Brimming with success

The appeal of the palm tree has lured millions to Florida. For one USF student and teacher, it may not have been the main reason, but it was definitely a factor.

“A highly-ranked rhetoric and composition department brought me here,” said Allison Brimmer, “… and palm trees.”

Brimmer, 32, said the beach was one of her favorite destinations on vacations from Iowa. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Simpson College and followed it with a master’s degree in literature at Iowa State University.

Brimmer came to Florida at the age of 28 as a Ph.D.-seeking student in rhetoric and composition at USF. During her time here, she has taught courses such as Human Sexual Behavior, Professional Writing and English Composition.

Her most profound teaching experience, she says, occurred back in the Hawkeye State, when she taught a summer writing course at a maximum-security women’s prison in Iowa. There she taught women basic writing skills, such as how to compile a resume or fill out a job application, as well as how to craft opinion pieces on political issues. The major project assigned for the course was an expressive piece based on the women’s life stories.

“It was so intense,” Brimmer said of the experience. “When I left on the last day of class, all the prisoners from my class were lined up at the fence waving goodbye.”

The women kept in touch with her for some time after each of them was released. Brimmer said she hasn’t had much contact with them since moving to Florida, but that she hopes she can leave similar impressions on her students at USF.

In 2002, Brimmer won the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student, and received honorable mention for the same in 2000 and 2001.

“She’s one of the few approachable teachers at USF,” said Monique Williams, a former student. “She seems to care … about the students….”

Recently, Brimmer took time off from teaching to study. During her hiatus she was studying eight to 10 hours a day preparing for exams ,so she could qualify for her dissertation. The aspiring doctor’s research is focused on uncovering and fighting racism in the classroom.

“I’m interested in making structures of dominance visible — unmasking the subtle racism that fuels our society and, in turn, our classrooms,” Brimmer said.

Along with her doctorate in rhetoric and composition, Brimmer, who enjoys reading black women’s literature on her spare time, is working on a master’s in women’s studies, for which she is currently teaching the introductory course.

When she graduates in 2005, Brimmer said she plans to leave the palm trees and explore her options.

“I’m keeping my options open, but I’d like an exciting, thriving place,” she said.