PLYMOUTH, N.H.—Professor of English Meg Petersen has been named the Stevens-Bristow Distinguished Professor at Plymouth State University. Alumni Wallace R. Stevens and Meredith Bristow Stevens, class of 1962, established the endowed professorship in 2007 to celebrate and recognize extraordinary faculty who “educate the educators.”
The Stevens-Bristow Distinguished Professor must have a record of excellence in teaching, advising or mentoring, evidence of scholarly activity or creativity that is recognized nationally or internationally, and exhibit outstanding contributions to the profession, University or state.
Professor Petersen is a teacher, a writer of fiction and essays, a poet and a passionate advocate for the teaching of writing. As founder in 2001 of the Plymouth Writing Project, now National Writing Project in New Hampshire (NWPNH), she leads the organization’s efforts to promote exemplary instruction of writing in every classroom in New Hampshire. She says NWPNH believes that access to high quality educational experiences is a basic right of all learners and a cornerstone of equity. Summer workshops and student camps are held in Laconia, Concord, Hampstead and Plymouth. Plymouth State is also the host site for NWPNH Invitational Summer Institute for Teachers of Writing.
PSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Julie Bernier said, “Meg is an exceptional teacher who has been honored in the past for her work in both graduate and undergraduate English education. This professorship provides one more opportunity to highlight Meg’s good work.”
Petersen says the Stevens’ vision and generosity in creating the professorship honors their heritage as Plymouth Teachers College (1962) alumni, and the historical foundation of Plymouth State University. “We remain one of the premier teaching programs in New Hampshire, and this professorship honors the importance of that mission and acknowledges it as one of the many things at which PSU excels.”
The Common Core for Education has a broad emphasis on writing in all subjects, according to Petersen. “The craft of writing is all the more important and exciting in this participatory culture. Anyone can reach a large audience through online publishing and social media. Writing is not just a skill for communication. We talk about what writing means, and how it is done today. It is also a tool for thinking and for participating in a democratic society. This is a wonderful time to be involved with teaching,” Petersen observes.
Stevens loves the idea that the professorship touches the lives of professors who are educating educators. “If this allows a professor the opportunity to explore a new idea, then everyone ultimately benefits. By underwriting this professorship, we can provide an experience that the recipient might not otherwise have had,” he said.
In 2008 Petersen was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to work with teachers in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, in the teaching of writing. Nineteen teachers from a single school voluntarily registered for her course to improve the teaching of writing. Petersen conducted many courses at schools and universities in the Dominica Republic throughout that year. Since that first visit she has established a group of teacher leaders capable of continuing this work at other schools in the Dominican Republic under the aegis of a Writing Project site in Santo Domingo. She has also worked to create opportunities for exchange between the two cultures to enable New Hampshire teachers to gain a better understanding of students from this region, and by extension, all students from other cultures.
She also serves as Coordinator of the PSU M.Ed. program in English, including teacher certification for grades 5-12, and the M.Ed. program in the teaching of writing. She teaches Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing, Teacher Action Research, and Leadership in Urban Schools. With undergraduates, she teaches composition, creative writing, introduction to English Teaching and Teaching Writing in the Secondary School, and is responsible for supervising student teachers in English at the secondary and middle school levels, serving on the Writing Across the Curriculum Task Force and other University committees, and is an academic advisor.
A New Hampshire native, Petersen earned a Ph.D. in reading and writing instruction from UNH. She earned her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College with interdisciplinary studies in psychology, sociology and education.
Petersen has presented and published widely, and has earned honors and awards both for her creative writing and for scholarly articles. She has received both the undergraduate and graduate Distinguished Teaching Awards at Plymouth State University and was a finalist for the NH Edie Award for Excellence in Higher Education. The New England Association of Teachers of English named Petersen New England Poet of the Year for 1998.
Petersen is the daughter of Dorothy Peterson and the late Gov. Walter R. Peterson Jr. of Peterborough.
“I hope this professorship will enable me to continue to do what I am doing, but to do it better and more effectively. Teaching teachers is the most important thing I do, and what I hope to do for the rest of my life. Teaching is the way I can make an impact on the world,” Petersen concludes.