We are most fortunate to have six extraordinary new faculty members join us in launching this new program. Bringing a rich variety of experiences and scholarly interests to the Institute, they are very enthusiastic about contributing to this groundbreaking interdisciplinary curriculum centered on rhetoric. Here are their statements about what attracted them to VMI:
- Major Heather Branstetter: B.A. - University of Idaho; M.A. & Ph.D. in English, Rhetoric, and Theory/Cultural Studies - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Specialties include classical and contemporary rhetoric; digital composition; professional and technical communication; social justice/social movement and cultural rhetoric.
I am excited to serve within an interdisciplinary department that embraces rhetoric and creative expression as key facets of the curriculum. In particular, I look forward to helping design and implement new courses, adapt and refine old ones, and generate enthusiasm for the new major among the cadets. I hope to share my passion for the study of invention (one of the five canons of classical rhetoric), multimodal and digital composition, and social justice rhetoric to VMI cadets in a way that will be relevant and productive, enriching their lives—both personally and professionally—as it has enriched my own.
- Major Julie Phillips Brown: B.A. & M.A. - University of Pennsylvania; M.F.A. & Ph.D. in English Literature - Cornell University. Specialties include contemporary poetry and poetics, visual arts, and digital technologies.
Because I am trained as a poet, painter, graphic designer, scholar, and teacher, I am deeply interested in hybrid forms of writing and visual art. For me, working with cadets in the new Department of English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies will mean testing the limits of what is possible in creative and critical expression. As the “texts” we read and write every day continue to become more complex, collaborative, and innovative, a fully multi-modal literacy is increasingly vital for cadets. I offer specialist knowledge in modern and contemporary poetry and poetics, but my teaching and research are founded in comparative, interdisciplinary inquiry. I want cadets to ask the questions that matter to them, and to discover their own answers through sustained, self-determined research, writing, and creative practice.
- Major Andrew Eschelbacher: B.A. - Davidson College; M.A. - Tulane University; Ph.D. in Art History - University of Maryland, College Park. Specialties: Nineteenth-Century European and American Art.
As an art historian, I am thrilled by the opportunity to teach within a department committed to writing, rhetoric, and humanistic studies. The proliferation of images in modern culture demands that students emerge from an undergraduate experience with strong visual literacy. The department’s new curriculum offers significant opportunities for every student to gain these skills through courses that stress close looking and critical thinking. The curriculum’s emphasis on writing and rhetoric is fundamental to these goals, allowing cadets to interact with art objects – and a community of scholars – through lively class discussion, writing, presenting, editing, and reconsidering their initial reactions and assumptions. Additionally, the interdisciplinary nature of the department’s focus on humanistic studies provides a dynamic framework through which cadets will explore art as a robust force that shapes and reflects broad cultural phenomena.
- Major Frederick Coye Heard: B.A. - Wheaton College (2004); M.A. - University of Texas at Austin (2007); Ph.D. in English - University of Texas at Austin (2013). Specialties include American literature, narrative, poetics, critical theory, ethics, rhetoric and composition.
My research and teaching are concerned primarily with how writing—philosophical, literary and rhetorical—is attuned to public life. Philosophy taught me how to write. It introduced me to the fact that writing is thinking and that good writing is very frequently the result of careful, strenuous writing. My early philosophical training also introduced me to phenomenology, the rigorous study of how our shared world appears as an object through subjective perceptions, experiences and routines. I engage with literary studies primarily through phenomenology, examining how the curious linguistic objects we call novels and poems appear at once as objects in our world and as worlds in their own right. I had the good fortune, while writing my dissertation in post-1945 American literature at the University of Texas, to also receive a solid rhetorical training both in the classroom and as a writing center administrator. Writing is the foundation shared by philosophy, literary studies and rhetoric, and, I am happy to say, it also provides the common ground for our new curriculum in English, Rhetoric and Humanistic Studies. I am thrilled to be working with cadets at VMI as they turn writing in its various modes towards their own public appearances and public service.
- Major Joshua Iddings: B.A. & M.A. in English - Marshall University; Ph.D. in Literacy and Language Education - Purdue University. Specialties include Systemic Functional Linguistics, Rhetoric and Composition, and Appalachian Studies.
At heart, my interests are in language, culture, and community service. I've found language to be a fascinating study, whether it be through examining literature, linguistics, or literacy studies. I locate my teaching and research interests in three general domains: systemic functional linguistics (SFL), rhetoric and composition (SFL-based), and Appalachian Studies. However, I find each of these to be rather superficial if not applied to both my own teaching and my community. And thus, one of the essential goals I have for myself at VMI is to develop more cadet opportunities to engage with the local community. However, in the typical larger undergraduate classrooms, achieving these goals can be rather difficult. Developing close relationships and giving students the most beneficial educational experiences require much one-on-one attention and small group work. This was one of the many reasons why VMI was such an attractive place to teach because the small student to teacher ratio allows for a real hands-on learning experience in the classroom. With a central focus on language and rhetoric, and the Institute's drive to develop citizen soldiers, I believe that the design of the new ERH curriculum means that I can use my own expertise to help cadets gain essential communicative skills and a critical understanding of the role of language in their lives, all the while utilizing these educational opportunities to serve their own communities.
- Captain Helen Storey: B.A. & M.F.A. - University of Virginia; Ph.D. candidate in Creative Writing - Bath Spa University, U.K. Specialties include Creative Writing, Composition, Form and Theory of the Short Story and the Novel.
I have been teaching literature and writing for over twenty years while maintaining academic and professional engagement in the visual and decorative arts. Aside from teaching, my background includes technical writing and publishing, copywriting for engineering firms, graphic design for NASA, and the publication of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Our brilliant new ERHS curriculum is, therefore, a perfect platform for my professional and personal interests, interweaving the theory and practice of--and the technicalities and creativity inherent in—all forms of writing. I have been teaching writing at VMI for the last two years and have also served as editor of Sounding Brass. I am excited to continue to serve VMI’s engaging—and always inspiring—Corps of Cadets as Writing Center Coordinator and ERHS Instructor. I look forward to working with our fine Writing Center staff to ensure that the Writing Center is a dynamic resource for VMI faculty and cadets, and I anticipate offering ERHS courses that blend the practice of creativity with the theory and history of genres that range from poetry writing to the practicalities of business and military discourse.