Category Archives: New Faculty Profile

The English Department wants to extend a warm welcome to its new faculty members! Here you can learn all about the new members of the staff and find out what you can expect if you have them in class. We hope our new members enjoy being here as much as we enjoy having them!

Guilherme D. Garcia on language, linguistics, and critical thinking

Guilherme D. Garcia began teaching linguistics at BSU in January. A native of Brazil, Prof. Garcia has a PhD from McGill University in Montreal. He specializes in Phonology and Phonetics, both of which focus on the speech sounds that make up languages. Among other things, his research focuses on how speakers learn pronunciation patterns and how meter–the sequences of weak and strong syllables–contrast in different languages. Beyond linguistics and teaching, Prof. Garcia is passionate about guitars and photography. In this interview, he talks about his current research, about avoiding biases, and about his role models.

How would you describe your teaching perspective?

I think that the most important skill a student can acquire these days is critical thinking, and that’s the underlying objective of my classes. Once you learn how to filter all the information available, you can be sufficiently autonomous to build your own path in a particular field of study. Since I teach theoretical and experimental linguistics, I often emphasize that our conclusions about a particular theoretical framework should be guided by the data available—and not by our subjective biases towards a particular theory. One important question to ask when we examine linguistic data is whether a different explanation could also account for the patterns we observe. Naturally, that question should be considered outside the classroom as well.

Who are your biggest role models?

My parents taught me all those things you don’t learn at school. Most of everything else I learned from amazing professors and my wife. My PhD supervisor is certainly my academic role model.

Tell us a little about your current projects.

Right now I’m working on a couple of things. I have a paper under revision on whether or not we can generalize patterns in our language which may be inconsistent with what’s observed cross-linguistically (I’ll present this paper at the 41st annual GLOW conference, held in Budapest this year). I have another paper under way (joint work) that compares English and Portuguese, and argues that even though these languages look very similar in terms of their metrical structure, they are actually fundamentally different. I’m also working on an upcoming presentation in Chicago  where I show that a Bayesian approach to data analysis can be particularly useful in the study of Second Language Acquisition. Finally, I’m working with some researchers at McGill University on two projects: one that investigates how prosodic factors can affect how we interpret pronouns in Italian, and one that examines how patterns of vowel deletion in Quebec French can help us better understand the underlying metrical pattern(s) in the language. This project was recently presented at the Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, held in Salt Lake City this past January.

How did you decide on the work you are focusing on now?

I’m curious to see how we can acquire and generalize subtle aspects of our native (or second) language. By “subtle,” I mean facts about language that we don’t really know exist in speakers’ grammars, but which emerge in carefully designed experiments. This can help us better understand how powerful our language acquisition mechanism is at learning and generalizing linguistic patterns. In the context of second language acquisition, this can help us identify with precision underlying differences between native speakers and second language learners. I also really enjoy analyzing language data and assessing how accurate standard assumptions are given what we actually observe. So my research connects these two worlds: data analysis and linguistics (phonology).

Meet Prof. Alex Kaufman

Although originally from Philadelphia, Alex Kaufman comes to us from Auburn University at Montgomery, in Alabama, where he was department chair and Professor of English. This summer, Dr. Kaufman was named the Reed D. Voran Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Ball State. He teaches courses on Robin Hood, outlaws and banditry, historical literature, medieval literature, and medievalism. He is the co-editor of the book series Outlaws in Literature, History, and Culture from Routledge Publishing and is  the co-founder and co-editor of the scholarly journal  The Bulletin of the International Association for Robin Hood Studies. Click here to see his Academia page.

Dr. Kaufman will give a talk at 4pm Monday, February 5, in AJ 175 on “Robin Hood and the Outlawed Literary Canon.”

After Dr. Kaufman got settled in to Muncie, we sat down to get to know him a bit.

What led you to Ball State?

I was drawn to Ball State’s commitment to the liberal arts and the humanities, especially in the undergraduate curriculum. Both the Honors College and the Department of English underscore the intellectual and professional value of an education focused on immersive learning, critical thinking, diversity, and an engagement with social concerns.

How did you become interested in Robin Hood? 

