Instructor Spotlight: Finding Voice through Reflection and Imagination with Cornell Brellenthin

CATEGORIES: Foundation Courses
Cornell Brellenthin
Cornell Brellenthin

Cornell Brellenthin is an instructor teaching in the ISUComm Foundation Courses program, an active faculty member in the ISUComm mentorship program, and a creative writer exploring genres such as magical realism. While Brellenthin has been teaching for two decades now, she originally came to academia later in her career: she began work in the banking and publishing industries, until she pursued a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. During her time in the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s program, she taught classes on literary analysis and composition, discovering a joy for teaching alongside her own creative projects and curriculum. After graduating with her PhD, Brellenthin taught at Harvard University for 10 years before accepting an instructor position at the University of Maryland, where she taught international students in scientific and technological writing, discovering new interests beyond her creative writing background. While she enjoyed her time at universities on the East Coast of the United States, Brellenthin found herself reassessing her career when the COVID-19 pandemic hit; as most of her family resided in the Midwest, she made the decision to move to Iowa and accept an instructor position at Iowa State University in 2021. 

In the ISUComm Foundation Courses program, Brellenthin teaches ENGL 250. Central to Brellenthin’s pedagogy at Iowa State University, and across her entire career, has been an emphasis on student’s finding their “voice” through their writing, discovering how they can share perspectives and style through their rhetorical and compositional choices. When asked about her thoughts on AI, Brellenthin stated, “AI cannot ideate or imagine, so thankfully we still have an advantage as human beings,” and gestured toward the research project as an assignment where many of her students excelled through their ability and opportunity to interpret and conceptualize. One of the ways Brellenthin facilitates this development of “voice” in the research project is by allowing students to approach it as a creative nonfiction piece: this framing encourages student curiosity, but also asks them to think how their writing could be presented to a broader audience instead of only an academic one, challenging students to think beyond the confines of the ENGL 250 classroom. In the ENGL 250 classroom, Brellenthin also emphasizes how writing, and presentation of that writing, can create networking opportunities inside and outside the classroom. Through central practices of reflection in the course, Brellenthin has seen her students make broader connections through their writing as well, with some even changing their major or minor to better align with their interests. 

Beyond the ISUComm Foundation Courses program, Brellenthin enjoys participating in the term faculty mentorship program, where she finds that she learns just as much from her mentees through the process of guiding them in their development. Brellenthin is also a practicing creative writer, and works to find balance between professional work and the creative writing process. Brellenthin encourages writers (creative or otherwise) to think about priority in their projects, and to also establish routines and structures in order to make time for their projects.