New Assistant Professor: ‘Writing Transforms’


Amber Engelson cropDr. Amber Engelson gains a new perspective on the world with each new student writer she meets and works with. “That’s why I love teaching, and in particular, the teaching of writing,” she said.

An assistant professor of writing and rhetoric, who joined the faculty in MCLA’s Department of English/Communications this fall, Engelson comes from a family of storytellers. As such, she’s loved stories from a very young age, whether someone else told the story, or if she’s read or writes one herself.

As a young woman growing up in South Dakota, Engelson said she used books as an escape from what she viewed as “a rather mundane reality.” She explains, “They really did open my eyes to the broader world.”

Her expertise is in global literacies: she looks at the way that global language users engage with English writing to represent their diverse identities and motivations in what is increasingly a global academic conversation.

“In particular, I look at the ways that Indonesian writers negotiate between the linguistic imperialism implied by English and the opportunities English opens up for social change both locally and globally,” Engelson explained.

She knew right away that MCLA was the right fit for her.

“It reminded me of my undergraduate days at Occidental College [in Los Angeles], which also had a liberal arts focus and around 1,500 students, total,” Engelson said.

“My experience as an undergrad—where I knew everyone in the community and was invited to dinner at my professor’s houses—shaped who I am as an academic today and I wanted to get back to a small college where such connections were possible.”

After earning her Bachelor’s degree, Engelson lived in various places overseas, including the United Kingdom and Japan. As a graduate student at UMASS-Amherst, she also spent a year in Indonesia while she conducted her dissertation research. Upon the completion of her Ph.D., Engelson taught at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif. She comes to MCLA from the University of Denver-Golden.

In addition to joining MCLA’s English department, Engelson is the campus’s Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) specialist. During her campus visit, she was quite excited to find an already-vibrant conversation about WAC happening at the College.

“I met with 15 faculty members from across campus – not just in the English department – that were already talking about writing in nuanced and important ways,” she explained.  “I knew right then that I wanted to contribute to their conversations as the new WAC specialist here.”

Engelson finds her MCLA students to bebright, enthusiastic, and honest: “They’re ready to learn!”

The most important thing she hopes her students learn from her is that their voices matter, “And that writing is one way they may transform themselves from being a knowledge consumer to a knowledge producer.”

She added, “I tell my students on the first day of class that my goal for them is to leave our class loving at least one aspect of a text they produced.

“This can be anything from a big idea they came to when writing, to one sentence, to one word they’re proud of. Once you’ve learned to take pride in your language and your voice, you’ve become a writer.”