• Risa Applegarth
  • Risa Applegarth
  • ENG
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  • Assistant Professor
  • risa_applegarth@uncg.edu
  • 3108 MHRA
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  • At UNCG Since: 2009
  • Future Faculty Fellow 
     
  • Risa Applegarth
  • Future Faculty Fellow 
     
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  • Faculty Groups: Future Faculty  
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  • Why Teaching?
  • My own teachers haunt and inspire me; their voices follow me around. I recall, verbatim, certain comments in the margins of my college papers; I remember conversations in high school with teachers who treated my ideas seriously; sometimes even now, in the middle of class, I remember the way a certain professor could weave a beautiful discussion out of the half-formed thoughts we students offered up. Who would I be if they hadn’t pushed me? Who would I be if they hadn’t handed me challenging books and asked me to think hard about what they were saying? Because of them, I learned how to do a job I love. I’m still enough of an introvert that I am wracked with nerves before the start of each semester—so many new people to meet!—but after a couple of weeks, I can’t wait to see my students each class, to hear their thoughts, to learn their responses to the work we’re doing together.
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  • Why English?
  • Rhetoric and composition, my area of English, is a very baggy field, which makes it ideal for people with capacious, voracious interests. As a researcher, I get to follow my interests in gender, power, persuasion, and knowledge-making into an array of past and present texts, including autobiographies, anthropological writing, nature writing, even the design of spaces like museums and statues. As a teacher, I get to introduce students to powerful stories, to help students recognize how adept they are at persuading already, and to give them practice and an attentive audience to help them gain greater control over how they can use language deliberately to make things happen in the world.
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  • Why an FTLC Fellowship?
  • Making connections with other faculty, staff, and students is what most helps me to feel increasingly at home at a large, complex institution like UNCG. I’ve been involved in interdisciplinary exchanges of research and mentoring (through programs like Women’s and Gender Studies, MERGE, and the New Faculty Mentoring program), but would like more frequent interdisciplinary exchanges surrounding teaching. The FTLC serves as a crucial site for such interdisciplinary conversations—about who we are at this sprawling, complicated university, and how we can challenge and support the work others are doing here. My field, rhetoric and composition, has a long history of engagement with pedagogy, but I want to participate in such discussions here at UNCG: what genres are our students writing as they move across the curriculum? What do faculty in other disciplines identify as “good writing” for their field? How do we respond when we see writers struggling in our courses? How can we tell if students’ writing is improving? The FTLC gives faculty space and support to come together over these urgent questions.
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  • What one thing would you change about UNCG?
  • I would institute an easy, bureaucracy-free mechanism for faculty to teach courses collaboratively. The complex institutional matters (credit and course load and pay and so on) would all be set aside, and any pair or group of teachers who wanted to design and teach together would be able to do so. In the same vein, I’d like to see faculty more routinely inviting other faculty to observe their courses, not as part of a departmental evaluation, but simply in order to share ideas and talk pedagogy with someone who’s seen you in action. It’s very exciting to learn new things as a teacher by opening up the classroom to others’ perspectives and approaches, but hard, when we’re all so busy, to make it a routine part of our teacherly life.
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  • What’s Next?
  • I expect a lot of new things over the coming years: more involvement with the Women’s and Gender Studies program, which I recently joined; a big new research project on how women were trained to participate in professional work in the 1920s and 1930s, which is going to require archival visits to lots of new places; new courses, like Environmental Rhetoric and Civil Rights Rhetoric; and, I hope, getting to know numerous new colleagues and graduate students through my work with the FTLC.
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