An Exemplary “Extra Nudge”: Introducing Professor Jane Greer
Professor Jane Greer was Jonathan’s teacher in the Women and Rhetoric course, later the guest editor of volume 7, and is now editor of Young Scholars in Writing (YSW). To learn more about Jonathan’s writing project from this faculty mentor’s perspective, I asked Jane several questions about pedagogy and intent and present her responses here.
My first question was how and when Jane sensed publication potential in Jonathan’s original essay and why she believed that it should be shared with others. Her answer reflected a deep commitment to mentoring all student writers. As Jane wrote, “For me, it’s less about identifying potential in a particular piece of writing and more about creating opportunities for all students to decide what they might want to do with their work beyond the classroom.” She explained eloquently that “In all of my undergraduate classes, I make lots of announcements about all kinds of publication/presentation opportunities.” Some of those opportunities are in-house. They range from “our annual English Department Undergraduate Research Symposium to our Composition Program’s Sosland Journal” to “UMKC’s Honors Program’s interdisciplinary research journal, Lucerna” and “our campus-wide Undergraduate Research symposium.” Jane added, “and, of course, Young Scholars in Writing," which is now housed at her university. As Jane noted, “I really try to encourage all students to share their work with wide audiences.”
Consistent with her welcoming approach, Jane regularly urges her students to take their projects forward and make them more public. As she recalled, “I’ve also had students who produced amazing class projects/papers, but they’re just not interested in going further.” She noted, “And I’ve seen what I thought of as pretty average papers get transformed (through editorial feedback and lots of hard work and revision etc.) into really amazing articles or presentations.” She concluded, “Sometimes it is the student I never expected who is quietly passionate about a project and wants to keep working on it beyond the classroom.”
I then asked Jane how she tried to intervene and mentor this particular writer. She responded by referring to her intended classroom environment: “I think this started with the way I set up the undergraduate class in which Jonathan was enrolled—in fact, I try to set up all my undergraduate classes this way.” When asked to expand on this point, she added, “I want to give students opportunities to experience the fun and excitement of asking a real question and looking for answers.” She went on to explain that “In the case of Women and Rhetoric, each student works all semester on constructing a rhetorical biography of a woman who should be included in our histories of rhetoric.” She reported that “students in Jonathan’s class chose Anna Wintour (editor of Vogue magazine); Condoleeza Rice; Emma Goldman; Jane Fonda; Susan Sontag; Victoria Woodhull; Pat Sumitt (basketball coach at the University of Tennessee); and others.”
At my request, Jane detailed her pedagogy. She explained that she “responded to students’ research proposals; to annotated bibliographies they constructed; and to first drafts of their projects.” Jane routinely augmented her responses with supplemental learning opportunities: “I also set up peer response opportunities for students. I also assigned several texts from YSW as part of our class reading—Lauren Petrillo’s work on girls in antebellum female seminaries; Laura Northcutt’s work on Myra Page.” Jane noted that “While I would include these texts on the syllabus alongside other readings by well-established scholars (Royster; Kates; Johnson; Buchanan), I would also point out that these were published essays by undergraduate researchers.” She remembered that, finally, “as the class wound down, I mentioned to all students that they could consider revising their work for Young Scholars in Writing.”
When I asked Jane to focus on her experience working with this author, she said that “With Jonathan, I sensed pretty early in the semester that his interest in the rhetoric of Hillary Rodham was long standing and that regardless of what we did in class that he was committed to thinking and writing about her.” Drawing on her memory, Jane added that “On the first day of class, I asked students to brainstorm a list of important woman rhetors, and he was the first to pipe up with [Rodham].” She remembered that “Throughout the semester, he seemed eager in class to share his research on HR and what he was learning as he read and wrote more about her.” When asked to recall her memories of Jonathan’s early drafts, Jane said that was struck by “Jonathan’s quiet passion about HR.” She added that “In terms of the paper itself, when I read the first draft of his research paper I learned things about HR that I didn’t know.” Jonathan’s research helped Jane learn “that [Rodham] wrote her senior thesis on Saul Alinsky; that she helped found a new law journal at Yale, etc.” This was a reflective and catalytic moment for Jane, who noted that “When I learn something new from reading a student’s paper, I often give them an extra nudge to think about how they could continue working on a project and share it with wider audiences.”