Brooke Rollins, an assistant professor of English, is new to Lehigh this semester. (Elizabeth Haller/ B&W Staff)

New english professor settles in for first semester at Lehigh


Judging by her office, students might assume Brooke Rollins has been at Lehigh forever.

The new assistant English professor knows just the right way to make herself feel at home. Her office is small, but it is warm and inviting. The windows are slightly open, giving the sun room to stream through. Bookshelves are filled. And most importantly, a picture of her young son Cooper is present.

Having moved several times to different states, Rollins has gotten used to the system of settling into a new place. Born and raised in central Pennsylvania, Rollins traveled down south to Columbia, South Carolina, to pursue her master’s and doctorate degrees in English at the University of South Carolina. When her requirements for her doctorate were completed, she moved again. She started working at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and that is where she stayed for seven years.

“In some ways, this is coming home to me,” Rollins said. “I grew up in central Pennsylvania, (so) I lived in Pennsylvania for my whole life until I went to graduate school.”

Rollins knew that her career would involve writing because that is what she loves. She thrived on the studies involving the humanities such as reading, writing and art. That is the main reason she decided to pursue English as her major with a minor in journalism.

While Rollins was in graduate school, she started working with the writing teachers and helping out with their writing program. The writing program entailed classroom activities being discussed and reconstructed providing students with new ways of learning material that would make them better writers overall. That is where she found her passion for teaching and being able to contribute to undergraduate learning.

Rollins wants to introduce her students to a world of being able to learn how to speak and write better. She wants to provide a supportive environment that concentrates on having students find their strengths and being able to build on them.

“We use language to change things,” Rollins said. “I feel like language is the most powerful thing that we have in terms of what we come to believe and what we know.”

Moving back to Pennsylvania provided Rollins with a new job in a field that she has always been interested in, and a new chapter in her life was opened. The one major influence in Lehigh’s English department that persuaded her to apply for the position was the department’s focus on literature and social justice.

“My work was a better fit here than it did at LSU,” Rollins said. “I feel so lucky to be here. It seems like a great institution.”

In addition to her regular teaching duties here at Lehigh, she will also be helping out with the first-year writing program. The program, which is a requirement for all first-year students to take, provides students ways to improve their writing by incorporating critical thinking, and provides evaluation on that student’s writing.

“Professor Rollins offers help when needed, and is open to new ideas she has not heard before,” first-year student Adam Corwin said about Rollin’s teaching.

She will also be helping out by training the graduate school students who usually teach the first-year writing courses and examining the teaching responsibilities for the graduate students, English department chair Scott Paul Gordon said in an email.

By being able to help the graduate students, Rollins knows that the first-year writing program will only improve. She teaches a graduate level course called “Issues and the Teaching of Writing,” which gives students the background information on the history of writing.

“Professor Rollins’ style (of teaching) for me is something that I aspire to,” said Joanna Grim, a graduate student in the English department. “She makes me feel very comfortable. (She) is able to lecture authoritatively and give interesting analysis of (the) information.”

The major differences Rollins noted in Lehigh’s English program versus LSU’s English program was the size. The English department at LSU is significantly bigger than here at Lehigh. Rollins said the negative aspect to this is that some of the faculty does not get to meet students in their first year and be able to see them progress all through their senior year.

At LSU Rollins was not able to teach first-year students, which disappointed her. She wanted to try and get to know her students at the beginning of their college careers and offer her help if the students needed anything.

“I think at a liberal arts university like Lehigh, we can help students get an education that is tailored to their needs and interests,” Rollins said. “It’s more student-centered.”

The course of study in English that Rollins decided to take happened when she was between her master’s and doctorate. With all the English courses that she had taken, the most valuable piece of information she gained was what a powerful tool writing could be. She decided that rhetoric and composition studies were the best fit.

“What I liked (best) across all of those courses was the way writing helped me,” Rollins said. “It helped me learn the issues.”

Rollins said that having good writing values such as drafting and being able to think of writing, as a process is the key to becoming a successful writer. Writing should be an open type of the student’s informal thoughts. It should be a time of discovering what works and what does not. The students should also have a supportive environment.

“To become a good writer you have to write,” Rollins said. “You have to write often, and get feedback on that writing, and keep coming back to it.”

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