Word power

09/09/15 – BOSTON, MA. – Ellen Cushman, Dean’s Professor of Civic Sustainability; Professor of English; Director, Civic Sustainability, Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives. Photo by: Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Ellen Cushman is the perfect scholar to hold the prestigious title—a public intellectual incomparably suited to be the College of Social Sciences and Humanities‘ inaugural director of Civic Sustainability, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiatives.

“Over the past two decades,” Cushman says, “I’ve been thinking, writing, and teaching about the strengths of diverse learners in classrooms and communities as well as the problems they face.”

Her research centers on literacy in tribal and urban communities, with a particular focus on exploring language’s role in the everyday struggle for dignity, respect, and change.

As a Cherokee Nation citizen, her work is informed by the tribe’s ethic of reciprocity. “We have a social responsibility to each other,” she says, “an obligation to the people with whom we make knowledge.”

Cushman comes to Northeastern from Michigan State University, where she served as the director of the Center for Applied Inclusive Teaching and Learning in the Arts and Humanities.

“Northeastern students are incredibly self-directed learners. They are keen to develop projects based on their education and experiences, which aligns with the college’s effort to expand its focus on the experiential liberal arts.”
— Ellen Cushman

She is the author of The Cherokee Syllabary: Writing the People’s Perseverance, an award-winning book exploring the evolution of the Cherokee writing system, and the co-editor of Research in the Teaching of English, an interdisciplinary journal focused on the study of literacy in the education setting.

The quarterly publication is now housed in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, where Cushman holds appointments as a professor of English and the Dean’s Professor of Civic Sustainability.

In the coming months, she will work closely with the Northeastern community, reaching out to students and faculty alike to develop robust teaching and learning partnerships.

“Northeastern’s long history of scholarship dovetails with my ethics as a scholar,” says Cushman, who will teach a course in writing and community engagement this spring. “The university has a history of civic engagement and forward thinking.”