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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.

The transformation

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.

These profiles were created by the Karen Greenstone's English 303 class (spring 2009)
and edited for the web by Mary Adams's English 303 class (summer 2009).

Students in Mary Adams's English 303 class (fall 2009) wrote additional profiles.