Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Will Banks
Dr. Will Banks is an associate professor of rhetoric and composition in the Department of English at East Carolina University. He holds a B.A. in Literary Studies from Georgia Southern University, an M.A. Literary Studies from Georgia Southern University, and a Ph.D. in English Studies from Illinois State University.
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Where are you from?
I am from Louisville, GA.
What brought you to ECU?
I chose ECU because of the type of students we have here. ECU students are often the first generation in their families to attend college, as well as coming from a working class background. Those are students that I prefer to work with because the academy has worked so hard to keep them out.
What is your field and how did you first become interested in it?
My field of research is in Rhetoric and Composition, specifically queer rhetorics. I was interested in Rhet-Comp because of my previous experience teaching for several years. I’ve had the chance to work with many students – teaching literature, language, and writing — but I realized that I enjoy working with struggling student writers more than struggling student readers. I enjoy helping students to see why writing is important and all the options that careful, rhetorically sophisticated prose provides to the writer. While I was teaching at Georgia Southern University, I had the chance to participate in an Invitational Summer Institute of the National Writing Project, which also influenced my research interests and further solidified my commitment to working with writers and helping them develop voice and agency.
What life experience prepared you for your role at ECU?
I am one of those students from a working class and rural background that research suggests tend not to go on to higher education, or to be successful once there. Higher education is filled with invisible rules and tacit values that work very hard to exclude working class students and students of color. I am the type of person that wants to help students with access because many students of a working class background (like myself) may miss out on great opportunities, so I want to pull back the curtain and make some of those invisible blockades visible. When they’re visible, we can work together to tear them down.
What recognitions and achievements are you most proud of and why?
One of my biggest accomplishments here at ECU has been raising combined internal/external funding of over 2.5 million dollars to support ECU students and eastern NC teachers. That level of grant funding is nearly unheard of in an English department and the humanities generally. While that took away from my book-writing time, it has meant that ECU finally has a real writing center, which helps over 3,000 students per year with their writing, and it means that area K-12 teachers have had free or low-cost access to graduate education focused on writing, which is usually absent or under-developed in their undergraduate education. Over 1 million of those dollars has gone to professionalize K-12 teachers in our area and help them become teacher-researchers in their own classrooms who present their research at national conferences.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Working with students. Period.
Describe one of the most rewarding courses you’ve taught in your time at ECU.
Summer Study Abroad in London! Taking ECU students, many of whom have never flown on a plane, to experience a new culture where they see themselves and their culture differently has been amazing. Students are able to study writing, literature, theatre, and culture in a new context, and also explore new places, where people of many cultures think differently from the ways we do in the United States. Also, being able to collaborate with Dr. Rick Taylor is always exciting! He has been the single most important professional mentor in my career, and his commitment to this program – and to keeping it affordable so that study abroad isn’t just for the rich kids – is so important.