First Year English Instructors


NameContact Bio 
Nancy Benson


office: LArts 201B

Writing is an act of discovery. In my classes you will engage in writing and reading projects using a multimedia approach to learning where videos, textbooks, online forums, popular magazines, and library databases are integrated into the curriculum. Students develop the ability to access and assess information they can then use to support their own assertions and points of view and to use technology creatively when sharing their writing projects with classmates.

Since revision is the key to good writing, projects require multiple drafts allowing for the re-thinking, shaping, and polishing that results in effective writing. I also encourage individual and small group conferences so I can give you extra support with your writing and reading.

My interest in teaching writing started when I was an undergraduate literature student tutoring other students in the Writing and Reading Center. This work led me to pursue a Master’s Degree in English with a concentration in Professional Writing and, later, a doctorate in Rhetoric and Composition. I am here to provide you with the support you need to become a successful writer and reader, and I look forward to working with you!

Eric Casero

Office: LARTS 216

Dr. Eric Casero received his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky, and his MA and BA from Temple University. He specializes in Composition Studies & Pedagogy, Cognitive Literary Theory, Contemporary American Literature, Modern British and American Literature.

Dr Casero teaches classes in First-Year English. His research focuses on representations of consciousness in novels, particularly in recent, "late postmodern" American fiction. He is especially interested in how novels portray the relationship between the mind and the physical world. His work has appeared in the Southern Literary Journal.

Eli Evans

Office: LArts 216

Eli Evans holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, and an MA in Theory and Criticism from the ArtCenter College of Design. He has taught writing, literature, and literary theory in both English and Spanish and at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at various institutions, among them UC Santa Barbara, the University of Northern Iowa, and Tufts University. Outside the classroom, he has been a frequent contributor to magazines and journals such as N+1, The American Reader, and Quimera, has had work anthologized in books including MFA VS. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction and the forthcoming Madrid: Cartographies of a Capital, and has translated for publication in English work by Juan José Millás and Jaime Rodríguez Zavaleta. His most recent scholarly project, an extensive history of the precarious rise of the "post-neoliberal" Spanish political party Podemos, will be published this fall in Field Day Review.

Meghan Fair


office: LArts 216


Meghan Fair returns to the English Department at UMass Dartmouth as a Full-time Lecturer after completing her doctoral coursework in Literary Studies and Culture at the University of Rhode Island. Meghan’s teaching practices explore how the college English classroom models a discourse community of engagement and inquiry, and invites students to come with questions rather than answers so as to develop an awareness of what they/we don't already know. Her graduate work centered on late-Victorian studies, British Modernism, pyschoanalysis, and representations of gossip in the Twentieth-Century British and American novel. She completed her Masters in Literature and Writing at the University of Massachusetts Boston and her undergraduate degree at Skidmore College (NY).

Jennifer Fallas

office: LArts 201 B

Dr. Fallas strongly believes that writing requires bravery and tenacity and that it demands that we take risks and explore.  In this class, students can expect a relaxed teaching style while simultaneously being pushed outside of their comfort zones. Within assignment parameters, students are encouraged to explore topics of interest to them so that they may look critically at the world and be self-reflective about themselves within it.  At the same time, small group collaboration and presentations helps us to refine, re-imagine, revise, rewrite, and piece our written selves together.  Alongside on-campus writing and researching resources, Dr. Fallas’s class will meet students at their current levels and help them to achieve their bests.  Dr. Fallas received her PhD in 2011 and her research background is in online digital writing spaces and forms and self-representation.
Susan Hagan

Office: LArts 201B

Learning to adapt to different writing situations is at the core of all the classes I teach. Students can expect to strengthen their voices, develop original ideas, and work on finding compelling support to persuade a specific audience. We freewrite in class to revise, brainstorm, develop ideas, and prepare for discussions. Small group work is integral to all classes—you will be placed in a group of 4-5 students with different skills to support each other. You will workshop in your groups, discuss and then report to the whole class, and learn to love the support your group will provide. Writing is more than a way to prove what you know: writing is a means of discovery. I will help you to learn as you research and find new insights as you write and revise! Expect to be challenged, expect to have fun (at times), and expect to leave the class with confidence in your writing—no matter how you feel at the start.

Will Higgins 

Office: LArts 201B

After graduation from Rutgers University, a stint on Wall Street, and several years as a music teacher, Will Higgins returned to graduate school at the College of New Jersey where he earned his Masters in Teaching. Students in his First Year English classes will learn to evaluate and sort through the vast sea of information available today as well as learn to form coherent and viable arguments. Plan to think out of the box as you discuss and analyze compelling readings supplemented with current multimedia materials. Combine this with his engaging writing instruction, and your First Year English experience will be memorable. You will work with your peers to critique and edit your rough drafts and collaborate with classmates as you improve your writing and communication skills. Will has been teaching at UMass Dartmouth for over ten years and also teaches English at Dartmouth High School.

