Associate Professor Susan Thomas

BA (English and Music) Lee University, MA (English) University of Tennessee, PhD (English) Georgia State University, GradCertEdStud (Higher Ed) Sydney

Member of the Charles Perkins Centre

A22 - Old Teachers' College
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9351 2048

Website Full contact details
Curriculum vitae Curriculum vitae

Biographical details

Susan is the Founding Director of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Writing Hub and WRIT Program, both now housed in the Department of Writing Studies. She was previously Lecturer in English, Associate Dean Teaching and Learning (FASS), Director of Academic Writing in the former FASS Teaching and Learning Network, and Teaching Development Coordinator for Arts and Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, Sydney College of the Arts, and the Conservatorium of Music. She currently coordinates The Student Writing Fellows Program in the Writing Hub.

Research interests

Susan's research focuses primarily on theories of writing, grounded in cognitive rhetoric, with a particular interest in affect and cognition. She is also interested in life writing, performative writing, feminist and global rhetorics, Native American rhetorics, writing across the curriculum, and writing centres.

Teaching and supervision

Susan teaches across the spectrum, from first year to postgrad. She coordinates WRIT1000 Introduction to Academic Writing, WRIT6000 Professional Writing, and WRIT6001 Professional Editing; and contributes to WRIT2000 Contemporary Rhetoric, all of which she designed. She has supervised research projects on various subfields of writing, rhetoric, performance, and professional communication.

Current research students

Project title Research student
Global Encounters for Multi-literacy Pedagogy Jiva Nath LAMSAL

Current projects

Carrying Culture: Writing Across Curricula, Boundaries, and Borders. (sole-authored research monograph, July 2019)

We carry our culture(s) in ways we don’t always realize. Our approaches to literacy, as well as our own literacies, are deeply rooted in what we know, and as writing scholars, these cultural identities affect how we approach and understand Writing Program Administration. Sixty-five years after the publication of Albert Kitzhaber’s landmark Rhetoric in American Colleges, 1850-1900, the development of writing programs in North America, as well as associated labour issues for the people who run them, have been well-documented and debated (Kahn et al, 2017; McClure et al, 2016; Russell, 2014). Less explored, however, is what alternative cultures of writing instruction can offer for negotiating the institutional politics that come naturally with the territory of writing instruction. Using empirical and ethnographic methods, this work examines the development of the writing program at the University of Sydney as a case study for theorizing the culture of writing instruction in Australia and situating this within a broader comparative framework of writing theories and pedagogies around the world. In considering these alternative writing cultures and frameworks, the project argues for more globalized and diversified approaches to writing instruction beyond the familiar US model.

The Zen WPA: Navigating the Unexpected in Writing Program Administration (sole-authored research monograph, December 2019)

While there is a wealth of professional resources on what to expect in Writing Program Administration (McLeod, 2007; Adler-Kassner and Wardle, 2015; Malenczyk, 2016; Rose and Weiser, 1999, 2002, 2010), navigating the unexpected has received significantly less scholarly attention. This may be since, of all academic roles, Writing Program Administration is arguably the most nebulous, as so much depends on institutional context, shifting trends in higher education, and change management processes. Practical know-how and theoretical facility are musts, of course, but senior WPAs seem to be guided as much by a third element—a Zen, if you will—of emotional intelligence, intuition, and resilience. This book focuses on the importance of this third element in navigating the unexpected, having been inspired by my own WPA journey over the past fifteen years, but also by what I have learned from the veteran WPAs interviewed here. In revisiting accepted definitions, expectations, and assumptions of writing program administration, this work calls for a rethinking of how we articulate the unexpected demands of WPA roles: the ones the literature doesn’t—and can’t— address, since this knowledge is refined in the fires of lived experience.

Nevertheless She Persisted: Women’s Rhetorics of Trauma and Survival in Higher Education (co-authored research monograph, July 2020) With Professor Lisa Emerson, Massey University

In the wake of #Lock Her Up, #MeToo, and the Kavanaugh hearings, the world’s gaze has been firmly transfixed on Hollywood, the US Government, and the subsequent feminist backlash against the silencing and shaming of vulnerable women by powerful men. However, away from the glare of world politics, the casting couch, and college frat parties, hidden away in the exclusive ivory tower is the equally disturbing yet less publicized phenomenon of women being silenced within the academic community—sometimes by other women.

As evidenced by the growing body of scholarship on bullying and harassment in higher education (e.g., Elder et al, 2019), the need to expose the abuse of women in academia has never been greater. Inspired by our own stories of silencing and shaming in the academy, we believe that sharing our stories is our most powerful means of collective activism. In gathering and publishing firsthand narratives from women at all levels of academe, in institutions around the world, we examine how careers have been adversely affected by bullying at the hands of managers and peers – and we consider the implications for institutions of higher education.

