Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dr. Scott Lunsford's Dissertation Defense - Public Corrections: The Discipline of Lynne Truss

On Monday July 14, Scott Lunsford defended his doctoral dissertation in Rhetoric and Writing Studies at the University of Texas at El Paso. Dr. Lunsford's excellent dissertation, Public Corrections: The Discipline of Lynne Truss, centered on the grammar book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss. Truss, Lunsford argues, erroneously positions literacy as a narrowly defined universal skill, not allowing for alternative literacies. The following is from Scott's dissertation abstract: I look through two lenses to glean what many in popular and academic discourse say about several objects of study that the field of Rhetoric and Writing Studies takes on throughout its own scholarship and practice. First, by appropriating and synthesizing genre theories, I examine the generic function of the book: How does she characterize her own book? Who are Trusss intended readers? What does she intend for those readers to do with the book? What are her assumptions about various issues of writing studies, for example, literacy, grammar, and language standardization? Second, through critical discourse theory, I explore many of the reviews and other commentary by authors writing in popular newspapers and magazines, as well as those in academic journals: How do they characterize the book? How do they identify with Trusss call for better standards in English? What do they assume about various writing issues? I conclude by discussing some of thedisconnects that continue to separate public and academic attitudes toward writing issues such as literacy, grammar, and the like." Scott's presentation was informative, stimulating, and novel. More importantly, he represents the FIRST graduate of the rhetoric and composition program at UTEP. (His committe below from left to right: Stacey Sowards, Communications, Scott Lunsford, Rhetoric and Writing Studies (RWS), Kate Mangelsdorf, RWS, and Helen Foster, Director of RWS.)

Professional accomplishments aside, Scott and his wife Cecile have been a true asset not only to UTEP but the community of El Paso. Scott pulled off the two most difficult milestones in one's life during the doctoral process: get married and start a family! And then, add the third most difficult thing one could do in their life, get a Ph.D., and that spells all-out insanity. But Scott is a go getter and he accomplished this impossible feat. His wife, Cecile, worked hard with a local high school in the theater department putting on plays for the better of the community. Scott was a great supporter in all of Cecile's endeavors. She even recently completed her Masters degree. Yeah, Cecile. But Scott has compressed all of these milestones, challenges, and hidden opportunities together and created a polished diamond!
I had the privilege of taking some of the same classes with Scott (Dr. Foster's Post-modern class - man that was a tough one - I'm still tired from it..ugh), and learned a great deal from him. Scott is a scholar and an excellent person to boot! James Madison University is certainly lucky to be getting such an outstanding individual as Dr. Lunsford. We (and I feel I can speak for all the faculty and students in the rhetoric and composition program and English Dept.) are so proud of Scott. We know you will not only succeed, but excel where ever you go. We wish you and your family(Cecile and little Lexi) all the best in Virginia. Keep in touch, and you and your family will always have a place here in El Paso.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Bhutan Connection in El Paso, Texas

On my daily rides onto the University of Texas at El Paso's campus, I can sometimes take for granted the unique architecture that surrounds me. UTEP's architectural design is based on the simple yet elegant structure of the Bhutanese building with long slopping walls given dimension by the deep windows and over hanging roofs. The buildings are accented by colorful mosaics of tile along the facade of the building. (See the website below for pictures). Because of the heavy Bhutanese connection, UTEP has developed a close relationship with the people of Bhutan. This past Tuesday, July 8, El Paso was privileged to have the Bhutanese Royal Academy of Performing Arts present their cultural dances and songs. My husband and I went, and we were pleased to see such beautiful costumes and hear hauntingly sacred sounds in the music. The philosophy of the people, which places happiness in life at the center of their existence, is reflected in the colorful costumes and intricate dances. Some of the costumes even reminded me of the Mexican culture's costumes they use for such dance as "El Baile del Venado" and the skull figures from Dia de Los Muertos.
El Paso and the university are blessed to be connected to such an incredible part of the world.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Building a Better Future: Community Service

Since Barack Obama began speaking to the American public, one of the messages to his audiences has been - giving back to our communities fortifies our nation. He has said on several occasions, "Through service, I found that my own improbable story fit into a larger American story. Through service, I found a community that embraced me, a church to belong to, citizenship that was meaningful, the direction I'd been seeking." Community service is not always easy because of our hectic and busy lives, but if we can substitute the time in front of the television for time with our fellow citizens, we just might find jewels waiting to shine.
Last night my YWCA leadership group, The Positive Gals, culminated our efforts to give away two $1000 scholarships at a local resteraunt. Rudy Chavez from San Elizario, Tx. and April Soto from El Paso, Tx. received their awards last night. Five hundred was given to them directly, and the other $500 goes directly to their school as credit toward classes. Student applicants to the scholarship had to write an 800 - 1000 word essay from the prompt "Be the architect of your life."
Rudy Chavez said that he heard about the essay contest from his sister who was taking Teresa Nevarez's class at El Paso Community College. She brought it home, and Rudy thought he would give it shot. His efforts paid off. Rudy shared with us some of the experiences that have been the building blocks of his life. When he was in the 8th grade, his father brought home an old 1967 truck that he paid $300 for. His dad told him that it was now his truck and he could drive it if he fixed it up. The truck became a several year project for Rudy and his dad. It's now a painted, classic truck that sits in their drive. People stop at their house, knock the door, and ask if he's willing to see his truck. He said, "I'd never sell it." He appreciates the time and effort he put into it too much to get rid of. This young man's attitude is in stark contrast to many of our youth today who are "given" everything, and were not required to work for what they have. Rudy plans to start in the fall at Western Technical to learn auto mechanics. He currently works days with his father at their new business, Ydur Tires, and at night he works at a Limosine Service. Congratulations, Rudy!!
April Soto heard about the scholarship through community outreach. As an ex-teacher at El Paso High, I was generously given access to some of the English teacher's classrooms. Mr. Denny allowed me some time in one of his classes, and April was one of the students in his class. The students in his class didn't seem so enthusiastic about possibly winning $1,000, but the prospect caught April's attention. She worked for several weeks on her essay never giving up hope that she would get the scholarship. Some of the building blocks of her life have come from visits to her grandmother in a small pueblo in Durango, images of sick children in poor communities on PBS, and giving of her time to elderly homes. She wrote in the conclusion of her winning essay, " I believe the best way to predict the future is to build and create it yourself. The experiences from Mexico and my grandmother’s place have contributed to my decision of becoming a nurse. Even the worst experiences like seeing an innocent child dirty and sick on the streets of Juarez have helped me create my future plans. I have chosen to not dwell on my helplessness in these situations, but use them for making me stronger and as the bricks, wood, and cement to build my future." April is currently working at Burlington Coat Factory, and will start classes in the fall at El Paso Community College at the Rio Grande campus. Congratulations, April!

As a group, we owe great thanks to Community Center Empowerment Systems here in El Paso, Tx. who matched our funds of $1000. A big thank you to all the people (more than I can mention here) who donated money to help make the scholarships a reality. Also, a big thank you goes to Karen Marasco at Sunland Park Barnes and Noble for donating $50 worth of school supplies, pens (really nice ones!), notebooks, and planners for April and Rudy.

We wish April and Rudy all the luck
as they start their college and life careers!
Pictured above: Left to right: Maribel Villalba, Yolanda Alameda, Terry Valero, Lucia Dura, Claudia Cochran, Bonnie Apodaca, Rose Galindo, Cristina Ramirez, Terresa Nevarez.