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Designing Her Career

Martha Webber Went From Fashion Design to Teaching English

Feb. 21, 2014

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Martha Webber

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Martha Webber, assistant professor of English, comparative literature and linguistics, started college earning a degree in fashion design, but soon learned she wanted to do more.

"I found myself at any spare moment, reading at work, and knew I wasn't finished with learning," said Webber, who joined Cal State Fullerton in the fall after earning a doctorate in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"When I went back to school, I had some really great instructors," Webber said, adding that she hopes that she has the same impact on her students. "My passion to teach writing that reaches a broad range of communities, both on- and off-campus, has helped me develop a number of classes that focus on writing for first-year students, advanced non-majors, undergraduate majors and master's students."

Webber's research areas include community-based and service learning, organizational rhetoric and writing, global Englishes and postcolonial sites of English language use. Her doctorate dissertation was based on work that she did in South Africa.

The educator teaches "Advanced Writing in English Studies," where students are introduced to creative writing, literary studies and writing studies. The final project requires students to research and propose a community engagement opportunity for undergraduate English majors and minors. In future sections of the course, Webber plans to select one or more of the student proposals to create a community engagement project for students that will reveal the value of their major and its connection to communities outside the classroom.

"I love teaching the class. I get to see how they see the subject of writing, and I see the value of community engagement through their sharing of ideas," she explained. "The students are excited about the project, and I've gotten so excited seeing how they do that it has inspired me to conduct research on service learning and community engagement as it connects to English."

Webber is looking forward to next fall when she will be participating with Rebecca Dolhinow, chair and associate professor of women and gender studies, and Larry Howard, assistant professor of economics, in a learning community, "Nonprofit Futures," that will introduce sophomores to the role of nonprofit organizations through interdisciplinary course work and an internship experience in their junior year.

She also is collaborating with the Office of Housing and Residence Life and the Volunteer and Service Center to develop an alternative spring break — a first for the campus. "Instead of partying during the break, students research an issue and then apply it directly," she explained. "It's an opportunity to apply what they have been learning outside the classroom."

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