Blaine Smith

Assistant Professor of Language and Literacy Learning in Multilingual Settings

School of Education and Human Development, University of Miami

M.A. English Education, 2008


How did your major prepare you for the job, the life you have now?

As an Assistant Professor at the University of Miami, my research focuses on the digital literacy practices of culturally and linguistically diverse adolescents. A main goal of my work is to develop instructional scaffolding that supports teachers with integrating technology in their classrooms. I also teach undergraduate and graduate courses focused on literacy studies and teaching English in secondary contexts.

The Master’s in English Education at CSU was excellent preparation for me to pursue a Ph.D. and become an Assistant Professor. Through the program, I gained a solid foundation of relevant theory and research in literacy studies and an understanding of English Education pedagogy for diverse learners. The program helped me to develop as a communicator, analytical thinker, and academic writer. In addition, my experience teaching College Composition for two years through a graduate assistantship prepared me for the teaching I do now.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)?

So far, I consider earning a Ph.D. in Language, Literacy, and Culture from Vanderbilt University in 2014 an accomplishment because it required a lot of work and time—but I loved doing it!

A more recent accomplishment for me was being awarded a National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship. This opportunity will allow for me to focus on a research project this year that takes place in a 10th grade English class in Miami. My study will examine how culturally and linguistically diverse students analyze literature through multiple modes (e.g., visuals, sound, text, and movement), and how the analytical skills they develop in their digital projects transfer to their academic writing. For example, students reading a novel, poetry, or non-fiction will create hypertexts that analyze important passages through digital links and related media. Multimodal projects like these (e.g., digital videos and soundscapes) will require students to comprehend complex texts, while hopefully also promoting creativity and engagement.

Why did you choose to study here? What did you like about the English program?

I’m from Bellvue (just outside of Fort Collins), and I really enjoyed my experience earning a B.A. in Technical Journalism at CSU. After I graduated, I worked in public relations for a while and realized that I wanted to pursue a Master’s in English Education and earn a teaching certificate. It was an easy choice for me to return to CSU and Fort Collins.

There is so much I liked about the English program! The faculty is excellent, and I found my classes to be challenging, interesting, and relevant. The entire department has a welcoming and collegial feel. There is also a supportive community among the graduate students.

Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you when you were at CSU in the English Department?

There are so many wonderful professors in the English department who made a lasting impression on me. I am particularly grateful for the mentorship I received from Dr. Louann Reid and Dr. Pam Coke, who cultivated my interests early on and supported me in pursuing a doctorate. Through their classes, I was introduced to the area of digital literacies and given the freedom to explore topics that piqued my interest. They both spent time to really help me strengthen my writing. I often still recall their advice when I write today. Pam and Louann were also instrumental during my Ph.D. application process—they helped me develop my application materials and networked for me. They’ve had a huge impact on my career.

What would you like to tell prospective CSU English Department students?

There are so many avenues you can pursue with an English degree—from teaching English in different contexts, to literacy research, and creative writing (just to name a few!). In addition, English majors are well rounded and learn many valuable communication and analytical skills that transfer across all fields.

What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?

My advice for current CSU English graduate students is just to soak in the experience being surrounded by such smart, passionate, and creative faculty and peers. It’s also important to find time to relax and have fun during the program because I think having a balance in life makes you ultimately more productive.

If you think you might want to pursue a doctorate, this is a great time to explore different topics and gain valuable teaching experience. Don’t let the time or work it takes be a deterrent—go for it if that’s your goal!

What was the last piece of writing you read or wrote?

Since I’m working towards earning tenure, I am writing all of the time. I’ve recently published some research articles focused on multimodal composition in Computers & Education, Bilingual Research Journal, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, and Learning, Media, and Technology.

What are your hobbies or special interests, what do you enjoy doing with your free time

Miami is a fun city to explore. My husband and I love trying out new restaurants down here, going to concerts, and enjoying the beaches. While getting out and exploring new places is great, we often indulge in our guilty pleasure of marathoning shows too.