The Comenian

Professor Spotlight: Crystal Fodrey

Maison Allen

Maison Allen

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Dr. Crystal Fodrey is an assistant professor of English at Moravian. She received her B.A. and M.A. at Western Kentucky University, then went on to earn her Ph.D. at the University of Arizona. Her expertise lies in the areas of rhetoric, creative nonfiction, and composition.

What inspired you to go into your field of study?

It was a really long road to figuring this out. I majored in six different things as an undergrad before I eventually found English. And then as I became an English major, I thought, “Oh, I have to teach high school,” but I quickly learned that I didn’t necessarily have to do that. Then I got it into my head that I wanted to teach college. I got an undergraduate degree in literature and creative writing, and then I got a Master’s degree in creative nonfiction. I graduated without a job in that, went on a website called findyourspot.com, took a quiz, and found out which city worked best for me in the country, which was Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I packed up everything, moved there without a job, and then got a job at Marquette University to teach writing. Through what I was teaching, I learned I was really interested in rhetoric and writing studies, so I went on to get my Ph.D. in that at the University of Arizona.

What research are you currently working on?

I am currently working on two different projects. One is the Writing-Enriched Curriculum Project, which is the project I work on with graduate student Chris Hassay ‘17. We help departments articulate writing characteristics and abilities that are central for graduates in any given major or track within disciplines, to be able to be successful in that discipline-specific writing by the time they graduate. So we have worked with [the departments of] English, modern languages, education, occupational therapy, chemistry, and biochemistry. We are now working with the mathematics and economics/business departments. The idea is to help the faculty and departments make curricular changes to help students learn how to write specifically for that discipline.

The other project is with Meg Mikovits, instructor in the English Department, and Erica Yozell, associate professor of Spanish. We’ve been working a lot with the teaching of multimodal projects. So we’ve interviewed faculty who ask students to create podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs, and that sort of thing to see what’s working for them and what’s not. We’ve been coming up with workshops that help faculty build assignments that are 21st-century, digital-literacy focused.

What do you think is the most recent important development in your field of study?

The concept of teaching for writing transfer is becoming something that we are focusing on in my field. Teaching for transfer can happen in any discipline. It’s basically thinking about what students need to know, when and what habits students need to form, so as they move through a curriculum they actually build on their knowledge in meaningful ways. So I think that the incorporation and emphasis on teaching for writing transfer has been one of the most positive recent developments in the field of rhetoric and writing studies.

What job would you have if you couldn’t be a professor, regardless of salary and job outcome? Why?

A chef. I absolutely love to cook. That’s my weekends: I make ridiculously elaborate meals. Sometimes I joke that my house is the best restaurant in Bethlehem.

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were in college?

That it’s okay if you don’t have everything figured out right away. I always felt like I needed a plan, and I freaked out when I didn’t know what the next thing was going to be. But looking back over the past 15 years of my life, I can say I’ve never really known what was going to happen next, and I’ve been able to let go of that over time and just roll with it. I would tell my former self to chill out.

What is your biggest student pet peeve?

It’s a really small thing but it speaks to me as a professor of writing. I hate reading an essay that ends with “in conclusion.” It’s my biggest pet peeve in writing, because it’s a holdover from the five-paragraph essay format that is so popularly taught in high schools. I think there are a lot of ways to signal that you’re bringing your ideas to an end that’s not so formulaic.

What was the last streaming show that you binge-watched or the last good book that you read?

“Big Little Lies.” I didn’t really know what to expect. I just knew that it won a bunch of Golden Globes. I thought the acting in it was stellar. I want to go back and watch it again, because a lot happened in the background that you could pick up on better upon a second viewing.

What is something interesting about you that most of people don’t know?

I think more people will know this after the senior send-off for English majors this year, because I am planning the event, and we’re going to have karaoke. I really love to sing karaoke. I have a karaoke machine for it already.

What’s your spirit animal and why?

Although I love cats, my spirit animal is a turtle. I am really slow and methodical in all that I do. I’ve seen it as my spirit animal for a long time. My nickname in middle school was Turtle Girl, which came from the fact that I carried around so many books in my giant L.L. Bean backpack. So then I started covering my backpack with turtle patches and started owning that.

It’s common that women have a hard time breaking into male dominated fields, like STEM careers, but did you ever feel like there was a barrier for you studying English?

There were a lot of times along the way when I was questioned for making decisions that no one would’ve questioned me about if I were a man. Like when I got pregnant with twins during graduate school and a male professor basically told me I was killing my career. But I didn’t let things like that get to me. I didn’t let people telling me that I couldn’t balance my time get to me. I also have a lot of support from my family, so that’s always been wonderful. Have the barriers been there? Yes. I just never accepted any of them and kept going.

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