Dr. Tennyson O’Donnell was recently appointed as Allan K. Smith Lecturer in English and the new Director of the Allan K. Smith Center for Writing and Rhetoric. O’Donnell will arrive on campus and begin the Directorship in July 2012.
A national search was conducted to fill this position, and search chair Associate Academic Dean and Professor of English Sheila Fisher called the applicant pool “very strong.” Aided by a search committee made up of Associate Professor of Psychology Dina Anselmi, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Neuroscience Bill Church, Allan K. and Gwendolyn Miles Smith Professor of English Paul Lauter, First Year Program Dean Margaret Lindsey, Associate Professor of English David Rosen, Associate Professor of Theater and Dance Katharine Power, and Professor of Philosophy Maurice Wade, initial interviews were conducted both at Trinity and at the Modern Language Association Convention in Seattle in January.
Dr. O’Donnell was one of four finalists chosen from this round of interviews, and each finalist was “invited to campus for a two-day campus visit that involved meeting with constituencies from across campus who are involved with fostering strong writing across the disciplines,” according to Fisher. During his visit, O’Donnell gave two presentations. One, which was open to the entire campus, discussed his vision for the Writing Center, and the second explained how he would teach a composition course and his methods for training Writing Associates. “What made Dr. O’Donnell stand out,” said Fisher, “was a combination of his training, his expertise, and his vision for the Center.”
According to an email sent to the Trinity community, O’Donnell received his B.A. in English from Brigham Young University – Hawaii, his M.A. in English at California Polytechnic State University, and his Ph.D. in Composition and Rhetoric from Syracuse University. He specialized in composition pedagogy, writing program administration, and rhetorical theory. O’Donnell comes to Trinity from Mississippi State University, where he is an Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Writing Center. According to Fisher, “he built the Writing Center from the ground up and took it from 300 visits in its first semester to more than 3,000 visits during his later semesters as Director.” One of O’Donnell’s recommenders said he built the Writing Center at Mississippi State into “a visible, integral part of the University’s desire to improve writing across all disciplines and all levels.”
Fisher said O’Donnell is “eager to be at a liberal arts college because of the ability it will provide him to work closely with students and faculty colleagues across the disciplines.” She added “he will bring to the Writing Center his solid grounding from his work at Mississippi State as well as ideas for innovative programs and pedagogy that he can explore with the input and support of the Writing Center faculty,” which includes Principal Lecturers in the Allan K. Smith Center for Writing and Rhetoric Cynthia Butos, Irene Papoulis, and Robert Peltier.