Meet Ph.D. Adrienne Jankens

Meet Adrienne Jankens, a new assistant professor who will begin her tenure-track with the English Department this upcoming Fall. Though it will be her first year as an assistant professor, Jankens is already a familiar face around campus, having earned her Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition here at Wayne State in 2014 after joining the university as a lecturer in 2011. Professor Jankens knew she wanted to be a teacher from a young age. “I have a funny home video of me walking down the stairs Christmas morning,” she recalled. “I’m like six years old. My parents bought me a chalkboard, and I just light up. I think that was the moment, probably.” Though she had always had a passion for reading and writing, Jankens realized over time that she especially enjoyed helping others improve their writing. Since deciding to pursue English during her undergrad at Valparaiso University, she has gone on to teach composition at both the high school and college levels.

Professor Jankens’s research is largely concerned with the impact of communication, reflective writing, and classroom relationships on student learning. “My research is going to be geared toward understanding how, when students write and talk to their classmates about their processes and their research, they become more adept at making rhetorical decisions for different writing situations,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of value in understanding how the people that are closest to us--who read our work on a regular basis--are impacted by what we write, and not some sort of magical person that I’m just imagining might someday read what I have to say. So that’s what I’m interested in learning more about; how students are experiencing that.” From her experience teaching, Jankens has found that when reflective writing is used meaningfully in a classroom, it can act as a conversation between the students and the teacher and provide insight into what the students are experiencing.

Not surprisingly, her research findings have come to play an important role in how she structures the courses she teaches as Wayne. As an instructor, Professor Jankens incorporates ample speaking opportunities in her classes to help students develop their rhetorical agency. “They do several different kinds of presentations on their research and writing; anywhere from short little 30 second video reflections that I see, to multi-modal storytelling about their research experiences to their classmates that then give everybody an opportunity to learn from each other about different research strategies, ask questions, or offer suggestions about the research topic,” she said. “I think it’s super important because so much of our writing and research feels like it’s done in a very isolated tunnel, but that conversation around it is really where a lot of the stuff happens.” Jankens’s students also present their work at the Composition Learning Community Student Writing Showcase each semester. This, according to Jankens, is “an opportunity for them to start practicing talking about their research work and their experiences to a broader audience of faculty, university administrators, and other students who might take the class.”

Professor Jankens’s time outside of Wayne State is typically spent taking outdoor adventures with her four kids, kickboxing lessons, and trips to the ocean whenever possible. In the Fall, she will be teaching English 1020 online and English 6001, the practicum for new graduate instructors. “I’ve been working with training and mentoring new instructors since 2013 here,” she said. “But this is the first time that I get to teach the class, so I’m really excited.” When it comes to studying and teaching in the humanities, Professor Jankens stresses the importance of higher education beyond job training. “There’s so much work outside of the university that can’t always be boiled down to a science,” she said. “Not that we don’t need science, but I think that studying in the humanities helps give you a picture of how people experience different parts of life--the economy, elements of family, politics... It’s ways of understanding how we as humans work together.”


By Amelia Mazur