Jenna Vinson

Associate Professor of English, UMass Lowell


I approach teaching as an opportunity to guide students through a process of becoming critical thinkers and active participants in civic communication. My pedagogies are influenced by feminist practices of critical reflection and the transformation of thought into action. Whatever the course content, students in my classes are guaranteed an instructor who will provoke them to think critically about their lived experiences, who will challenge them to practice thoughtful public argumentation, and who will guide them through the writing process via workshops, activities, and constructive feedback on their drafts.

Courses Taught 

Visual Rhetoric

This upper-division undergraduate course introduces English majors to the theory and practice of visual rhetoric, with a special focus on how visual representations communicate culturally specific meanings about race, gender, class, sexuality, age, nationality, and difference. Students read theories from diverse fields including English studies, technical communication, women’s studies, cultural studies, and design in order to better understand the relationships between image and text. Assignments include analytical papers, design modules, contributions to a course blog, and a researched visual rhetorical project.

Writing about Women

This course prepares upper-division English and Gender Studies students to write about women with a critical understanding of how sexist oppression has limited women as writers, how cultural representations of women may perpetuate gendered stereotypes, and how women have used language to creatively challenge gendered norms and inequalities. Students practice critical reflection, textual analysis, and writing for target audiences beyond the classroom. In spring 2017, the course included a special focus on (re)writing women into history for an audience of Lowell High School students. See collaborative student blog here: 

The Rhetoric(s) of Social Movements: Writing for Social Change

This upper-division course explores the communication strategies used to build social movements and agitate for social change. Students read research from social movement studies, analyze primary documents from movements in the 1960s, hear from experienced activists, and engage in critical discussion of social movements happening today. Special attention is paid to the role journalists and other writers play in promoting or rejecting social change. Assignments include informal written responses, a rhetorical analysis paper, and a final project delivered to a strategic target audience. 

Theories of Rhetoric and Composition

This upper-division course introduces English majors to the history, theories, and discourse conventions of the field of rhetoric and composition. Students write analytical papers, facilitate class discussion, share research from the field, and write a final research paper on a topic of their choice.

Personal and Reflective Writing

This course focuses on personal writing genres, reflective writing practices, and the socio-political implications of making the personal public. Students write, workshop, and revise a series of essays based on their lived experiences while keeping track of their growth and setbacks as a writer by writing daily in a journal.

Introduction to Professional Writing

This gateway course, designed for UMass Lowell English majors who concentrate in Journalism and Professional Writing, introduces principles of journalism, technical writing, and business writing while consistently emphasizing the importance of theories of rhetoric and genre. All assignments call for students to write for public audiences beyond the classroom, including one service-learning project.

Principles of Technical Writing

In this upper-division course, students learn about the rhetorical strategies and communications technologies appropriate for technical writing situations. Students plan, create, and user-test projects such as technical documentations, resumes, proposals, reports, websites, and other genres as they work with local community non-profits on real technical writing needs.

Internship 1/ English Practicum

During this capstone course, advanced English majors are interviewed and placed at internships related to their career-goals. Classes offer support for the challenges of workplace communication. Students receive lessons and assignments focused on professional norms, strategies for networking, means of professional growth, and ways to market skills during a job search.

Advanced Composition

This upper-division, writing-intensive course focuses on how language shapes personal experience and community beliefs. Assignments include reflective portfolios, rhetorical analyses, creative non-fiction essays, public arguments, and blogs. In the past, students in this course participated in a student-based university writing contest I coordinated with other Advanced Composition instructors at the University of Arizona. We raised over $1,000 in teaching grants to support the “Moments (In)Form” contest and public reading event.

Critical Methods of Literary Inquiry

This discussion-based course introduces English majors to the key terms, practices, and critical theories used by literary scholars. Assignments include 3 analytical papers, homework exercises, and an annotated bibliography. 

Business Writing

Students in this course study workplace practices, business communications, and writing on behalf of  an organization through client-based projects and case studies. Assignments include memos, emails, job search materials, proposals, reports, and promotional documents.

Writing Center Internship Course

I collaborated with three instructors to team teach students to work at the writing center as a paid tutor. Assignments and readings emphasized non-hierarchical, collaborative, and student-initiated approaches to tutoring.

First-Year Composition I: Textual Analysis and Writing

This course focuses on close reading, textual analysis, reflection, and revision. Students examine issues of identity, social justice, and education while exchanging narratives about their college experiences with local high school students.

First-Year Composition II: Rhetoric Analysis and Research 

Assignments in this course emphasize classical rhetorical, visual-spatial, and gender analysis; research; public argument; reflection; and revision. Students examine community-based controversies and composed in multiple modes and genres.

Women and Western Culture 

This online course focuses on how gender is conceptualized, embodied, and resisted by women rhetors the classical Greek period to the present. Assignments include reading quizzes, discussion board posts, reflective papers, a rhetorical research  project, and a final essay exam.