English Staff and Faculty


“One way to be a neighbor is through reading. For Christians, reading literature is a way to explore, develop, and celebrate the world created by God and graciously given to us. This is a powerful and distinctive approach to reading. . . For those of us who read, delight, and think about literature from within the Christian metanarrative, reading is one way to glorify God and love our neighbors.”

Susan VanZanten

Why Study English?

The formal study of English is, in many ways, an exercise in empathy. To engage critically with literature is to identify with characters, to contextualize historical perspectives, and to understand theoretical lenses. And to practice effective writing and rhetoric is to relate to an audience, understanding its members’ preconceptions and preoccupations. Students in literature and language courses must then apply their ability to empathize as they discuss ideas, analyze causes, anticipate consequences, speculate possibilities, consider recommendations, test theories, and negotiate solutions. Consequently, we believe our English majors are prepared for the challenges they will encounter in both their professional and personal lives.

Departmental Programs

The English department offers majors in both English and English education, as well as minors in literature and in writing and rhetoric. Our English major and literature minor are both designed to provide a solid foundation in the skills and content necessary to understand and analyze literature in the Western tradition while also offering numerous American, British, and World literature courses that allow students to pursue their own individual interests. In their early years in the program, students will take a somewhat prescribed course of study that ensures exposure to a wide range of topics and perspectives and provides training in the work of critical literary study. In their later years, students will have the opportunity to apply this training to more specialized topics of interest that they identified during their survey courses.

The writing and rhetoric minor provides an opportunity for students to deepen their skills in the craft of writing as well as to give focused attention to how effective writing works in the world. Students may tailor the minor in several ways: toward creative writing with courses on fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction; toward professional and technical writing careers with applied writing courses; or toward graduate study in the growing field of rhetoric and composition. Courses in the minor are taught by faculty who have been trained in the theory of rhetoric and who have extensive experience in publishing as well as business and professional writing.

Students enrolled in the fully accredited English education program at CofO have the unique opportunity to study with numerous faculty within the English department who have training and expertise in middle and high school pedagogy. Over half of the members of our department hold or have held professional 7-12 teaching certification, and our members boast 60+ years (combined) of teaching experience in secondary settings. Thus, even outside of their courses in the education department, English education majors study with professors who can speak to the particular necessities of the 7-12 classroom.


Dr. Anthony Cirilla
Assistant Professor of English
acirilla@cofo.edu, 417-690-2825

Dr. Charity Gibson
Assistant Professor of English
cgibson@cofo.edu, 417-690-2826

Mrs. Lynne Harman
Associate Professor of English
lharman@cofo.edu, 417-690-3264

Dr. Matt Miller
Assistant Professor of English
mmiller@cofo.edu, 417-690-2481

Dr. David Pedersen
Assistant Professor of Humanities
dpedersen@cofo.edu, 417-690-2251

Mrs. Paige Ray
Assistant Professor of English
pray@cofo.edu, 417-690-3271

Dr. Ethan Smilie
Associate Professor of Humanities
esmilie@cofo.edu, 417-690-2364

Dr. Cindy Williams
Professor of English
Writing Center Director
cwilliams@cofo.edu, 417-690-3270

Departmental Activities and News

The English department sponsors an annual creative writing contest that is open to all CofO students. This competition includes categories in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and literary criticism. 

The English department also sponsors an active chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society. Sigma Tau Delta regularly hosts open mic events, black out poetry readings, and film screenings on campus. In recent years, the society has also been able to sponsor trips to local sites of literary interest and to regional and national student conferences.

Career Opportunities

Graduate Studies

  • Literature
  • Linguistics
  • Rhetoric
  • Law


  • Middle School
  • High School


  • Creative
  • Freelance
  • Technical
  • Speech
  • Editing

The Media

  • Screenwriting
  • TV/film production
  • Journalism


  • Advertising
  • Communications
  • Business
  • Civil service
  • Government
  • Social work

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