In May 2021, Associate Professor Jennifer Ellis West moved to Birmingham, Alabama to teach at Samford in the English Department. West was hired to teach specialized writing classes for English majors, English minors and writing minors and to direct the Core Rhetoric and Seminar classes that are taught to all first-year students.
Before coming to Samford, West taught at Gordon College, Massachusetts. Wanting to move to the South to be closer to family, she taught at Georgia College for one year before moving with her husband and two daughters to Birmingham.
West reflected on her first year of teaching at Samford and said that after teaching at three different institutions over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as moving twice, the transition to teaching at Samford was challenging.
“I taught only first-year students in the fall who had had a really different experience of high school than any students I had ever taught before, so we were facing a number of challenges together,” West said.
Relationship-building, an aspect of teaching that is important to West, was made more difficult by the pandemic, but she said she learned a lot from these difficult experiences.
“It’s been so colored by the pandemic,” West said, “and so it’s lovely, as I look around my classroom now and see the faces of my students, to remember what I really love about teaching, which is relationships and building relationships with students myself, but also helping students to build relationships with one another through learning.”
West reflected on one of the primary reasons she had decided to make the transition from Georgia College to Samford University: her desire to once again be a part of faith-based higher learning. West said she loves seeing students sharpen “the way that they see the world through the lens of their faith.”
One of West’s favorite things about her first year of teaching at Samford has been the Writing about Women’s Health class that she taught this semester. After researching women’s health and the rhetoric surrounding it for over 15 years now, this is her first time getting to teach a class entirely focused on writing about that specific topic.
“It’s fun to work with writers around a common topic,” West said. “It’s like my favorite way to design a class, where we have this thing that we’re learning, but the class is not really about mastering that content; it’s about how do we make sense of this for ourselves and how do we use writing to do that.”
Over the course of the year, West has played an important role in sharpening the curriculum for the Core Rhetoric and Core Seminar classes required for all freshmen students. Teaching students across all majors, not just English majors, why writing is important in the world, is something that West is passionate about.
“We live in a moment where we are bombarded by writing practices and so I want all students to develop the facility to interpret the messages that they encounter and then to have the tools to speak back to them,” West said.
West is thankful for her first year and the lessons that she has learned, and she is looking forward to furthering her relationships with colleagues and students alike over her many more years at Samford.