Jessie Blackburn

Dr. Jessie Blackburn
Assistant Professor of English
Division of Communication and the Arts

Ph. D. English; specializing in composition, rhetoric, and literacy University of Arkansas 2010
M. A. English Education Appalachian State University 2000
M. A. Appalachian Studies Appalachian State University 1999
B. A. English Brenau Women's University 1997

Dr. Blackburn teaches courses in composition, rhetoric, literature, digital media, and feminist theory and texts.
Dr. Blackburn joined the faculty at Pitt-Bradford in fall 2010. Prior to that, she was the assistant writing program administrator for advanced composition at the University of Arkansas.
Dr. Blackburn's research interests include 21st century English education; digital media studies; writing program administration; new literacies studies; feminist composition theory; writing as resistance and social practice; race, gender and sexuality in web contexts; gender studies; and rhetorical criticism. Her most recent publiclations appear in the Journal of International Women's Studies; Composition Forum; and Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion.

Dr. Blackburn's monograph manuscript "Critical Digital Legacies: Following Feminist Composition Pedagogies into Twenty-First Century Contact Zones" is currently under review

Why or how did you come to teach at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford? 

I came to UPB due to its smaller class sizes, the opportunity to do literacy outreach in the Appalachian region, and the chance to expand the composition program in ways that include new and digital literacies.  

What do you think the purpose or benefit of a higher education is

To learn how to approach experiences and texts from multiple perspectives and disciplines so that diplomacy and empathy guide our reactions. 

In your opinion, what are the benefits of working on a small campus? 

 I really enjoy getting to know my students in their first year so that I am able to recognize and applaud them throughout their journey to and across the stage at graduation. 

What are the benefits, in your opinion, for students studying on a small campus setting rather than on a large/urban campus setting? 

I graduated from a small undergraduate setting, not unlike UPB. I later went on for graduate degrees at large, regional and state universities.  Speaking from experience, I know that smaller campuses are able to take better intellectual care of their students.  At UPB, I expect my students to count on me inside and outside of the classroom; this is something that I could not say at a larger institution.

How would you describe your approach to teaching? 

Collaborative, authorizing, and challenging. 

What do you think students like best about your classes? 

I know when I am covering ‘boring’ or frustrating subject matter, and I strive to help each student see her/himself as an active reader and writer. 

With a word or two, how do you think a student would most likely describe you as a professor? 

Tough but worth it. 

Within your field of teaching and research, what specific directions do you tend to channel your energy and why? 

Modern composition pedagogy and theory, digital media studies, new literacies, and feminist theory guide the directions of my scholarship and teaching.  I view composition studies through the same critical lenses that I use to view the world around me, and I expect my discipline to contribute to the larger discussions regarding literacy, agency, and identity taking place around the globe.     

How would you say your field of teaching is incorporated into your life outside of the university and vice-versa? 

At my core, I am a community organizer.  This translates into student agency vis-à-vis writing within my institution and community literacy outreach on behalf of my institution. 

What is an interest or hobby of yours that is an extension of the teachings of your academic field? 

Baking and gardening, both of which require patient commitment to process and revision.  For example, I’m always willing to toss out a loaf of bread that fails to rise or rearrange my garden if I can’t get something to grow where it is planted.  The same is true in the writing process.   

How might you respond to a student who enjoys the subject matter of your classes but isn’t necessarily strong in that field of study? 

I’m horrified when I look at what I wrote my freshman year of college.  Even the articles that I’ve had published are “unfinished.”  We are all learning to write. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching at Pitt-Bradford? 

My hard-working students and my committed colleagues. 

Are you currently working on any research, publication, or project?  What does it consist of? 

I have a book under review for publication, and I’m writing a paper to take to a feminism and teaching conference in Nottingham, England this spring. 

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I always thought I would be a pediatric optometrist. I’ve worn glasses since before I could walk, so I just assumed all little people needed doctors to look after their eyes for them. Math and science were too tough for me to make a career in medicine. The rest is history.

What's the one thing you want to do before you die?

Visit parts of the world I have yet to see, especially the Far East.

As a former undergraduate student, was there a certain professor that stands out in mind as a favorite, someone who you really respected, or someone who really inspired you?  Why?

I had a political science teacher who had us read Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.  I remember thinking, “this isn’t a literature class, so we shouldn’t be reading this in here of all places.”  It was a British politics class, and I remember dreading having to read ‘old literature’, but WOW…that text changed my entire approach to interdisciplinarity and critical thinking, and it gave me a word (i.e., feminism) to use that describes my political perspective.  That professor didn’t limit her approach to her discipline, and as a result, she opened so many intellectual doors for me.  I’ll always be grateful for that one moment in that one class.