Kurt Spellmeyer Wins Scholar-Teacher Award
by Robert Lawless
As most Rutgers students know, Expository Writing 101 is one of the few requirements everybody must satisfy, regardless of major. In this way Kurt Spellmeyer, Director of the Writing Program at Rutgers, may have one of the most important and influential jobs here at the university. As the coordinator and the primary curriculum developer for “Expos,” Professor Spellmeyer is responsible for shaping the course that reaches five thousand undergraduates each year, and also for training and supervising the hundreds of instructors who teach this notoriously difficult writing-intensive class. In the nineteen years he has served as Director, Professor Spellmeyer has made the Rutgers Writing Program a nationally recognized example of success in teaching composition.
Which makes it all the more remarkable that Professor Spellmeyer finds the time to continue publishing important books and articles about writing and pedagogy, and to teach sections of the course he designed. For his academic and classroom achievements, Rutgers honored Professor Spellmeyer with a Faculty Scholar-Teacher Award for 2004. This award recognizes professors who are able to integrate their teaching with their research, and who demonstrate how both scholarship and love of learning can be shared with students.
Professor Spellmeyer’s reputation as a teacher suggests how fitting this award truly is. Without fail, Professor Spellmeyer’s undergraduate classes rate him very highly, describing his ability to get them excited about subjects they did not expect would interest them. Students often comment that Professor Spellmeyer’s enthusiasm and knowledge have helped them become much better writers and readers, praising him for the positive encouragement he gives them and for “his openness, his accessibility, and his generosity with his time.” Graduate students who have worked with Professor Spellmeyer also highly recommend his courses and his abilities as a mentor; many of them have gone on to become directors of writing programs at other schools.
As a scholar, Professor Spellmeyer has developed both a theory and a practice for teaching writing that is recognized throughout the profession. His many journal articles on composition studies have made him a familiar name in that field. His ambitious recent book, Arts of Living: Reinventing the Humanities for the Twenty-First Century, unifies his research on pedagogy and on the history of the liberal arts in presenting a wide-ranging critique of overspecialization in the humanities.
The book makes the bold argument that college humanities departments seem to have forgotten something crucial: that the way we teach students to read and write is vitally important, not only to how students will come to understand themselves through their education, but also to how these students will go on to reimagine and reshape the world around them. Already, Arts of Living has become the subject of intense debate. For example, it is being discussed by two separate panels at the upcoming national conference in composition studies.
It is a testament to Professor Spellmeyer’s dedication that he is able to work so successfully in both modes, as a classroom teacher and also as a theorist and advocate for an intense but generalized approach to teaching the humanities. Congratulations to Professor Spellmeyer for winning the Scholar-Teacher Award.
The Scholar-Teacher Award was established in 2000 to honor professors who make exceptional connections between their academic research and their teaching. Professor Spellmeyer is the first faculty member in English to receive this award.