A product of The Ohio State University network of campuses has returned to the system to teach here at OSUM. This is her story of “paying it forward” here in north central Ohio.

The influence of three professors at The Ohio State University at Newark is why alumna Kelly Whitney changed her career plans. She started as a business major but six little words from Lecturer Shawna Green pushed her to major in English instead.

“I chose to enroll at Ohio State Newark because of the size of the campus,” she said. “I was accepted at the Columbus campus, but the large school environment didn’t interest me. I was conflicted because I wanted the Ohio State education but also the small school environment. As soon as I learned that my offer extended to the regional campuses, I immediately accepted and enrolled at Ohio State Newark.”

Despite being a business student, she filled her electives with English courses. During her sophomore year, she took a course with Green who took her aside at the end of the semester and simply said, “You should be an English major.” Whitney took that to heart and went straight to her advisor to make the change to English.

‘What I remember about Kelly is her intellectual curiosity and her energy,” said Green. “Her kindness and eagerness to learn was apparent each and every class meeting.”

While at Ohio State Newark, she was deeply influenced by Professor of English Elizabeth Weiser, Ph.D., and Associate Professor of History Mitchell Lerner, Ph.D. She was introduced to her professional path by Weiser and picked up her teaching style from Lerner.

“I always enjoyed my literature classes, but it was Dr. Weiser’s rhetoric class that taught me how to systematically analyze texts, images and spaces of the world around me. As I make my lesson plans, I try to remember what it was like to be a student in Dr. Lerner’s class. He came to each class enthusiastic and energized, and his energy was contagious.”-Kelly Whitney

Whitney also developed her talents by working as a peer writing consultant in the Writer’s Studio. She tutored students, helping them develop their writing and logic.

“I enjoyed pushing students’ thinking about a topic. I also made life-long friends and colleagues,” she said.

She also participated in student research that pushed her to have her first experience attending and presenting at an academic conference and introduced her to professional academic life.

After graduating from Ohio State, Whitney earned her Master of Arts in English from the University of Dayton. She then earned her Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Professional Communication from New Mexico State University. She has been teaching college-level English and writing courses for 11 years.

Whitney came back to her Ohio State roots this autumn when she began as an assistant professor of English and professional writing minor coordinator at the Ohio State Mansfield campus. She is proud to join a community of dedicated scholars and educators that will continue to challenge her like they did when she was an undergraduate.

Dr. Weiser said, “One of the greatest joys of my professional career was being part of the rhetoric unit that interviewed Kelly for her new job. I couldn’t help but think back to the English undergraduate who was such a valuable member of my small rhetoric class. I still remember her final project, a discourse analysis of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. She brought both passion and keen intellect to that paper, just as she demonstrated in her interview. I really couldn’t be more thrilled to have her as a colleague.”

As a professor, Whitney has the overarching goal of preparing students for ethical civic engagement, but she more specifically wants to “pay forward.” She wants to challenge and support her students the way she was challenged and encouraged as a student at Ohio State Newark.

Her advice to both future and current students is to embrace new ways of learning and take classes that are outside of their comfort zone or major. She encourages students to also build a network of peers, professors, staff and community members to open up opportunities to help each other.

Source, Photo: The Ohio State University at Newark

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