet colleagues across it through participation in the Difference, Inequality, and Agency CAIT, the Core Education Council, and the 2018 UO Summer Teaching Institute. I also participated in the Duck-In peer observation program by sitting in on Mike Price’s large lecture math class. I gained new insight into how inclusive practices I use in my small classroom translate into other formats. I also got a tiny taste of what it is like to be an undergraduate student moving from small to large spaces and widely different subjects in one day.

To create a space to read and discuss teaching with like-minded colleagues, I founded the Inclusive Pedagogies Reading Group, now in its third year. The group meets twice a term to read and discuss writing theory and research as it intersects with gender, race, sexuality, ability, and other aspects of identity. The group’s goals include developing a shared language for writing instruction and assessment as they relate to diversity, equity, and inclusion concerns for teaching our diverse student body; and to build a community who help each other reflect upon and refine inclusive teaching practices. Participating in the group requires no preparation. We read for 30 minutes and then discuss our teaching practice through the lens of the reading. All are welcome!

In what ways was your teaching in this course research-led—informed by research on how students learn and inflected by UO's research mission?

As a Writing Studies researcher and a teacher-scholar, I am interested in literacy practices mediated by technology, linguistic diversity, and transnational movement. I investigate questions arising from my experience teaching writing and invite students to inquire with me. For example, colleagues and I have noticed that students often have difficulty reading for class, a problem we theorize is related to technology-saturation. I brought this question to my multilingual international writing students in a unit investigating critical reading. Students analyzed the Composition Program learning outcomes to establish reasons for robust critical reading practice, read about student literacy practices, and examined their reading habits, finding that 21st-century technologies such as translators and internet search engines both assist in reading and create challenges. Students then used writing to develop a definition of contemporary critical reading and make policy-based arguments directed at administrators. Students engaged in research that in turn led to improved course material. I am planning a future project to explore with students the viability of a learning outcome addressing linguistic diversity: “Students will be able to recognize the role of language attitudes and standards in empowering, oppressing, and hierarchizing languages and their users.”

What important experiences in your background led you to where you are now?

I developed my commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity working as a professional writer in print journalism and government public information. In covering public policy decisions, I witnessed the power that writing provided various stakeholders. I also became aware of missing voices. I became a literacy educator to play a part in increasing access to civic conversations and decisions because I believe in the potential of writing and higher education to empower our students to be agents of positive change in a global society. In 2018, I completed my doctorate, bought an adorable 821 sq ft house in Eugene, and was promoted to Senior Instructor. It was a banner year. In 2019, I’m taking a minimalist approach to achievement. So far, I finished knitting the sweater I started when I was hired at UO in 2015. I want to knit a pair of socks, learn how to do pullbacks in my adult tap dance class, and finally watch “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu.