Marshall professor to study abroad


Ryan Fischer

Professor Brooks Rexroat, visiting assistant professor of English, assists one of his advanced compositions students on April 27, 2016. He was recently awarded a grant by the Fulbright Scholar Program to teach creative writing at Petrozavodsk State University in Russia next fall.

Brooks Rexroat , visiting assistant professor of English at Marshall University, has been awarded a grant through the Fulbright Scholar Program to teach creative writing in Russia next fall.

Rexroat will be teaching at Petrozavodsk State University for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Rexroat will work with Liudmila Kukhareva in Russia, whom he said he has worked with on smaller projects over the years. Rexroat said Kukhareva primarily works with Russian students who are aspiring to become English as a second language teachers in Russian high schools.

Most recently, Rexroat and Kukhareva worked together at a camp last summer with some Russian college students in Duluth, Minnesota.

“One of the things that we noticed as we worked together this summer was that they’re really excellent, these students are tremendous at academic English and technical English,” Rexroat said. “They know the reasons why words do what they do, they know when shifts are made and why. They really understand the core and the heart of the English language. However, where they really struggled was general conversation.”

Rexroat said the students could develop a speech ahead of time and deliver it beautifully, but when they engaged in a conversation their speed with language and agility with words was lacking.

“Those are all the decisions that someone makes in a creative writing workshop,” Rexroat said.

Rexroat said the class he will teach in Russia will particularly focus on fiction, where students will have to think about all of those aspects of conversational English.

Rexroat said the course he has proposed will start with the students writing fiction on their own, which he said they are already good at. The students will then go into a workshop and begin to deal with some conversation skills in a low-pressure situation. The course will end with a public presentation of the students’ work with a question and answer session afterwards.

“So, it’s a scaffolded approach to help them learn language,” Rexroat said. 

Along with teaching, half of Rexroat’s grant is dedicated to research. His research will be to write a pair of stories set in the northwestern region of Russia where he will be working.

Rexroat said it is very difficult to get access to Russia and it is not a simple place for Americans to travel. Rexroat said to get to stay there for almost a year is a really big deal.

“So, for me, that’s professionally valuable,” Rexroat said. “As a writer, this gives me stories to tell that other writers don’t have access to.”

Rexroat said it is going to be great to go explore and it is very gratifying for him to know he can take some time to allow himself to grow.

“I ask my students to grow all the time, but I have to sometimes stop and make sure that I’m growing as well, so that I can continue to push them in new ways,” Rexroat said.

Rexroat also said his travels could benefit his students. He said as faculty, they teach subject matter, but they are also asking students to broaden the way they view the world.

“And so, the more that we can do that on our own, the more effective we can then be with our students,” Rexroat said.

This is Rexroat’s third time he has been given support to travel abroad. In the past, he spent one month writing in Cassis, France and six months in Ireland. Rexroat said after both of those trips he traveled extensively and has now been to most of Europe.

Rexroat will head to Washington D.C. this summer for orientation and training on local customs, what to expect and how laws differ in Russia.

Rexroat is also preparing for the publication of his first novel early next year titled “Pine Gap.”

In the past, Marshall has had three other professors who have been awarded grants through the Fulbright Scholar Program, two of them being in 2011-2012 and one in 2012-2013.

Amanda Gibson can be contacted at [email protected].