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Student Spotlight September 2010

Cynthia Britt

Dr. Cynthia Britt

A&S English

Recent PhD Student


 Dr. Cynthia Britt- who is the proud recipient of a brand new (August 2010) doctoral degree in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Louisville- received her Bachelor of Arts in English and her Masters of Arts in Rhetoric and Composition at Western Kentucky University. Before returning to school to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in English, Cynthia worked as a registered nurse for four years and as a stay-at-home mother for six. She chose to enroll as an English major because writing and reading had always been an interest. Cynthia served as a graduate teaching assistant when obtaining her master’s degree, and the overwhelming feeling of belonging she experienced when she taught her first undergraduate class convinced her that a long-term career in pedagogy would be a perfect fit for her.

Cynthia’s specific areas of research are rhetoric of science and, more specifically, environmental rhetoric. Her dissertation, “Rachel Carson and Nature as Resource, Object, and Spirit:  Identification, Consubstantiality, and Multiple Stakeholders in the Environmental Rhetoric of the Conservation in Action Series,” analyzes a series of texts Rachel Carson completed while working for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. These works predate Carson’s writing of Silent Spring, which many consider was the impetus for the modern environmental movement. Cynthia chose to analyze Rachel Carson’s work for her dissertation not only because of Carson’s immeasurable contributions to the environmental movement, but also because she wanted to add to our understanding of Carson as a female scientist and rhetorician.

Cynthia’s dissertation has contributed to her long-term career goal of becoming a writing instructor, particularly for students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. She is hoping to be an advocate particularly for female students in these areas. Cynthia also believes that with the current environmental crisis, research and study in the discipline of environmental rhetoric is becoming increasingly important.

Cynthia’s accomplishments include co-editing Narrative Acts:  Rhetoric, Race and Identity, Knowledge with Debra Journet and Beth Boehm, and co-writing “Teaching the IMRaD genre: Sentence-Combining and Pattern- Practice Revisited” with Joanna Wolfe and Kara Alexander. Cynthia was also honored with the M. Celeste Nichols Professional Development Award in 2007.

Cynthia believes her largest achievement to this day is completing her Ph.D. After taking a year's leave of absence to be with her family when she experienced the loss of her father in a car accident in 2008, she found it difficult to continue with her degree. Balancing her roles as a mother, a daughter, a wife, and a student, Cynthia is proud to have earned her doctorate.

Cynthia states her favorite part of the graduate experience was working with a variety of talented professors in the English Department, and having the opportunities to teach, research, and work administratively with them. She believes the biggest challenge of being a graduate student is making a place for yourself as a researcher while you are learning the process of being a researcher. She says she dealt with this problem by choosing a committee she trusted and could count on for professional guidance during and after the dissertation experience. 

Cynthia has three dogs and a cat. She has two children attending Western Kentucky University, Katherine, a 22-year-old French major, and Jonathan, a 21-year-old nursing major. Her husband, John, is a healthcare consultant at a Louisville accounting firm and is also a published writer.

Fun Facts:
A talent you have always wanted:  To play the piano
Favorite Book:  Howards End by E.M. Forster
Favorite Quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Ghandi
Role Models: Academic- Professor Debra Journet;  Personal- Her mother, Freda Embry
Pet Peeve:  "Seeing someone not take advantage of their opportunities."
If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? "Working as a volunteer or organizer for a grass-roots environmental group."  


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