Catherine Engstrom


Office:419 Ross
527 Farm House Ln.
Ames IA


Courses I am Teaching

English 150 (two sections for Ag Learning Communities)
English 250
English 417 (supervising student teachers in English, spring only)


M.A. Purdue University (English, emphasis in Rhetoric)
B.A. Iowa State University (English major, speech minor, secondary ed. teaching license)

Research Areas

I recently returned to academia, so I’m currently focused on how best to teach my classes.

About My Teaching

My career path often meanders. After graduating with an English major from ISU, I taught high school English, speech, and debate in my home state of South Dakota. Once I completed my MA from Purdue, my young family and I moved a lot for the first few years, so I taught in diverse college situations: four-year-universities, private colleges, community colleges, and off-site education (air force base, rural town, maximum security prison). Many of these jobs included tutoring in the writing center, so I love helping my current students in one-on-one conferences. After more than a decade of college teaching, I switched to the nonprofit world, most recently as communications director for a nonprofit conservation group. In 2011 I felt called to return to teaching. Because I learn so much from my students, I enjoy class containing diverse backgrounds, abilities, and world views. I take a practical “what do we need to accomplish?” approach to writing, so I tend to work well with engineers, ag students, and people with a mission.

How I came to Teach what I Teach

Since my parents ran a small-town weekly newspaper, I started writing at a young age, aced my high school English courses, and thought I knew it all. Imagine my horror when I got a C on my first ISU English paper (in an honors section of English 104, now called English 150). I finally worked up the courage to discuss the paper with my professor and learned more in those 15 minutes than I thought possible. I still regard my two freshman composition classes as among the most useful college courses I ever took. Meanwhile, that professor and many others in ISU’s English department, made time to talk whenever I stopped by their offices – giving me good advice about English and life in general. They made a positive difference in my life, so now I try to pay that forward with my own students.

Recent Publications (in previous job)

Editor of Landowners’ Options: Safeguarding Iowa’s Natural Resources for the Future, 6th edition, 2007. This 52-page booklet, written for Iowa landowners, describes the process, pros/cons, and financial/legal ramifications for several voluntary methods of permanent land protection. Published by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and also available on their website (

Editor of Iowa by Trail, 4th edition, 2001. Published by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. This booklet contains descriptions, maps, contact info, and amenity lists for dozens of multi-use (walking, biking, etc.) recreational trails in Iowa. This final print edition became the basis for INHF’s Iowa by Trail website, for which I oversaw updates through July 2011.

Current Research

Interested in improving students’ experience and outcomes when taking freshman composition or student teaching.

Outside of the University

I married a guy I met while we were both undergrads at ISU—and it’s still working out! Our daughter started college several years ago, so being a college parent added a rich new perspective to my teaching. Though I no longer work in the conservation field, I still support many conservation organizations and care deeply about those issues. When commuting to ISU or working around the house, I’m a huge fan of podcasts—particularly those featuring current events, American history, and science fiction.