Kathi Inman Berens

Kathi Inman Berens

Kathi Inman Berens, Senior Lecturer in the College’s Writing Program, teaches advanced writing to upperclassmen in arts and humanities, social sciences and pre-law. She received her Ph.D. in English from U.C. Berkeley, and her B.A. and M.A. degrees from Tufts University. Of her appointment as a CET Fellow, she said, “I am honored to be included in such august company. It’s a visionary move for the CET to recognize and reward the teaching accomplishments of USC’s non-tenure-track faculty.”

In 2003, Dr. Berens won the University’s General Education Teaching Excellence Award for Advanced Writing. In 2005, she was presented a Teaching Has No Boundaries Award for her work as a mentor. In 2006, she was awarded a TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) Incentive grant and is a participant in the Writing Program’s Technology Initiative, led by Dr. Geoffrey Middlebrook. In 2003, she won with Dr. Norah Ashe McNalley a $10,000 CET Fund for Innovative Undergraduate Teaching Award to create an interdisciplinary online journal produced entirely by USC undergraduates. The journal borne of this grant, AngeLingo (http://angelingo.usc.edu), is the first and thus far only online interdisciplinary undergraduate publication in the United States. Now in its fourth year, AngeLingo publishes high-level science pieces, creative writing, political analysis, and cultural observations. It features art and photography with a distinctly Los Angeles flavor. Its readership quadrupled in 2005 and doubled again in 2006.

Dr. Berens is energized by and committed to student-centered learning opportunities, which means creating multi-step and multimodal contexts in which students can learn from each other. This form of learning complements (but ought not to supplant) the “sage on the stage.” The Undergraduate Writers’ Conference, an annual event Dr. Berens created in 2004, aims to supply a bit of both. Undergraduates from Viterbi, Annenberg, Marshall, the College and Cinema-TV compete for writing prizes, and present excerpts from their work orally in academic colloquia. The conference culminates in a celebratory awards banquet featuring catered food and “sages” from industry. A president of an Oscar-winning movie production company, a principal partner at an entertainment law practice, a trial litigator, and an executive editor for an online trade journal: all of these disclosed how academic writing skills zoomed them up the corporate ladder.

Perhaps more so than their peers in professional schools, humanities students need guidance in translating their academic learning outcomes into skills that employers can recognize and value. Dr. Berens funnels the knowledge gleaned from extracurricular writing projects back into the classroom. How can humanities faculty preserve disciplinary specificity while preparing students for the digital marketplace? Dr. Berens’ goal this year as a CET Fellow is to begin answering that question as she helps AngeLingo launch into the LA blogosphere.