Meet the Faculty Advisory Editor: Sarah Singer

2021-04-06

Sarah Singer (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Central Florida as well as one of the many Faculty Advisory Editors that worked with undergraduate researchers for Volume 18 of Young Scholars in Writing. Singer advised Samantha Rae, author of “Tales in Language, Confidence, and Learning Environments: Exploring Students’ Mental Health Through Literacy Narratives.” Samantha’s research focused on mental health rhetoric, which is part of the larger field of RHM- rhetoric of health and medicine. Singer has published several articles within this field, which are about Lyme disease, diabetes, and health and medical-related research and how it can intersect with English Studies. Because they were both interested in the field, Singer had a great time working with the “brilliant and fantastic” Rae. 

Part of Singer’s great appraisal of Rae comes from the interesting perspective she took when conducting her research. “Many people look at the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives to better understand people’s literacy learning experiences, but Sam looked at DALN to see how mental health issues and rhetorics intersected with those experiences,” Singer noted. This unique perspective shows one of many possibilities for conducting research using DALN.

“I have a lot of experience working with narratives,” Singer noted. She continued, “Sam’s article focuses on literacy narratives, and much of my research focuses on illness narratives or stories about diagnosis, treatment, coping, and living with a chronic health condition or disability. Working with Sam prompted me to learn a lot more about mental health rhetoric. The new journal, Rhetoric of Health and Medicine, had a number of articles that were useful for learning about this subfield.” 

Singer is the author of “Beyond the Domestic Sphere: Home Economics and the Education of Women at Maryland State College, 1916–94” published in Volume 10 of YSW, which was very exciting as it was her first time publishing her work. Singer, as an undergraduate, had a positive experience working with her Faculty Advisory Editor, Paige Banaji. She noted, “Dr. Banaji sent me lengthy written feedback every two weeks, and I appreciated that she took my research so seriously. I used my YSW article as my writing sample for graduate school, and knowing that I’d worked so closely with Dr. Banaji on it made me feel confident. Through that experience, I learned a lot about giving and receiving feedback, asking questions, and writing clear prose.” So it was no surprise that when Editor Jane Greer offered Singer an FAE position, she “couldn’t say no.” 

Singer explained, “Dr. Greer was the first person who made me feel like I was a ‘real’ scholar outside of my faculty mentors at University of Maryland. After I published in YSW, she sent me a very encouraging email that explained that my research was valuable and advanced the field of feminist rhetorical historiography. At the time, I was graduating from the University of Maryland and had just committed to the Ph.D. program at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Greer’s email boosted my confidence so much. I saved her email and looked at it regularly during my first few years of graduate school, especially during moments when I wasn’t feeling as confident.” She inspired Singer, who said “I love working with undergraduate researchers because it makes me feel like I can invite people into the realm of scholarly research, which can feel very exclusive. I aim to open potential doors for them, or show them how to open them.”

One challenge that Singer and Sam faced during their editing process was scope. “Sam had a lot of potential things to investigate, and many potential narratives. We worked together to fit her project to a (necessarily) limited scope. Research can take you in many different directions, and quickly become a book length project. We needed to pick something that could be studied in the scope of an article.” The overall experience was enjoyable, though, as both parties got to interact with people from different universities, and “see the awesome work they're doing, in a way that isn’t connected to grade.” Singer also mentioned that YSW articles aren’t as limited by time as normal semester-long projects, which allows students to polish their research to present it to those outside of their own school.

Singer and Sam spoke on the phone every Monday for 20-30 minutes “to catch up on how her work was unfolding and so that [Singer] could answer any questions in real-time.” They also corresponded over email when Sam had questions between meetings, and to talk about Sam’s evolving draft. Singer noted, “I felt that it was important to be as encouraging as possible and to give Sam a lot of positive feedback—after all, she was taking on an ambitious scholarly project that required her to significantly revise her initial draft.” The two discussed the process of giving and receiving feedback, “which can be difficult for experienced scholars (myself included!),” she exclaimed.
Singer encourages faculty to assume the role of FAEs, stating “If you’re offered the opportunity, do it.” She loved supporting Sam and her work, and became inspired by all the undergraduates' research and all their new ideas. She noted, “As a faculty member, I sometimes get tunnel vision when it comes to research because I’ve been doing it for a while—even as a junior faculty member—and working with smart, engaged undergraduate students like Sam helps me remember to think outside the box.”

If you are interested in becoming an FAE for Young Scholars in Writing, please reach out to us at youngscholars.editor@gmail.com for more information.

Blog post by: Beck Liberatore, YSW Intern and senior at York College of PA, expected to graduate in May 2021. Liberatore has a major in Professional Writing and a minor in Women's and Gender Studies.