Professor promotes public literacy through community outreach and engagement
Thursday, December 3, 2015

What do you do here? 

I am a clinical assistant professor in the Language, Literacy, and Culture Program in the College of Education, where I teach courses in literacy and qualitative research. Looking ahead, I am working with my program faculty to propose additional courses related to writing pedagogy and to support a vibrant teaching writing track at the college.

The rundown

UI affiliations: 

Clinical assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education

Faculty fellow in the UI Office of Engagement and Outreach

Number of years at the UI as faculty: "This is my first year."

Husband: William Ming Liu, professor in Counseling Psychology, also in the UI College of Education

Hometown: Silver Spring, Maryland

Alma Mater: University of Maryland at College Park  (undergraduate); the University of Iowa (MFA in Nonfiction Writing Program and Ph.D. in Language, Literacy, and Culture Program)

As part of my appointment, I am also the director of the College of Education Writing Resource. We are doing some restructuring this year and will be evolving to expand the kinds of writing support we offer to our international and domestic students. We have a lot of very important initiatives ahead, and I’m very excited about them all.

Finally, I am a faculty fellow in the Provost’s Office of Outreach and Engagement. In this role, I support collaborative efforts among the Office of Outreach and Engagement, the College of Education, and community partners. Because my area of research and scholarship is in public literacy, and more specifically in writing, I focus on creating and supporting opportunities for community members to participate in and contribute to the university’s writing identity and culture.

I am especially interested in looking for ways in which we might expand access to literacy practices in the community, celebrate diverse cultural knowledge, learn from our community partners, and broaden what it means to be a literate being in our world. One of the initiatives that I am working on is a collaboration between our office, the art department, and the Iowa Review. We are still in the preliminary stages of developing a literary space for community writers. However, very soon I will have more details on this initiative to share. 

What do you enjoy most about working in a higher education setting?

One of the many benefits of working in higher education is having the opportunity to continue learning from, and contributing to, the community. As a clinical assistant professor and a faculty fellow in the Provost’s Office of Outreach and Engagement, I have access to support and sponsorships that I otherwise wouldn’t to work toward access and equity in education and, importantly, to make real these possibilities.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken—and did it pay off?

The biggest risk I’ve ever taken was founding and facilitating the Community Stories Writing Workshop at Shelter House five years ago in fall 2010. To date, I have had the privilege and honor of writing with, and learning from, almost 80 community members who have come to the Shelter House and participated in the workshop.

And very importantly, through my role as the faculty fellow in the Provost’s Office of Outreach and Engagement, I am currently working with my colleague, Leslie Finer, the director of Arts Share, to expand the Community Stories Writing Workshop and invite graduate student writers in the Writers’ Workshop and Nonfiction Writing Program to facilitate the workshop sessions. We have a brilliant group of facilitators who will start the workshop in October.

If you could spend a day with anyone, from any era, who would it be and why?

My dogs who have passed away—because they humble me and remind me to be kind to others regardless of the kind of day I am having.

If you could have a song written about you, who would perform it, and what would it be called?

…my dogs, who used to howl like wolves, and my daughter, who has the most beautiful, off-tune voice in the world. It would be called whatever the listener wishes for it to be called.

Name five of your favorite things. 

  • Long car rides/trips with my husband—because that’s what we do
  • Watching our daughter engage with her cousins and aunts/uncles during Christmas because of her gummy smiles and uneven teeth...and because of our big family
  • Cooking for my favorite people and watching them eat it because food ought to be shared
  • Rome and the three- to four-hour dinners every night because dining is an experience and because the bill should never come until you’re ready
  • Ava’s Man, by Rick Bragg because his writing is accessible, authentic, and beautiful. He inspires me to celebrate language.