Mapping Cultures of Writing Research Across the Asia-Pacific (sole-authored monograph project, December 2021)

While there has been a proliferation of scholarship on the development of writing research cultures across Europe and the Americas, the histories, theories, and practices of writing research and writing programs across the Asia-Pacific region have received far less critical attention, despite the rich histories of writing represented in the region, from indigenous to contemporary. This project aims to address this gap in scholarship and contribute to the global archive of writing research by surveying histories, theories, and cultures of writing within the Asia-Pacific to determine how cultural values, educational structures, and plurilingualism shape priorities for writing research within this region.

Associations

  • Asia-Pacific Writing Research Network, Co-Founder and Co-Chair
  • Association for Writing Across the Curriculum
  • Writing Research Across Borders
  • International Writing Centers Association
  • European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction
  • European Association for Teaching Academic Writing
  • Conference on College Composition and Communication
  • Rhetoric Society of America
  • Council of Writing Program Administrators (USA); President, Australian Affiliate
  • Australian Association of Writing Programs
  • English Teachers’ Association of New South Wales
  • English Association, Sydney

Awards and honours

  • Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Teaching Initiative Award (with Angela Shetler), 2012.
  • Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Sydney University, 2007.
  • Faculty of Arts Award for Excellence in Teaching (Innovation), 2006.

International Leadership

Founding Co-Chair, Asia-Pacific Writing Research Network (to be launched in November 2019).

President, Australian Affiliate of the Council of Writing Program Administrators. 2011-Present.

Editorial Board Member, Writing Program Administration Journal, July 2018-Present.

Editorial Board Member, Writing Across the Curriculum Clearinghouse, May 2012-Present.

Executive Committee Member, Conference on College Composition and Communication, USA. October 2010-October 2013.

Executive Board Member, Council of Writing Program Administrators, USA. (Chair, Liaison Committee), 2008-2010.

Editorial Board Member and Faculty Advising Editor, Young Scholars in Writing

Journal, published by University of Missouri, Kansas City. 2006-2016.

Executive Board Member and International Relations Coordinator, Australian Association of Writing Programs. November 2005-November 2008.

PhD and master's project opportunities

Selected grants

2012

  • Implementing Pebble Pad Portfolio System to support Writing Across the Curriculum and Research-Enriched Writing Pedagogies; Thomas S, Di Lauro F, Miller B; University of Sydney/Sydney Strategic e-Learning Development Grant.

2011

  • Embedding Collaborative Writing Pedagogy and Practices Through Community-Engaged Learning and Teaching; Thomas S, Miller B, Di Lauro F; University of Sydney/Strategic Teaching Enhancement Project Grant.

2009

  • Promoting Writing Across the Curriculum and the First-Year Experience Through the WRIT Program; Thomas S, Foley W; University of Sydney/Teaching Improvement and Equipment Scheme (TIES).

2008

  • Improving Visual Literacy in the Classroom; Thomas S; Department of Education and Training/Quality Teaching, Action Learning Grant.
  • Systematizing Quality Enhancement and Assurance Processes to Better Support Student Learning; Rooney B, Thomas S; University of Sydney/Teaching Improvement and Equipment Scheme (TIES).
  • Internationalizing Pedagogies of Writing Instruction Through Virtual Exchange; Thomas S, Johinke R; University of Sydney/Teaching Improvement and Equipment Scheme (TIES).

2007

  • Improving Writing and Literacy in Science (with Fort St High School); Thomas S; Department of Education and Training/Quality Teaching, Action Learning Grant.
  • Redesigning Lectures for Online Mode, Continued; Thomas S; University of Sydney/Teaching Improvement and Equipment Scheme (TIES).

2006

  • Redesigning Lectures for Online Mode; Thomas S; University of Sydney/Teaching Improvement Fund (TIF).
  • Redesigning Assessment for Online Mode; Thomas S; University of Sydney/E-Learning Grant.

