New English chair emphasizes power of reading, writing to promote positive growth
August 21, 2020
The new leader of the Virginia Tech Department of English said she’s thrilled to join a university invested in the power of the humanities and literature.
“Accurate and persuasive writing are more important than ever,” said Rebecca Weaver-Hightower, a professor in the department she now chairs. “I’m determined to promote the power of reading and writing as tools to make the world a better place.”
Weaver-Hightower, whose research interests include postcolonial studies and settler narratives, held a similar leadership position at North Dakota State University prior to joining Virginia Tech on July 1. She earned her Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Kentucky.
She recently coauthored “Cinematic Settlers: The Settler Colonial World in Film,” and she authored both “Frontier Fictions: Settler Sagas and Postcolonial Guilt” and “Empire Islands: Castaways, Cannibals and Fantasies.” She is also a coeditor of “Archiving Settler Colonialism: Culture, Space and Race”; “Postcolonial Film: History, Empire, Resistance”; and “Robert Greacen: Selected & New Poems.”
“Rebecca Weaver-Hightower’s record of administrative experience, significant scholarship, and exceptional teaching together create the precise blend of qualities that I believe are essential for great departmental leadership,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “She will combine leadership skills with deep understanding of what is required for scholarly productivity and instructional excellence in a large and diverse academic unit.”
Moving to Southwest Virginia felt like a homecoming of sorts for Weaver-Hightower, who grew up in the South. She also said her passion for higher education began in her youth.
“I’m a ‘PK’ – a professor’s kid,” she said. “I was raised on a college campus, playing hide and seek in the hallways.”
Weaver-Hightower said she’s enthused about joining the talented faculty and staff in the English department and throughout the university. Virginia Tech’s priorities and values align with her own, she added, and she’s looking forward to collaborating across campus.
“I’m passionate about equity and diversity,” she said. “I also want to help a broad swath of students learn critical and forward-thinking skills.”
As a leader, Weaver-Hightower said she strives to listen to fellow team members before making decisions.
“I work to build consensus by talking to as many different people as possible and learning what they hope to accomplish,” she said. “It’s critical that I find out what their ideas are so I can help put them into action.”
Written by Andrew Adkins