Deirdre Vinyard

Deirdre Vinyard

Associate Teaching Professor

B.A. Intercutlural Studies, Bard College at Simon’s Rock
M.A. Linguistics (TESL Specialization), University of Iowa
Ph.D. English (Composition and Rhetoric), University of Nevada, Reno

Email: dvinyard@uw.edu


As a teacher of writing, I recognize the central place that writing holds in higher education (and increasingly in our civic lives). Writing is the core of what we do, in every field and at every level, from first year composition to the senior thesis and then beyond into the workplace. Writing is not just a way for students to relay information they have learned in class; it is the means by which students come to understand and help to create the knowledge they are acquiring. With this understanding, I strive to make my classroom a place where students gain the rhetorical skills and the confidence to write themselves at the university and in their civic lives—to see writing as a way of creating a self in the world.

This creation of self, of identity, in a writing classroom is not a simple task, as students do not enter our classrooms with one-dimensional linguistic selves. Students bring with them complex writing and language histories. Part of my job, as I understand it, is to help my students see the power of the languages they bring to the classroom so that they can begin to employ them in their academic and civic work. In many school environments, students learn that they must aspire to a standard language in favor of languages from home or community. A part of this message, one that is echoed nationally in political discussions of language, is that, at least for some students, the linguistic self that they bring to the classroom is in some ways deficient. This view is one I help my students push against in the writing classroom.

The focus of my classes, then, is to integrate a focus on language — using it and understanding it— into writing as a way of furthering an awareness of changing identities and as a way of making meaning and creating change in the academic world and beyond. I strive to make my classrooms collaborative spaces, where student voices dominate and inform our work. Writing skill is developed through reading, writing, rewriting and discussing our writing with each other. When students bring a diversity of language and writing backgrounds into the classroom, these discussions are rich, productive, and exciting.


My central research focus is a multi-institutional study titled, “The Language Repertoires of First-Year Writers: A Cross-Institutional Study of Multilingual Writers.” This study strives to sketch detailed pictures of the language backgrounds of first–year students at three institutions. This picture will aid us in creating curricula and services for these increasingly diverse populations. My writing thus far on this study focuses on the use of first language in the composing processes of multilingual writers in their academic writing.

A secondary research/writing focus is on the creation of linked courses for first-year students. I am currently working on an article on linking writing and art history at the Foundation level for art, design and media students.