Becoming an Educator the Catamount Way:
Jamieson Ridenhour, English Professor
By Andrew Maginn
The better the view
Western Carolina University has a new slogan: “The
higher you climb, the better the view.” By making WCU
part of his climb into higher education, Dr. Jamieson Ridenhour
shows how great the view is, even in these hard economic times.
Dr. Ridenhour received his master’s degree from the
English department of Western Carolina University after receiving
his bachelor's degree in theatre from Coker College.
Before entering graduate school, Dr. Ridenhour lived in Asheville,
where he wondered what his next step would be. When he chose
Western Carolina Univeristy, Dr. Ridenhour found in the Catamount
community a place he could grow. By working with the faculty
and staff, he rose to the challenges of being a master’s
student and established a foundation for being a professor.
A ground-breaking experience
When asked about entering the English program in 1998 at
Western, Dr. Ridenhour remarked that the experience was “ground
breaking.” His poetry course with Katherine Stripling
Byer opened his eyes to a world beyond theatre and social
work, which was his occupation in Asheville.
Because of his time in the English department, Dr. Ridenhour
learned from his professors and gained connections in his
field. He said that learning under Dr. Gayle H. Miller, who
taught a graduate course on Chaucer, was the most enjoyable
experience he had. Even though medieval literature is not
Dr. Ridenhour’s emphasis, he learned much from Dr. Miller’s
style of teaching, especially her way of captivating students.
Western Carolina gave Dr. Ridenhour a foundation in teaching.
He explains that he was “transformed from someone who
did not know how to speak in front of a bunch a people in
a classroom environment to someone who knows how to present
himself.” His transformation at WCU and his courses
in English education served him well as a doctoral student
at the University of South Carolina.
Now a professor at the University of Mary, Ridenhour is an
expert in gothic literature. He specializes in Irish gothic
literature and frequently teaches the literature surrounding
the city of London. Dr. Ridenhour’s Catamount experience
gave him the tools to succeed. It also gave him a template
for a course he has been teaching called Introduction to the
Profession of English. The course is modeled after Western
Carolina’s Bibliography and Research course, which Dr.
Ridenhour describes as a course that teaches students how
to be scholars. Dr. Ridenhour uses two words to summarize
what WCU gave him: “knowledge and confidence.”
Advice for future students
When asked about the advice he would give to future educators,
Dr. Ridenhour said, “Understanding your professors and
observing their style of teaching will someday help you become
a professor.” For general scholars, Dr. Ridenhour adds,
“Read everything you can. Talk to your professors and
read their work.”
Dr. Jamieson Ridenhour’s experience at Western Carolina
University demonstrates how a student can be prepared for
the real world — the Catamount way.