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Tom Geary: Assistant professor of English

Tom Geary has no more excuses for not finishing his dissertation.

The Tidewater Community College assistant English professor is a Chancellor’s Faculty Fellow for 2015-16. The fellowship ensures that capable people within the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) have opportunities to prepare themselves for top-level management and instructional positions. The fellowship provides up to a one-year leave of absence with support for salary and expenses.

Geary is overjoyed he will be able to complete the Ph.D. in English he started in 2007 at the University of Maryland. “This is a huge honor,” Geary said from his office on the Virginia Beach Campus. “This really does change my life. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Geary graduated from Christopher Newport University with a bachelor’s in English in 2004 and completed his master’s two years later at the University of Maryland. Informed by the impact of the Internet and new media on his students and his teaching, Geary’s research interests gravitated toward digital writing and multimodality. He started his dissertation that focuses on the intersections of rhetoric, electracy and composition instruction for digital natives in 2009.

His plan includes developing a full curriculum for digital fluency in the VCCS that would bring theory to practice in English and composition classes. This would include digital assignments and analyses and utilize open educational resources. Geary routinely integrates social media into his English and humanities classes, having students create Twitter accounts as a way of being part of a dialogue that centers on their academic interests.

“It’s less about sharing their life experiences and more about showing them the value of conversation,” said Geary, who also has his English 111 students complete digital storytelling projects.

An avid reader of rhetorical texts and academic writing, Geary also enjoys analyzing persuasive speeches and websites for strategies and connections to their target audiences. A native of North Dakota who moved extensively as a military brat, he gravitated toward math classes over English until high school.

“I was good enough at math but didn’t have a passion for it,” he said. “Many people think of literature when they hear ‘English,’ but I love the rhetorical aspects of communication.”

Though he originally planned to go into journalism, Geary found teaching to be a better fit and was hired by TCC in January 2012. He is the college’s representative for the VCCS Professional Development Committee and is chair of the Classroom Teaching and Learning with Technology Committee at TCC.

Geary is TCC’s first Faculty Fellow since 2004-05. He plans to have his dissertation complete by spring and walk in graduation.

“I’m thrilled and truly grateful to have this opportunity,” Geary said. “It will be a reciprocal process with TCC and the VCCS. I can’t wait to bring my research back into the classroom to further enhance student success in 21st century digital literacy for today’s workforce.”