Jenny Howe


Office: LArts 216

Professor Howe believes strongly in writing’s social value and so views writing as a collaborative effort between writers and readers. For this reason, her classes are both active and interactive. You can expect to write often, and in a variety rhetorical styles, in order to practice developing ideas and revising your work. You can also expect to talk often, and to read often, and, through class discussion and group activities, to see the close relationship between writing, reading, and critical thinking. Peer workshops are a central part of her class. By sharing your writing at every stage, you will learn to consider reader response to your work and to incorporate feedback into your writing, while also responding as a reader to the work of others. Approaching writing as a form of conversation or communication, she hopes, will allow you to develop strategies and skills that you can apply to any writing task. She also hopes that you will leave her class understanding writing’s importance as a communication tool to both your personal and professional life.

Professor Howe holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Tufts University and has worked for many years as both a writing teacher and a writing tutor.

Alison Klein


Office: LArts 216


Alison Klein is a Fulltime Lecturer in the English Department. She earned her Ph.D. in English literature from the CUNY Graduate Center, specializing in postcolonial literature. Prior to coming to UMass Dartmouth, she taught literature and writing at American University, Georgetown University, and the City College of New York. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from The City College of New York. Her work on postcolonial literature has been published in the anthology Indo-Caribbean Feminisms and the journals Anthurium, The Journal of Commonwealth Literatures and Exit 9.


Jaqueline O'Dell


Office: LArts 216


Professor O’Dell holds a Ph.D. in English Literature, with a focus on how contemporary American fiction and its readers have adapted to a changing media landscape. The novels and authors she studies know that they must fight for continued relevance, and she, too, is ready to convince you why the study of writing and fiction deserve your attention and enthusiasm.

Chris Peter

Office: LArts 201B

I have worked as a technical writer, technical editor, grant-writer, and corporate trainer.

As a writing instructor one of the things I most enjoy is sharing my experiences as a professional writer with my students. My hope is that when I share stories of the writing life, students gain a better understanding of the challenges and rewards of writing. Besides meeting course curriculum and course milestones, my goals are to encourage students to strengthen their rhetorical skills and their writer's voice. I am committed to the idea that these skills are invaluable tools for success in college and in life.

John Pietruszka


Office: LArts 201B

With degrees from Bridgewater State University and Boston College, I have spent my entire career teaching English. In that capacity I have gained experience at all grade and ability levels, from middle school to adult education.  For decades, I also chaired the English Department of B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River, retiring in 2004. Thereafter, I joined the faculty of UMass Dartmouth as a part-time instructor in the FYE program.

My efforts in ENL 101 and102 are directed at preparing my students for success in the class as well as their respective majors. To that end, I engage my classes in workshops to brainstorm writing and research issues, and I insist that one draft is not sufficient, but that peer review and revisions are critical components of the writing process. The only student failures I have experienced over the years were those who gave up on themselves and me by not attending class.

Critical reading of selections in a multitude of genres, especially for the writing situation that prompted each document, is central to our study. As students learn to analyze the purpose, audience, context and genre of the selections they read, they also begin to transfer those skills to an analysis of their own writing situations. Finally, I encourage and welcome students to visit me in conference to receive the one-on-one instruction that sometimes is difficult in a large group setting.

Susan Savaria

Office: Library 2nd floor (Journal Section)

 Susan Savaria earned her MA in Professional Writing from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and has been teaching since 2001. Her passion for the subject and her commitment to her students are the things she is most noted for. She uses visual, aural, and tactile methods in her classroom to better engage her students and ensure understanding of the material. Her lessons are creative as she strives to design a curriculum relevant for students of all majors with differing interests. You will read. You will write. You will revise. You will learn how to produce collaborative and individual work that you can be proud of. It is her sincerest hope that you walk away from her class stretched and challenged by the course work and surprised by the fact that you actually enjoyed yourself along the way.  However, her main objective is that the skills acquired in her classroom transfer to other facets of your personal and academic lives. And, if you can walk away uttering “I had way more fun in this English class than I ever thought I would,” then she has done well by her own standards and by her students.
Zak Sitter


Office: LArts 216


Zak Sitter has taught writing and literature for more than a decade, in places ranging from Providence, RI to Sulaimani, Iraq. He received a BA in Literature from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in English from Brown University. His teaching and research interests include global English, language ecologies, dialect poetry, and prison education.  


