Sarah Swofford, PhD
Associate Professor of Composition and Rhetoric
My name is Sarah Swofford. I am the Founding Director of USCB’s Center for Teaching and Learning for faculty, Associate Professor of Composition and Rhetoric, and the Writing Program Administrator.
I specialize in composition and rhetoric, which some people call "writing studies." This means that I get to join with other people in my discipline who ask big questions about how people learn to write, what kinds of writing we use in all kinds of different contexts (in and out of school), and how our identities as people shape our experiences as writers. My research and my teaching are so deeply connected that I often can't easily separate one from the other. In my research, I explore questions about how students develop as writers. I trace the transition to and through college. In my teaching, I walk alongside students as they experience the transition to college (in English 101 and 102) and through college (in classes like The Teaching of Writing and Introduction to Professional Writing in Spring 2018 and Fall 2018, respectively).
My research brings together composition studies, sociolinguistics, and educational research as I think and write about how rural Southern students move from high school to college writing, and how people's attitudes about their language use influence that transition. This is really fun for me, because I am from Spartanburg, SC, so my work is connected in really important ways to my own experiences as a speaker of Southern American English. In my research, I get to talk to students about "rednecks" and "being country," and how their ideas about being "short, sweet, and to the point" shape their notions about persuasion and argument. What I learn in that research I bring into my classroom, and because of that work, my students learn about how their linguistic and social identities influence how they think about themselves and how other people see them as writers and as students. I'm currently working on a project that asks questions about what students mean when they say they "don't understand MLA," and I'm excited about the surprising direction those questions are taking me (stay tuned!). My chapter, "Reaching Back to Move Beyond the 'Typical' Student Profile: The Influence of High School in Undergraduate Writing Development" in the book Developing Writers, uses "big data" to explore how social class plays a seemingly "small" but significant role in how students develop as writers across their college experiences. This study, like all of my research, looks for ways for us to invite student writers who do not come from wealthy or privileged backgrounds into academic and professional contexts.
I'm constantly thinking about how my students and I can foster curiosity and ask interesting questions of one another, and I work to explore the tension between giving students the time they need to develop their thinking and helping them learn to present that thinking to audiences who demand polish and professionalism. Learning to write is hard. It forces us to confront who we really are and who we can become, and it asks us to connect in deep and powerful ways with people who are not like us. I love the challenge that teaching writing and supporting other writing instructors brings me. We're never "finished" as writers, and that's one of my favorite things about what I get to explore with my students, my fellow writing instructors, and in my research.
Over the last few years, my work in faculty development has grown to encompass not only our First-Year English courses, but teaching across the university. In my capacity as the Founding Director of USCB’s Center for Teaching and Learning, I support other faculty who want to continue to become more and more effective educators. I plan workshops and events, conduct observations, and facilitate all kinds of conversation about teaching. I love helping support faculty as they work to support USCB’s students.
As Writing Program Administrator (WPA), I facilitate curriculum development for First Year English and our minor and concentration in Professional Writing, and I help develop assessment plans so we can make sure students are learning what our faculty value most about composition and rhetoric. I also train and support our undergraduate writing center tutors, who are amazing! They must be prepared to offer tutoring for writing in every class at USCB, not only English courses, so we learn a flexible set of strategies that are undergirded by theories of composition pedagogy and rhetoric. It's a tall task, but they continually impress me with their maturity, care, and thoughtfulness. I love the time I spend with them, as we work together to troubleshoot and problem-solve the wide range of experiences that students bring to their tutoring sessions. Basically, I get to spend a lot of time with people who care intensely about making sure that students at USCB have the tools they need to be effective writers, and I get to help them do that really important work.
PhD in English and Education. University of Michigan 2015
MSEd in Curriculum and Instruction. Baylor University 2007
BA in English. Anderson University 2005
- ENGL B101 - Composition & Rhetoric
- ENGL B102 - Composition and Literature
- ENGL B215 - Writing Center Practicum
- ENGL B263 - Intro to Workplace Writing
- ENGL B450 - Modern English Grammars
- ENGL B453 - Development of the English Language
- ENGL B460 - Professional Writing Workshop
- ENGL B470 - The Teaching of Writing
- Writing Internships
- Linguistic and Rhetorical Ideologies
- Composition and Rhetoric
- Writing Pedagogy
- Educational Linguistics