Faculty Profile: Cindy O’Donnell-Allen

Associate Professor Cindy O’Donnell-Allen teaches courses in literacy, composition, pedagogy, and adolescents’ literature. Her research explores the ways in which discursive practices serve as tools for collaborative knowledge construction in learning communities. She has published articles and chapters on adolescents’ literary meaning construction in multimedia interpretive texts; the influence of nested contexts on students’ engagement with literature; the relationships among gender, language, and power in school; and the role of relational frameworks in collaborative learning.

Her current research projects include a three-year longitudinal study on the development of a teacher research group into a discourse community and a study of the ways preservice English teachers voluntarily access and construct narratives in the process of learning to teach.

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Faculty Profile: Cindy O’Donnell-Allen
~by Brianna Wilkins

What brought you to CSU?

I had just finished up my PH.D at the University of Oklahoma, and so I applied to several places and had several interviews. When I came here it was actually the most comfortable that I felt in an interview; it was weird because I didn’t get nervous. The people here made me feel so welcomed and I felt like the philosophies I had for teaching really paralleled well with LouAnn Reid’s. She was the only other person in English Education at the time that I came here in 1999, and we just clicked right away. I was pleased to think of the prospect that I might be able to get to work with her on an everyday places. Also this program has a good reputation, and I got to meet students, and all those things made me feel like this was a place that I could be happy.

What advice would you give to a CSU English major?

I would encourage them to take advantage of the incredible expertise that we have in our department. I think it’s easy when you’re a student to just think of the professor as the person who’s making your assignments, requiring you to read things, and grading your papers. But I never cease to be amazed by the national reputation that our professors have in their respective fields. So by figuring out some way to learn who they (professors) are outside of the classroom and professionally, and to engage in conversations with them would be a tremendous asset to student’s experiences while here.

What’s a special project that you’re working on right now?

I am working on a book with Professor Garcia, and it’s developing a theory that we’re working on for teachers; teachers and teacher educators will be the primary audience. We have this theory that you never quite arrive as a teacher, and that you should always be challenging yourself to try something new. We want to write a book that articulates that idea in a way that is also meaningful to students who are studying to be teachers, and for people who are early in their careers. This book has a mixture of critical theory and practical pedagogies, and we decided to write it about a year ago when we figured out that we could not find a book to assign our students that we believed was doing both of those things. So when you can’t find a book that you want students to read, then it means that you should write one for them.

What do you like to do on your free time?

I like to watch basketball, play the piano and cook; I really love to cook. I like to hang out with my family and dog too.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I actually said, “I do not know what I will be in my life, but I will not be a teacher;” I made that proclamation. My parents were teachers, and I just was confident that I wasn’t going to teach, but when I look back I just knew that I loved to create. Whether it was creating music at the piano or writing, I knew it would have to be related to creating something, so that’s why I believe I ended up teaching.

What is your favorite genre of writing?

This really isn’t a genre, but I really love poetry. The first thing that I can remember writing is a poem. I was in the second grade, and there was a boy who had a physical disability. People wouldn’t play with him very often, so I wrote a poem for him and gave it to him on the playground. At a young age I realized that poetry was a way to connect to something deeper, and I’ve always related to it.

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