Diane Sousa

Office: LArts 201 B


My First Year English classes are geared toward helping students build upon their existing knowledge and skills. Students develop writing strategies that allow them to approach different writing situations with flexibility and confidence. I believe that critical reading and thinking are integral to writing well. Mastering these skills is important not only for academic life, but also in the professional and personal realms. My classes emphasize this reading/writing/thinking connection by analyzing and discussing a variety of texts, focusing on how different authors dialogue with each other and how students can become “informed and engaged” contributors to those written conversations. In addition to these joint readings, classwork includes small-group work, which allows students to work together, exploring important skills and concepts; peer-review and conferencing, which provide a supportive and encouraging environment in which students hone and polish their writing; drafting and rewriting, which offer students the opportunity to consider their writing choices and to thoughtfully craft their compositions to convey their own opinions and perspectives.

A love of reading and an appreciation of the power of language and writing led to my MA in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara and informs my approach to teaching.

Alexis Teagarden

Office: LArts 339

Making responsible and compelling arguments is, I believe, central to our public and professional lives. So I design my First Year English courses to help students see how class skills apply to both semester assignments and future work. And I craft classwork so it practices those skills in meaningful, interesting ways. This leads to three specific characteristics of my class: reading variety, small-group work, and required drafts and conferences. In other words students in my classes read (and hear and watch) arguments from many genres. Furthermore, to help students test their ideas against real audiences, I often set up group work in class and via myCourses. Lastly—because good writing requires practice—when working on a major essay, students will compose a first draft, workshop it with peers and in conference with me, rewrite a final draft, and also chart and explain revision choices.

As well as teaching in FYE I direct the program. I hold a Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University and a Masters in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University. My undergraduate work was in English and Government at Georgetown University. 

Suzanne Wimberly

Effice: LArts 201 B

     Suzanne Wimberly earned her B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2003 and her M.A. in Medieval Studies with a concentration in English Literature and Language from the University of Connecticut Storrs in 2005. She has been teaching a range of first-year and upper-level composition and literature courses at the University and community college levels for twelve years.


     Suzanne is passionate and enthusiastic about English and learning. She is a firm believer that reading, writing, and research can be fun and enjoyable for any student and that the best writing happens when there is passion for the subject matter. Suzanne requires her students to write about topics that interest them with open-ended calls for papers that encourage critical and creative thought. Students are encouraged not to merely incorporate source material for its own sake, but to interact with that research as they take part in the complexities of the conversation. Whether scholarly article or ancient poem, Suzanne does not present texts in a vacuum but rather in the context of the biographical, geographic, and socio-cultural origins that may inform them. Her assignments are designed to encourage verbal and written modal aptitude and encourage insightful critical analysis. These multi-faceted, interdisciplinary prompts prepare students for success in future courses as writers, novice scholars, and problem solvers and confidently position themselves in academic discourse with genuine contributions. While students benefit from peer comments in editing workshops, Suzanne provides feedback on all drafts to help students build skills in thesis development, voice, tone, style, language, form, audience, structure, and meaningful integration of research. Because writing improves as one writes, Suzanne welcomes revisions of graded final drafts for consideration of a higher grade. Conferencing and advising are at the core of her continual support system in which student progress is gauged, rapport is reaffirmed, and challenges particular to each student can be addressed.

Course instruction includes multi-disciplinary approaches and creative learning content that compliment diverse learning styles, including analysis and interpretation of supplementary texts in conjunction with assigned texts; individual and group discussions; individual and group writing exercises with a purpose of familiarizing students with genres and strengthening the academic application of critical skills; occasional lecture, and the use of information technology.  Suzanne encourages learning moments where ideas are respectfully exchanged and considered, adapted and disputed. Students become engaged as they analyze, respond to, and appreciate a wide range of pieces, from exemplars of a genre to published and peer drafts in need of revision and editing.

Suzanne feels that teaching is her calling and is honored and excited to be a part of each student’s educational journey.

 Yuan Zhang


Dr. Yuan Zhang received her PhD in English Studies with concentration in linguistics from Illinois State University. Her major areas of interest are politeness studies, L2 pragmatics, conversation analysis of intercultural communication, and second language writing. Prior to UMD, she taught intensive English and first-year ESL writing courses at Southern New Hampshire University and Miami University. In her class, Yuan encourages students to bring questions and share ideas, and helps them to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills through reading and writing. Besides writing, she is also interested in teaching general linguistics, sociolinguistics, and politeness research courses.