I was very fortunate to study with Thomas H. Ohlgren at Purdue University during my graduate studies. Tom was, and remains, one of the leading scholars of the early Robin Hood poems, and his enthusiasm for the subject was contagious. With Robin Hood – and other outlaws in literature and history, from the medieval period to the present day – I am drawn to those individuals and groups who are marginalized by the society in which they live, and I seek to understand why and how society creates these outsiders, and how these marginals attempt to survive within their literary or real worlds. The outlaw will always be relevant and a presence in most contemporary contexts.

What are you reading?

I am reading Sean M. Conrey’s recent book of poetry, The Book of Trees. It is an extension of the medieval paradox of the beauty one finds in the external world and the challenge to fully describe and comprehend it. It is elegiac, contemplative, and timely.

What are some of your hobbies or interests?  

I love exploring nature, especially with others, and Indiana has so much to offer. I also love listening to music, especially King Crimson, Warren Zevon, and John Cale, and I never stopped buying vinyl. We lost count of how many boxes of books, albums, and CDs we moved to Muncie!

What advice would you offer students? 

Take full advantage of everything that Ball State has to offer now, don’t wait. And talk to your professors and advisors to create those professional connections – these can only help you when it comes to job placement, applying to graduate programs, and making sense of your studies.

 

Meet Prof. Laila Aghai

Laila Aghai comes to us from San Antonio, Texas. She earned her PhD in
Culture, Literacy, and Language from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She will be teaching graduate and undergraduate linguistics courses–both f2f and online.

How would you describe your perspective on teaching?

I believe that a classroom environment in which respect, collaboration, discussion, and critical thinking are encouraged can be an appropriate place for

learning and teaching. As a teacher, I understand that I learn from my students as much as they learn from me. Therefore, the background knowledge, experience, and expertise that students bring to the classroom should be valued. When students feel comfortable expressing their ideas and concerns, they are more likely to take advantage of the lessons being taught in the classroom. Continue reading

Meet Prof. Brianna Mauk

Brianna Mauk earned her BA in Technical Writing from Eastern Kentucky University. She earned her MA in Rhetoric and Composition at Ohio University in Athens, OH, and she earned her PhD in Rhetoric and Writing at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH. Brianna specializes in new media, especially social networking, and researches the intersections between technology, mobility and writing. Brianna will be teaching first-year writing and Document Design. 

How would you describe your perspective on teaching?

I tailor each of my courses and assignments to tasks and concepts that students can transfer to the rest of their college careers at Ball State.

Scholars leave my class prepared for critical thinking, analysis, different types of writing, visual design and rhetoric, as well as finding reliable sources in a variety of modes.

I truly agree with the title of my ENG 103 text that “Everything is an Argument.”

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Meet Prof. Morgan Leckie

Morgan C. Leckie comes to us from Miami of Ohio’s graduate program in Composition and Writing, by way of California. Her research is on digital feminist rhetorical practices and reproductive justice advocacy. She will be teaching first-year writing and professional writing, including Jacket Copy Creative, our department’s immersive learning class that functions as our in-house PR firm.

How would you describe your perspective on teaching? On learning?

I get really bell hooks about this topic. “Teaching is an act of love.” I can’t help but agree with her on that. I believe learning is change. Education is revolution. For me, my own education quite literally changed my socio-economic identity. But it also made me more compassionate, more easily willing to interrogate my own privilege and perspectives. When I think back along the winding trajectory of my own learning, I am struck by the teachers whose belief in me and whose own willingness to transgress, to love, essentially, shaped the women and teacher I am now. So when I teach and learn with my students, I am always feeling love for them, for my own journey, and for the process of changing us all into better citizens of the world. Deep, I know! 🙂

Who are your biggest role models in life?

Probably Leslie Knope.  And Sojourner Truth.  And my ma and pops.  All people who learned and taught the lesson: It’s what you do with and how you do without.  

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Meet Prof. Sreyoshi Sarkar

Sreyoshi Sarkar comes to us from Baltimore, Maryland. She earned her doctoral degree in Postcolonial literature and media from George Washington University D.C. this past summer. She specializes in South Asian studies, gender, and eco-criticism, and has published works in journals like Commonwealth Essays and StudiesSouth Asian Review, and Green Letters Journal. She will be teaching courses in world literature and film studies here at Ball State.

