NEW FACES: English

The College of Arts and Humanities ( at Fresno State is the largest college on campus, encompassing nine departments, and the Armenian Studies ( program.

Of the 69 new faculty members at Fresno State this fall, about 20% of the new hires are in the College of Arts and Humanities. These new faculty bring innovative research, diverse disciplines and technical expertise to our college, strengthening our programs across many of our disciplines.

Over the next few weeks, we will introduce you to these new faces, by department. 

English Department

profile-pic-1Dr. Rubén Casas, Assistant Professor of English. Dissertation: “In/visibility, Mobility, and Making Do in Contemporary Latina/o Migrant Rhetorics. Comes to Fresno State from: University of Wisconsin-Madison (Ph.D. in English, with emphasis in Composition and Rhetoric). Dr. Casas specializes in Latino and Chicano literatures.

Question: What are you most looking forward to here at Fresno State?

Answer: I’m looking forward to working with so many first-generation college students, as well as with colleagues who are likewise invested in student success. 

Q: How did you became involved in your specialty area?

A: As an MFA student in creative writing, part of the financial support I received required me to teach in the first-year writing program. While I had taught before, teaching writing to college students is where I discovered my passion for teaching writing.

Later I discovered that so much of what I interested in writing about and exploring through writing fiction I could likewise explore and research as a scholar of composition and rhetoric. At the end of my MFA I wanted to keep teaching, and I wanted to purse questions pertaining to credibility and authority in writing – questions about who gets to speak and why?

This led me to pursue a Ph.D. in composition and rhetoric, through which I was able to pursue more specific questions about marginalized people and groups, and how they too are able to influence others despite not having formal training or despite lacking the “good character” and disposition we often want to see (or require) in people who write, speak, and act.

These are questions I bring to my teaching as well, as there are so many students who arrive at college harboring a sense of not belonging or of not being as capable in writing or otherwise advocating for themselves given all the ways our society disempowers certain people systematically and culturally. I happen to currently research everyday rhetorics among undocumented Latina/o migrants, but I do think that difference (in language, ethnicity, legal status, gender, class, among others) often gets coded in ways that detract from many people’s ability to write, speak, or do–from their credibility or ethos

My research and teaching are geared toward those contexts in which marginalized people and groups are able to get things done–are able to influence others–despite the many disempowering discourses in circulation about them; what I learn from these instances I want to bring back to my students and my discipline so that our sense of rhetoric can be enhanced, made more comprehensive. 

Q: What will your distinctive background do to elevate the Department of English’s offerings here at Fresno State?

As a teacher-scholar, I seek to develop courses and publish research that accounts for the many ways our students and people in our community are finding success. I’m happy to be joining an English Department that is already committed not only to validating the experiences our students bring to our campus, but also (and mainly) to bringing these experiences to bear on the ways of knowing and meaning-making that teachers and researchers are already familiar with. My role, then, is to continue to support these efforts so that whatever new and exciting directions English studies heads in are informed by–and reflective of–our students’ experiences.

Q: What’s a fun fact that people might not know about you?

While I have never lived in Fresno, I have a connection to the city and the region by way of my mother, father, and other family, who worked here picking grapes (and, likely, other produce) in the 1960s and 1970s.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I’m excited to be joining such a thriving campus community, and I welcome the opportunity to chat and collaborate with others across the college and the university. Please reach out!  

mcnamara-tomDr. Thomas McNamara, Assistant Professor of English. Dissertation: “Dreams and Disappointments: Chinese Undergraduates and Investment in the U.S. Writing Classroom.” Comes to Fresno State from: University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (Ph.D. in English, with specialization in Writing Studies)

Question: What are you most looking forward to here at Fresno State? 

Answer: I am looking forward to the diversity of Fresno State’s student body. My research and teaching interests center around issues of race, higher education, and writing instruction, commitments I developed when teaching at DePaul University in Chicago. After teaching for the past five years on a predominantly-white campus, I’m looking forward to working again with students from a wider range of backgrounds, and I’m especially excited by Fresno State’s commitment to the surrounding community.

