June 2017 New Faculty Interview

Dr. Amanda Moulder-Assistant-Professor-English

photo of Amanda Moulder


Tell us about your professional experiences leading up to USD?

I completed my doctorate in English with a concentration in rhetoric and composition in 2010 at the University of Texas at Austin. While I was a graduate student UT-Austin, in addition to my teaching and research, I spent two years as an Assistant Director of the Department of Rhetoric and Writing.  After graduate school, I joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky, where I collaborated with colleagues in Communication studies and the division of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Media to develop a new first year writing sequence in oral, written, and digital communication.  After a year at UK, I left Lexington for New York City, where I joined the faculty in the Institute of Writing Studies at St. John’s University (Queens).  For five years at SJU, I taught writing courses, mentored new graduate student instructors of FYW, and helped lead a first year writing assessment initiative.

 Tell us about your involvement in research or other academic activities outside of teaching?

The book project that I am working on now is a study of how 18th and early 19th century Cherokee women used writing to deter colonization. For example, in the early nineteenth-century, Cherokee women used English-language writing to participate in public debates surrounding Cherokee Removal. I argue that while European and U.S. colonizers took great pains to circumscribe Cherokee women’s political participation, privatize their overtly public roles in Cherokee political culture, and subject them to patriarchal constraints, these women retained political power through adapting and indigenizing English language writing. This work is part of a larger research trajectory on cross-cultural rhetorical practices; all of my research projects endeavor to understand what happens when people of distinct traditions interact and communicate across difference. Because disciplines have distinct writing traditions, my research background investigating cross-cultural communication practices of diverse groups is great preparation for being a writing program administrator. For example, people who belong to different disciplines have distinct knowledge-making practices that affect what they value in communication.  Effective administrators have to be good at listening, speaking, and writing across difference.

 What teaching strategies are you most interested in incorporating into your classroom?

I love teaching research methods.  I’ve always loved teaching secondary research methods and research-based writing, and I’ve grown to love teaching primary research in recent years. However, this love didn’t grow until I was on faculty at St. John’s University in Queens, NY. A few years ago, the first year writing faculty at SJU worked together to design a survey for students which sought the answer to the following question: “What gets students excited about writing in First Year Writing courses?” We designed questions, worked with Office of Institutional Research to set up the survey, revised the short answer section, wrote an IRB, and distributed the survey at the end of the fall semester.  During the following spring, we reviewed the data. Based on the responses we got, the answer to this research question was that student get excited in FYW when they are asked to write about their personal experiences.  This concerned me at first because I was a bit uncomfortable teaching personal writing (I worried that it encouraged narcissism or self-absorption). Because I am trained as a rhetorician, I was comfortable teaching research-based writing as a part of argument-based writing. But, after careful review of their answers, I realized that students get excited about personal writing because the assignments we incorporated it into asked them to put their own beliefs into conversation with those of others. This type of writing is research, a type of primary research or autoethnography. It asks them to contribute their own knowledge, and therefore, it is evidence that the logic of the course and the professor who created it respects their meaning-making capabilities and knowledge bases. It was this assessment project (in combination with some other research I had been doing) that prompted me to expand primary research components in my course curricula. This was one of the oddest assessment projects I’ve ever participated in (most assessment research seeks to understand how well students are meeting learning outcomes, not on what gets students excited to learn), but it was also one of the most enlightening assessment initiatives because it catalyzed a shift what I value in my writing classrooms.