How would you describe your perspective on teaching?

I love teaching because for me it is an interactive platform where everyone in class is a participant, including the instructor. My part in this collaborative process is to introduce students to the subject of study, its key concepts, and some important scholarship. But beyond that my classes are highly interactive – an eclectic mix of short lectures interwoven with a lot of in-class discussion, group work, and creative presentations.

The same applies to my written assignments. I always emphasize that students focus on their individual experiences of a text when making an argument about it. For me, “the experience of” is crucial. It invites us (and by “us” I mean both the students and me) to critically analyze the art and craft of the text and our own individual contexts that often inform how we receive a text.

In my experience, such deep thinking enables us to be more self-aware and also more patient with and respectful towards each other and our differences. Sometimes, such moments of teaching-learning go a long way in making us better citizens at home and in the world.

Finally, the teachers who made a difference in my life were always humble, sensitive, and truly caring individuals; they were invested in their students’ making the most out of a class. And that is what I strive to do as well. Continue reading

Meet Prof. Kat Greene

Kat Greene earned her BA in graphic design and Master’s degrees in journalism and English here at Ball State University. She’s currently working to complete her PhD in rhetoric and composition. She will be teaching classes in the Writing Program. Check out her website

When are your office hours?

My fall office hours are MWF from 10-11:50 a.m.

What are you reading right now, if anything?

I’m about halfway through Tina Fey’s Bossypants.

Are you working on any projects at the moment? What are they?

For the past year, I have been working on my dissertation. I spent fall 2016 observing three first-year writing instructors who incorporated Ball State’s (final) freshman common reader, The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Giridharadas into their courses. My dissertation describes their their teaching practices, successes, and challenges with using the book. Continue reading

Meet Prof. Kathryn Ludwig

Kathryn Ludwig comes to us from Purdue University, where she earned her Ph.D. in English, specializing in twentieth-century American literature and Jewish philosophy. She has published articles on the topic of the postsecular in contemporary literature and is an officer for the American Religion and Literature Society. She will be teaching courses in composition and literature.

How would you describe your perspective on teaching?

Differentiation is very important to me in the classroom. Every class is made up of people with different backgrounds and learning styles. I seek to bring my own passion for the subject matter into contact with each student’s disposition toward learning in the given context. My responsibility is to teach in ways that will be meaningful to my diverse audience. Thus, my work as an instructor begins with learning. Continue reading

Meet Prof. Ben Bascom

Ben Bascom, a specialist in early and nineteenth-century American literature, comes to the English Department from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he recently finished a dissertation on early U.S. life writings. His research and teaching combine a queer studies approach with material text methodologies to reimagine the relation between archive and canon. His scholarship has appeared in Early American Literature and is forthcoming in Common-Place: The Journal of Early American Life.

How would you describe your perspective on teaching?

I would describe my teaching as messily Socratic. I try to frame class with a series of questions or provocations that encourage students to engage with the reading material at a variety of levels. Since I teach a lot of material that feels remote to most students—from seventeenth-century sermons to nineteenth-century picaresque novels—I first urge students to understand the complex and unfamiliar language before they levy a critique about what they find as the text’s limitations. I discover myself being drawn to think with students about their experiences reading particular texts—beginning, perhaps, with whether something was pleasurable or difficult, easy or frustrating to read—to then prompt them to think about how their expectations, experiences, and interests influence them to consider certain texts as being more intellectually available or compelling than others. Continue reading

Meet Prof. Angela Cox

Angela Cox comes to us from the University of Arkansas, where she received her Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition. Her research is on definitions of genre and popular fantasy media. She will be teaching English 103 this semester. 

What are some of your hobbies or interests?

I like to dabble in pretty much anything creative that catches my eye. I’ve been sewing and doing other crafts for as long as I can remember; I learned how to spin yarn on a drop spindle when I was two years old. I also like to write fiction, especially fantasy novels, which is where my interest in researching National Novel Writing Month comes from. I’ve been participating (and winning!) every year since 2005, but I’m not sure if it’s for everyone. I also love analyzing video games, but I tend to play older games.

If any students want to come talk about video game analysis techniques or theory during office hours, I’d love to have that conversation and even help them with a project!

But, mostly, I just love cats.

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