Selected publications

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Edited Books

  • Thomas, S. (2007). What is the New Rhetoric?. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Book Chapters

  • Thomas, S. (2013). The WPA Outcomes Statement: The View From Australia. In Nicholas Behm, Gergory Glau, Deborah Holdstein, Duane Roen, Edward White (Eds.), The WPA Outcomes Statement - A Decade Later, (pp. 165-178). Anderson, South Carolina: Parlor Press.
  • Thomas, S., Downs, D., Estrem, H. (2010). Students' Texts beyond the Classroom: Young Scholars in Writing's Challenges to College Writing Instruction. In Joseph Harris, John Miles and Charles Paine (Eds.), Teaching with Student Texts: Essays Toward an Informed Practice, (pp. 118-128). Utah: Utah State University Press.
  • Thomas, S. (2008). The Political Rhetoric of American Aspiration. In Justin T. Gleeson and Ruth C. A. Higgins (Eds.), Rediscovering Rhetoric: Law, Language, and the Practice of Persuasion, (pp. 253-269). Sydney, Australia: The Federation Press.
  • Thomas, S., Pullman, G. (2007). Mentoring Across the Continents. In Michelle F Eble and Lynee Lewis Gaillet (Eds.), Stories of Mentoring: Theory and Praxis. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press.

Journals

  • Shetler, A., Thomas, S., Di Lauro, F., Miller, B. (2013). Multimodal Writing Instruction in a Global World. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, 17(3).
  • Thomas, S. (2007). Tragedy Into Grace: Lincoln at Gettysburg. Sydney Studies in English, 33, 78-95.
  • Thomas, S. (2003). Plain Language for Lawyers, 3rd Edition, by Michele M. Asprey (Review). Trade Practices Law Journal, 11(4), 264-264.

Conferences

  • Thomas, S. (2005). From Athens to Gettysburg: The Art of the Speech. Creativity and Transformation : English Association English Teachers' Conference 2005, Sydney (Aust): The English Association.

Magazine / Newspaper Articles

  • Thomas, S., Miller, B. (2011). Why writing skills are under threat, 17 November 2011. Australian Higher Education Supplement.
  • Thomas, S. (2008). Spotlight on Academic Writing. Synergy, 28.
  • Thomas, S. (2005). Nothing Dirty About Rhetoric. The Australian.
  • Thomas, S. (2004). Words are Failing our Graduates. The Australian.

Reference Works

  • Thomas, S. (2007). Rhetoric in the South Pacific. In Wolfgang Donsbach (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Communication. Blackwell Publishers.

2013

  • Shetler, A., Thomas, S., Di Lauro, F., Miller, B. (2013). Multimodal Writing Instruction in a Global World. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, 17(3).
  • Thomas, S. (2013). The WPA Outcomes Statement: The View From Australia. In Nicholas Behm, Gergory Glau, Deborah Holdstein, Duane Roen, Edward White (Eds.), The WPA Outcomes Statement - A Decade Later, (pp. 165-178). Anderson, South Carolina: Parlor Press.

2011

  • Thomas, S., Miller, B. (2011). Why writing skills are under threat, 17 November 2011. Australian Higher Education Supplement.

2010

  • Thomas, S., Downs, D., Estrem, H. (2010). Students' Texts beyond the Classroom: Young Scholars in Writing's Challenges to College Writing Instruction. In Joseph Harris, John Miles and Charles Paine (Eds.), Teaching with Student Texts: Essays Toward an Informed Practice, (pp. 118-128). Utah: Utah State University Press.

2008

  • Thomas, S. (2008). Spotlight on Academic Writing. Synergy, 28.
  • Thomas, S. (2008). The Political Rhetoric of American Aspiration. In Justin T. Gleeson and Ruth C. A. Higgins (Eds.), Rediscovering Rhetoric: Law, Language, and the Practice of Persuasion, (pp. 253-269). Sydney, Australia: The Federation Press.

2007

  • Thomas, S., Pullman, G. (2007). Mentoring Across the Continents. In Michelle F Eble and Lynee Lewis Gaillet (Eds.), Stories of Mentoring: Theory and Praxis. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press.
  • Thomas, S. (2007). Rhetoric in the South Pacific. In Wolfgang Donsbach (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Communication. Blackwell Publishers.
  • Thomas, S. (2007). Tragedy Into Grace: Lincoln at Gettysburg. Sydney Studies in English, 33, 78-95.
  • Thomas, S. (2007). What is the New Rhetoric?. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

2005

  • Thomas, S. (2005). From Athens to Gettysburg: The Art of the Speech. Creativity and Transformation : English Association English Teachers' Conference 2005, Sydney (Aust): The English Association.
  • Thomas, S. (2005). Nothing Dirty About Rhetoric. The Australian.

2004

  • Thomas, S. (2004). Words are Failing our Graduates. The Australian.

2003

  • Thomas, S. (2003). Plain Language for Lawyers, 3rd Edition, by Michele M. Asprey (Review). Trade Practices Law Journal, 11(4), 264-264.

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