Q: Can you tell me how you became involved in your specialty area?

A: My research interests developed largely by chance. I began graduate school at Loyola University Chicago planning to focus on 19th century British Literature. After I finished my MA, I decided to take some time off and worked as a first-year writing instructor and writing center administrator at DePaul. There, I was regularly teaching students underrepresented on most college campuses. As a result of that work, I became interested in issues of access and inclusion in higher education, issues that have long been at the center of research in composition studies.

My current project – which studies the experiences of Chinese international students in US writing classrooms – engages similar issues, focusing in particular on campus race politics amidst the internationalization of U.S. higher ed. I similarly came to that project by chance: When I began my PhD at the University of Illinois, the university was enrolling more Chinese international students than any other university, and, as a result, I became interested in how these students navigated the often-tense racial climates of US campuses.

Q: What will your distinctive background do to elevate the English Department offerings here at Fresno State?

A: I was also hired to coordinate Fresno State’s Writing Across the Curriculum program, and I’m especially looking forward to working with faculty from across campus who are interested in helping students produce higher quality writing. In the English department, I’m excited to be teaching pre-service teachers next semester, and I hope that my interests in race, language difference, and writing pedagogy will help future teachers and Fresno State’s graduate assistants design challenging, engaging classrooms that see students’ differences as a resource for learning rather than a deficit.

Q: What’s a fun fact that people might not know about you?

A: I studied music as an undergraduate and am trained as a classical pianist. I’m also a motorcyclist and am looking forward to exploring the West Coast.

reva-e-sias-photoDr. Reva E. Sias, Assistant Professor of English. Dissertation: “Antebellum Rhetorical Education at Myrtilla Miner’s School for Colored Girls: Cultural Rhetoric and Epistolary Writing at the First African American Normal School.” Comes to Fresno State from: Syracuse University (Ph.D. in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric). Dr. Sias has done ground-breaking research on the educational history of African-American women. Area of specialty: Race, Ethnic Rhetoric, and Literacy Studies.

Question: What are you most looking forward to here at Fresno State?

Answer:  I am looking forward to facilitating my students’ greater understanding of Rhetoric and Writing Studies. I want students to realize the benefits and beauty of rhetoric, writing, critical reading and thinking, collaboration, and invention, as everyday tools and skills.

Q: How did you became involved in your specialty area?

A: My journey to Rhetoric and Writing Studies was serendipitous. As a MA student in the English Department at the University of Central Oklahoma, I was selected to teach two freshman composition courses each semester, as a graduate teaching assistant. I was required to develop a four-week lesson plan each month. By the end of my first 16-week semester, while I value canonical literature, I noted that my lesson plans and course materials revealed a clear shift to rhetoricians and orators, to written accounts by silenced voices and marginalized people, and to the examination of literacy narratives, polemic discourses, political and religious ideologies, social movements, music and visual literacy, women’s rhetoric and activisms, and cultural rhetoric. I was hooked!

Q: What will your distinctive background do to elevate the Department of English’s offerings here at Fresno State?

A: Through examination of language, discourses, artifacts, race, gender, and visual and rhetorical tools, I hope that students will use what they learn in the classroom in service for their own ends, as successful rhetors, researchers, and writers, as well as in service for their social, cultural, national, and/or global communities, as they engage in social justice activism and participation.

Q: What’s a fun fact that people might not know about you?

A:  I am an accidental gardener. On my birthday in August, I received a dozen long-stem roses. I expected to enjoy them for a few days, at most a week or so; I expected the disposal of the dried remains; but the roses had other plans. Against all odds, more than two weeks later, they are still alive! Of the remaining seven stems, while the petals have seen better days, they are still soft, and some the stems have started to sprout new leaves. So, if anyone has tips on roses and/or rose bushes, please let me know!

Previous NEW FACES articles:

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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