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Faculty Spotlight: Melissa Pearson

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Dr. Melissa Pearson is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the English department in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. Here, she teaches first-year writing and advanced writing courses. When Dr. Pearson isn’t teaching, she leads a Racial Literacy Masterclass for the English department faculty. Her research revolves around community service and community service writing and she is excited to support students in sharing their own personal stories.  Dr. Pearson earned her PhD in rhetoric and composition from the University of South Carolina in 2010 and joined Northeastern in 2015. 

Most recently, Dr. Pearson spoke in one session of NU’s Racial Literacy Pop-up Series on culture. Through talks like this and in her classroom, she shares her passion for the importance of narrative in understanding one’s culture as part of racial literacy. Her goal in racial literacy is in helping students and colleagues to “to dig deeper beneath those surface ideas of culture.” 

Dr. Pearson shares her own personal narrative in order to engage with her students in the often uncomfortable reflection necessary for humanizing each other through antiracist thought and practice.  Together they create key “moments of peeling back the veneer of who we are and who we wish we were.” Since she teaches first year writing classes, Dr. Pearson’s courses may be among the first ones students take when entering NU, and she suspects that her courses may also be among the first students to take with a BIPOC instructor. It’s a challenge, because as a black woman teaching specifically about racial literacy, Dr. Pearson acknowledges that her very presence may be threatening to students depending on their experiences. But she’s a pragmatist, stating:

I send students notes ahead of time, let them know it’s a standard writing class…but then also say we’re doing it in the context of race and anti-racism. There’s a rationale to doing this, there’s evidence we need to expand our vocabulary on racism and racial justice.

Melissa Pearson

Dr. Pearson works alongside her students, sharing her own narrative during the class, mentioning “we need to lean into our discomfort to learn.” Students come to her with complex stories, stories that are personal and brave about their own cultures, stories that they’ve been wanting to tell their entire lives. Dr. Pearson plays the important role of teaching them how to tell their stories and how to grow in their thinking and practice from doing so.

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