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Word power

A photo of Ellen Cushman

Ellen Cushman, the inaugural director of Civic Sus­tain­ability, Diver­sity, and Inclu­sion Ini­tia­tives in the college, studies literacy in tribal and urban communities. She joins the English department and Dean's Office this fall from Michigan State University.

Ellen Cushman is the per­fect scholar to hold the pres­ti­gious title—a public intel­lec­tual incom­pa­rably suited to be the inau­gural director of Civic Sus­tain­ability, Diver­sity, and Inclu­sion Ini­tia­tives in the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties.

Over the past two decades,” Cushman says, “I’ve been thinking, writing, and teaching about the strengths of diverse learners in class­rooms and com­mu­ni­ties as well as the prob­lems they face.”

Her research cen­ters on lit­eracy in tribal and urban com­mu­ni­ties, with a par­tic­ular focus on exploring language’s role in the everyday struggle for dig­nity, respect, and change.

As a Cherokee Nation cit­izen, her work is informed by the tribe’s ethic of reci­procity. “We have a social respon­si­bility to each other,” she says, “an oblig­a­tion to the people with whom we make knowledge.”

Cushman comes to North­eastern from Michigan State Uni­ver­sity, where she served as the director of the Center for Applied Inclu­sive Teaching and Learning in the Arts and Humanities.

North­eastern stu­dents are incred­ibly self-​​directed learners. They are keen to develop projects based on their edu­ca­tion and expe­ri­ences, which aligns with the college’s effort to expand its focus on the expe­ri­en­tial lib­eral arts.”
— Ellen Cushman

She is the author of The Cherokee Syl­labary: Writing the People’s Per­se­ver­ance, an award-​​winning book exploring the evo­lu­tion of the Cherokee writing system, and the co-​​editor of Research in the Teaching of Eng­lish, an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary journal focused on the study of lit­eracy in the edu­ca­tion setting.

The quar­terly pub­li­ca­tion is now housed in the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties, where Cushman holds appoint­ments as a pro­fessor of Eng­lish and the Dean’s Pro­fessor of Civic Sustainability.

In the coming months, she will work closely with the North­eastern com­mu­nity, reaching out to stu­dents and fac­ulty alike to develop robust teaching and learning partnerships.

Northeastern’s long his­tory of schol­ar­ship dove­tails with my ethics as a scholar,” says Cushman, who will teach a course in writing and com­mu­nity engage­ment this spring. “The uni­ver­sity has a his­tory of civic engage­ment and for­ward thinking.”

-By Jason Kornwitz

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