Statement of Purpose

February 2007 - To the Graduate Committee 


Here is the essay I sent with my application to graduate school. I will keep it here to remind me of the original state of my goals and hopes. I am hoping that this reminder will keep me grounded and on track, and keep me from straying too far from my original intentions. Maybe it can also serve as a baseline for measuring what I've gotten from the program.

Statement of Purpose 

I am applying to the Teaching of Writing program as well as the College Faculty Preparation program with a career goal of teaching English composition at the community college or high school level. These programs
will nurture my interests and talents while providing the opportunity to fulfill my most creative ambitions. 

I want to do more than simply make writing accessible to students; I want to put it at their service, showing them that critical thinking and clarity of expression are tools for change and keys to success. 

My Early Development as a Writer 

A decade of career exploration and adaptation to circumstance brought me to choose this career goal and the Teaching of Writing program. Even without the benefit of a college degree, I spent years working as a writer in Garberville, using my facility with the written word to support my family. 

Living in a small town, all I had to do to get started was sweet-talk my way onto the reporting staff of the local newspaper, the Redwood Record. Once my writing became well known in the community, people sought out my skills for writing grants, visitor guides and publicity materials. When the Record closed its doors permanently, I launched the Independent, editing and publishing the weekly newspaper for three years. 

A Problem with a Gift in its Hands 

However, when my family relocated to Redding in 2000, I ran headlong into the obstacle my lack of education represented in the professional world. Without a degree, I could not even get an interview at the local newspaper. In order to earn a living, I had to change focus. 

As author Richard Bach writes, “There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.” For me, that gift was the discovery of another passion in life: working with young people. On the basis of my grant-writing and community-building skills, I landed a job coordinating a new Healthy Start grant for the Redding School District and, within a few months, found myself in charge of the afterschool program at Shasta Elementary School. 

Discovering Teaching  

In the Homework Club, I tutored a classroom full of students and led enrichment activities that I designed to augment their academic work. Every morning, I jumped out of bed, excited by the prospect of going to work and seeing the young people who amazed, delighted and energized me. 

Helping the students learn was not only gratifying but fascinating as well. I savored the challenge of finding just the right resource to help them channel their creativity and passion into their own learning processes. By the time the Healthy Start grant expired, I knew I had to go back to school and become a teacher. 

Back to School 

I finished my associate degree at Shasta College before transferring to Humboldt State University in 2004 to study English Literature.

A person blossoms when she studies literature. As Professor Corey Lewis pointed out in my Senior Project Seminar, literature makes us more tolerant people because it exposes us to a variety of points of view. In
addition, the new critical approaches I encountered at HSU pulled into the process many of my other interests, like history, cultural studies, psychology and anthropology. I could explore them all even as I became better at writing, and more importantly, at critical thinking. 

HSU Influences

Eldridge & the Endless Chain of Signifiers 

Among the many interesting classes I have taken at HSU, some have been pivotal in clarifying my career and educational goals. In Professor Michael Eldridge’s Introduction to the Major class, a project studying John
Milton’s “Lycidas” sharpened my research skills significantly. Subtitled “The Endless Chain of Signifiers,” the project used principles of deconstruction to send students on a tour of the university research
resources and the vast body of published criticism. For me it was a veritable treasure hunt. I simply did what I always do when faced with a daunting task full of unknowns, the very activity that made me a good reporter and a good tutor: I dive into a subject, explore it, live and breathe it, then try to bring back the pearl of its essence to present to others with clarity and grace. After a research project, I literally feel as if I am surfacing from another element. 

Doty & Linguistic Terra Firma 

History of the English Language class introduced me to linguistics, and I caught the fire of Professor Kathleen Doty’s passion for the subject. Just as the Lycidas Project immersed me in the vastness of critical thought, linguistics seemed to offer terra firma. Linguistics is a profoundly less pedantic approach to grammar than any I ever encountered in high school or community college. I think I can use it to help students gain control of Standard English in its written form.

Like literary criticism, linguistics draws on a multitude of disciplines such as history, sociology and even economics in understanding language structure. Infusing grammar with a sense of humanity, linguistics removes
grammar from the abstract and returns it to its rightful place in our ordinary lives. In the context of human history and relations, language structure is colorful, interesting and very accessible. 

Language : Power to Shape a Future 

The critical study of literature attests to the sheer power of language, and linguistics is like a handle on this power that I want to place within reach of my students. They can use the English language to their advantage, to think
critically, to dismantle stereotypes and to recreate
their futures.