Vanessa Raney

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My CV, which is part of My Teaching Portfolio

As I teach, I'll add sections for  Methodology and Evaluations.

Name: Vanessa Raney
E-mail: Click here
Ph. 713.569.0300 / Primary Website:

This details my accomplishments, including publications and presentations. It's also the most up-to-date copy.

Teaching Philosophy - General

I'm interested in a critical literacy approach that allows me to teach literature at the intersections of history, culture and politics, particularly from the perspective of trauma studies.

Teaching Philosophy - ENG 112
(theme: autobiography and disability)

Because students enter into a classroom from diverse backgrounds and different learning styles, I plan to introduce them to a variety of texts that interrogate the social but also offer solutions. To help them learn about things potentially beyond their experiences, I intend to include writers from different cultures within and outside of the United States. My goals, however, are for students to learn the writing syntax (grammar, language, audience), how to support their claims (factual or personal), and to be challenged by their assumptions, approaches and limitations. Finally, I hope to push them to reach a higher authority - justice. By justice, I mean writing that is fair, appropriate and equitable to the issues being discussed.
I also believe in varying content and focusing on thematic ideas as I become aware of them. A case in point is this section of ENG 112, in which I turn my focus to autobiography and disability. I believe for my students to participate as active learners, it helps to have, among other things, a topic that both repels (because of content, for example) and attracts (because they hear about it), a focused structure that gives time for breathing and thinking, a variety of approaches that alternate but remain consistent, and a motivated and critically supportive instructor who works both sides of the brain (the analytical and creative).
My approach to teaching this thematically-based course, with its focus on research, is two-fold: to engage my students as critical readers so they become more aware of their writers' voices; to involve them in the research process so that by the end of the semester, they can master a twelve page paper with confidence. To reach most of my students, who do not generally learn the same, I chose to design my class around lectures, discussions and workshops, with two days of watching movies that tie in with the subject material and two days off so they can concentrate on their research papers as they get closer to the due dates for the draft and final versions of their research papers. I set aside time for computer and library visits, as well.
Although my assignments may appear dense, they are actually spread out enough to make them less demanding on my students. For example, in the major portion of my class, I alternate between one-page and three to four page papers, with a six to seven page paper concluding my lesson plans on autobiography and disability. In between that time, students can choose up to the due date when to write their two to three page reader responses to the texts; for this, they get to choose among three of them. I also threw in a two to three page personal essay and a three to five page autobiographical essay, which are usually easier to write than formal academic papers, on days that the students are not required to write their summaries or comparative analyses. Finally, I wrote reminders about their longer papers and required that they send me their preliminary work; the expectations will be explained to them in a guidelines sheet so that they know why they are expending the effort.
For students in this class, my objectives are for them to identify and use the appropriate style guides, sources and terms for their majors, research and argumentation; to evaluate other people's writings by engaging critically with the texts and entering into meaningful dialogue; and to articulate, attribute and take up a position in developing their ideas to an audience that does not include me. My role as an instructor is to facilitate the discussions so that my students struggle with the texts I assigned them by reaching toward what is unsaid, to ease them into the language and expectations of academia without overwhelming them, to offer them a reason to come to class beyond a review of what they have already read, and to remain firm in my policies so they gain the skills they need outside of the classroom (i.e., time management).

For a class I want to teach (Sexual Selection through the Lens of Darwin and Gilman), I include three sections: Description of Materials, Full Syllabus, and Sample Assignment & Rubric. That post is preceded by a posting of my 2004 ALA conference paper in which I presented early ideas for teaching the class.

