My Dissertation

I began my career in education as a K-12 English/Language Arts teacher in Texas and my home state of South Carolina. These experiences teaching rural Southern students (depending on how you classify Texas, of course!) and my own experiences as a native speaker of Southern English led me to believe that the ideologies around Southern American English (including, but not limited to, the beliefs that Southerners aren’t very bright but are really polite and pleasant) have the power to influence Southern students’ experiences in classrooms. As I transitioned from the secondary ELA classroom to the post-secondary writing classroom, I became more and more concerned with the ways that these ideologies might be especially significant as rural Southern students move from the local high school classroom into their college writing classrooms.

My dissertation examines this moment, and through a longitudinal qualitative study of nine South Carolina students, I found that the linguistic ideologies surrounding their language are significant in these students’ experiences. More surprisingly to me, though, I found that students also have a robust set of ideologies around what is and is not rhetorically effective in academic writing, including both ideologies they bring from their local communities and the complex web of ideologies they build around their understanding of “MLA.”

I’m excited about the insights this work offers on the experiences of a population of students who have been understudied by compositionists, linguists, and educational researchers alike. I look forward to continuing longitudinal work that explores student development as they transition into the university and as they continue to grow as college writers.

Feel free to access my dissertation here, and please contact me if you’d like to further engage this work.


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