Wednesday, October 10, 2012

5 Questions Series - Alan Benson

1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?
My dissertation began life as a study of student identity in a blended (combination online and face-to-face) classroom. During data collection, I discovered that I had far more to say about (and was far more intrigued by) the students' interactions and negotiations of their required collaborative relationships.

2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?
Given that I am still fresh out of grad school (seriously--I still have the new faculty smell!) this is a difficult question. I do wish I had done a better job of scheduling my writing. I had a bad habit of planning to write that day, then letting the day get away from me. Scheduling time to write, just as you schedule time to teach, is really the only way to move a project along.

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?
Letting projects go. I have a bad habit of writing, stewing on it, tearing it all down and starting again, stewing more, ad infinitum. Learning to let projects out of your hands and exposing your work to an audience before it is "done" can be a valuable way of re-seeing your work.

4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?
I like the autonomy and self-directed nature of much of the work, but lots of jobs (including many I've held) allow for that. What I really like is that the teaching element of the position requires that I get out of my head and interact with a wide variety of people. These interactions--my teaching, my work with writing center consultants, my work with faculty--make me a better scholar.

5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?
Read widely, both in my field and outside. Talk with peers outside my area about their research and their new passions. Play with making connections between the writing and rhetoric I study and the types of writing and rhetoric students bring into class.

Alan Benson is the Director of the Center for Writing Excellence and Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He received a BS in Journalism from Boston University, and MA in English with a Teaching Composition concentration and a PhD in English with a Rhetoric and Composition concentration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He completed his dissertation, which focused on collaborative writing, in the spring of 2012.

His scholarly interests include peer learning and tutoring, writing center pedagogies, online writing centers, collaborative writing, usability and rhetoric, digital literacies, and digital culture studies.

Before coming to academia, Benson worked as a reporter, editor, page layout designer, web developer, technical writer, and documentation developer. His non-academic writing, humor, and web projects have been featured in such publications as the Boston Phoenix, Rolling Stone, LA Weekly, Maxim, and the Wall Street Journal.

Currently Professor Benson is sketching out a project exploring critical reading in the writing center.

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