- Frederic Bachman Lieber Memorial Award (2013)
Through nearly two decades in the classroom, Rebecca Brittenham has molded a solid educational philosophy. “In teaching writing at every level, my goal is to make the conventions of the academic essay understandable and accessible to my students,” she writes. “I also want to help them connect the skills they are practicing in my class to their overall development as writers and to the long-term trajectory of their academic and career successes.” That means demystifying the process by helping her students gain an awareness of the practices that can create effective analytic, evidence-based, thesis-driven writing, such as analyzing the logic signaled by transitional phrases used by professional writers as a way of learning to see such transitions as a key element in their own work. Her philosophy works. Just ask the once seemingly apathetic student who, a decade after taking her class, stopped her in a store and told her how much he’d learned about writing from her and how much that knowledge had contributed to his success in his current profession. Or this student, declaring in a course evaluation that whoever asked “Dr. Rebecca” to teach her writing course is “the smartest person. During this class, I noticed that she has a magical power that makes every student creative.”
Brittenham is also director of the First-Year Writing Program in the Department of English at IU South Bend, where she is, as she describes it, a “teacher of teachers.” She interacts with and trains a large number of part-time faculty members as part of the program, and helped the university respond to the state’s imperative to eliminate remedial courses. Brittenham has also previously served as the department’s associate chair. Her contributions to the First-Year Writing Program gained the attention of April Lidinsky, associate professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at IU South Bend, who wrote, “Professor Brittenham has led the program through substantive developments and standardization, which are reflected in the increasingly well-trained students who are entering my classroom.” Brittenham is co-author of Key Words for Academic Writers with Hildegard Hoeller and co-editor of Making Sense: Readings for Writers with Robert Coleman, Scott Campbell, and Stephanie Girard. She received the Trustees Teaching Award in 2011 and became a member of the Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching in 2006.
Her teaching interests include composition studies, nineteenth century British literature, the epistolary tradition, and food studies. She developed a series of courses for IU South Bend in the field of food studies, including Writing in Context: Food Culture, a second level writing course that explores the production and consumption of food in literary, historical, and sociopolitical contexts. She has also directed or served on the committees for several graduate thesis projects in both the Liberal Studies Program and the Master of Arts in English Program. Despite such a busy schedule, Brittenham remains dedicated to her students and her colleagues, and to continually stretching the abilities of both. “At the heart of a successful college career lies the ability to write well,” says colleague Lesley H. Walker, a professor of French in the Department of World Language Studies at IU South Bend. “The math major needs to be able to explain her work clearly and concisely to the nonspecialist; employers clamor for people who can express themselves well in writing; and community organizations value those volunteers who can craft the best poster or create a good web page. Brittenham’s efforts to ensure that IU South Bend students write well are unrivaled.”