Outstanding Faculty: Dr. Emily Rutter of the English Department

This past August five faculty from the College of Sciences and Humanities were awarded as part of the Outstanding Faculty Award series. Of those five, three were in the English Department: Dr. Jackie Grutsch McKinney, Prof. Jill Christman, and Dr. Emily Rutter, who received the award for Outstanding Junior Faculty.

Dr. Emily Rutter with author and political activist, Angela Davis.

Dr. Rutter has been at Ball State for four years and in that short time has managed to publish two monographs, lead a community-focused immersive learning course, and collaborate with faculty from other departments to grow and develop the African American Studies minor, in which she serves as Assistant Director. One of the nominators for Dr. Rutter called this impressive list of accomplishments, “remarkable,” and wrote that she is “emerging as a pre-eminent expert in modern and contemporary African American literature and culture.”

When asked about how she accomplished so much in such a short period, Dr. Rutter responded by sharing that her first book, The Blues Muses, was originally her dissertation and was involved in a manuscript competition. Due to this, she was unable to send it out for about a year and half and, in the meantime, she wrote her second book Invisible Ball of Dreams. Unfortunately, The Blues Muses lost in the competition and was rejected from a publisher. But this disappointment would not last for long, for Invisible Ball of Dreams was picked up by a publisher right as it was finished, and The Blues Muses followed shortly thereafter. Dr. Rutter describes the experience as a lesson in perseverance, “I went from sad to ‘Oh my gosh, I have two book contracts!’ But it wasn’t like it all started out like that. I actually had some serious bumps in the road and then I just kept working on it.”

Dr. Rutter’s perseverance and strong work ethic is further evidenced by her teaching. Students flock to her courses and a majority emerge having been impacted and changed. One of her immersive learning courses partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank and drastically shifted her students’ understanding of poverty and its effects. Dr. Rutter and her community partners trained the students on how to work collaboratively across class lines as they told the stories of individuals struggling with poverty in Muncie, culminating in a published collection titled Poverty and Uplift: Stories from Muncie, Indiana.

This depth that Dr. Rutter brought to the course was far beyond the norm, as her nominators pointed out, “The class required considerably more labor – logistical, academic, and emotion – on Emily’s part than an ordinary three-credit course…. Given that Emily was completing two book manuscripts that year, she would have been utterly justified in teaching her classes in conventional and comfortable ways and streamlining her labor. Instead, she created a new and uniquely valuable experience of the students and for herself as an educator.”

Dr. Rutter consistently goes above and beyond in her scholarship, her teaching, and her service. She works tirelessly to provide her students with courses and discussions that push the boundaries of their understanding and transform their perspective. Her passion, work ethic, and ability set a high bar for those around her and make her truly deserving of the award of Outstanding Junior Faculty. All of these accomplishments have occurred in just over four years, and there is no limit to her potential moving forward.