Professional Activities

To date I've presented at twenty-six various conferences in the general areas of History/Social Sciences (Missouri Valley History Conference; Northern Great Plains History Conference; Western Social Science Association Annual Conference), Philosophy (Pacific University Undergraduate Conference; North Georgia Student Philosophy Conference), English (Medieval Renaissance Conference; Central New York Conference on Language & Literature; South Atlantic Modern Language Association Conference; American Literature Association Conference; Symposium at the University of Miami; National College English Association Conference; Comics Arts Conference; Connecticut State University Faculty Research Conference; Northeast Modern Language Association Convention; Narrative: An International Conference; SCSU's Seventh Annual Graduate English Conference), Cultural and Visual Studies (The Melbern G. Glassock Center for Humanities Conference; Popular Culture/American Culture Associations Conferences (consecutive years); The New School Graduate Faculty's "Words, Images, and the Framinig of Social Reality" Conference; "30 Years Beyond the War: Vietnamese, Asian, and Asian/American Studies" Conference; Vernacular Colloquium; The Future of Memory: An International Holocaust and Trauma Studies Conference; International Visual Literacy Association Conference, and Theology (Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium Conference). For specific details concerning my participation, check out my CV at
From Sept. 12- Oct. 10, 2008, I worked as a tutor for the Frederick Community College (FCC) Tutorial Services Program. I used a Socratic method so that students derived answers to problems with my guidance, but with their mastery of the material. The subjects included Intermediate Algebra, Precalculus, and English Composition.
For 2005-2006, I was the English Department Representative to GSAC (Graduate Student Affairs Committee) at Southern Connecticut State University. Working with a group of student representatives from different departments (one Representative per department, with each of us having voting privileges), select faculty, the Dean of Arts and Sciences, and the GSAC Coordinator, we oversaw funding for grad student research (including conference presentations and grants for theses-related expenses) and graduate student-run clubs and activities (i.e., monies for event speakers), and interfaced with the administration on issues of concern to graduate students.
In Fall 2005, I did my Work Study with GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) as an Academic Enrichment Facilitator.  GEAR UP, a program administered by the Connecticut Department of Higher Education and housed at Southern Connecticut State University, is aimed at helping eligible students get the skills and information they need to make college a reality. In association with my supervisor, I introduced a syllabus and lesson plans for a program called P.O.W. (Power of Words), an extension of GEAR UP GAMES (Gaining Achievement in Math and English Skills), to increase skills in literacy and writing.
In 2003-2004 I worked as the Intern for the Student Affairs Committee of The Claremont Colleges (formerly the joint student deans committee). The Claremont Colleges is a consortium of seven colleges: Claremont Graduate University, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Keck Graduate Institute, Pitzer College, Pomona College, and Scripps College. Because these Deans of Students rotate the chair position every academic year, the entering chair assumes responsibility for hiring the Intern (who may not be the same as the previous year's Intern), who is then paid by that chair's respective college; I was hired by Pitzer College. My responsibilities included taking Minutes of the monthly General Meetings, ordering the food, reserving the rooms, and doing research as requested (in this case, intramural sports and HIPPA). One short project involved identifying the general patterns of disruptive behavior at Pitzer College. For me, the greatest benefit was having the opportunity to observe a professional committee in action.

Special Training

In Fall 2005 I took ENG 519 Teaching College Writing at Southern Connecticut State University. Here I gained insight about different pedagogical approaches, along with classroom experience as a co-presenter teaching a unit on poststructuralism. I also developed a new syllabus (this time for a Composition Studies II course) and related material for my portfolio.

In Summer 2004 I took PFF 520 Course Design in Higher Education at Claremont Graduate University. Here I gained experience creating my first syllabus for "a class, which I propose to title Sexual Selection through the Lens of Darwin and Gilman," which I presented as part of a paper titled 'Who Says Women Can't Compare with Men? A Darwinian Approach to Teaching Gilman's The Man-Made World' at the American Literature Association (ALA) Conference, held in San Francisco, CA, 27-30 May 2004.

In Apr. 2004 I received a Certificate of Completion for the year-long Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) Professional Development Practicum at Claremont Graduate University. Here I learned some of the professional requirements and expectations for college/university teaching, including grading objectives, learning styles and teaching portfolios. For a description of the workshop classes, see

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