Faculty Who Care
Dean of Professional Studies
Matthew Vickless serves as the humanities liaison to the business program and on the board of trustees of the Central Penn Education Foundation. His article "Apprehending George Dyer in ‘Amicus Redivivus’: Charles Lamb on Miltonic Visionary Poetics” was published in The Charles Lamb Bulletin (n.s. 159 [spring 2014]: 20–32). Before coming to Central Penn, Vickless taught composition and literature courses at Duquesne University, where he held a doctoral teaching fellowship from 2009-2012. Prior to that fellowship, Vickless held both master's and doctoral research fellowships at Duquesne, where he worked closely with the late Albert C. Labriola, Distinguished University professor and internationally renown Milton scholar, assisting with the preparation of the Songs and Sonets volume of the Variorum Edition of the Poetry of John Donne (Indiana University Press, forthcoming) and assisting with preparation of the Milton Society of America's annual MLA conference meeting booklet. His dissertation focused on eighteenth-century British visionary poetics and was directed by Daniel P. Watkins. Vickless has presented papers on various Anglo-American poets, including T. S. Eliot, Ann Yearsley, Aphra Behn, and George Dyer, at several regional and national conferences, including the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900 as well as at conferences sponsored by the East-Central American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. His research interests include British Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century, British Visionary Poetics, and the literature of political radicalism, as well as intersections of critical race theory and composition studies. Vickless is a member of the East-Central American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and the American Association of University Professors. Along with Jack Babinchak, Vickless is co-authoring a paper on writing self-efficacy and academic success among first-generation college students.
When I'm not helping my partner Melissa raise our son Cillian or manage our two angry chihuahuas, Kiki and Maya, I like to ponder the relative merits and complexities of the Superman versus Batman debate (Superman in my head, Batman in my heart).
My teaching philosophy can best be understood in terms of the AACU's Making Excellence Inclusive initiative, which argues that the changing political contexts of academe require creative responses from academics. I interpret MEI as a charge. College teachers must meet the new career-oriented educative needs of students in ways that also provide those students with the unique sense of achievement that comes from rigorous academic success, which I define in terms of the venerable principle of peer review. My primary task is to give students the support and the tools they need to understand themselves as academics in search of careers—in other words, as my peers. I have three major teaching objectives: to provide a safe, yet rigorous environment for students to use their native language competencies as a tool for meeting predetermined learning outcomes; to engage in ongoing and varied assessments of students’ and of my own performance, remaining particularly open to making adjustments in response to student feedback; and to try to replicate on a large scale the kind of supportive and meaningful mentorship Al Labriola gave to me, preserving the medium while altering the message. I achieve these three inter-related objectives by listening to my students, using what I hear to guide my preparation, and then re-engaging my students as academic peers. In the classroom, I design writing prompts and grading rubrics, facilitate class discussion and run computer lab writing workshops. In my office (whose door is always open to students, as Labriola’s door was always open to me), I respond to student writing and discuss strategy and tactics for using writing to navigate through an academic environment. And at home, I apply these classroom and office experiences to my reading of composition and rhetorical theory, always looking for new ways to adapt and adopt rigorous academic standards in the course of helping students master the knowledge areas that shape all the writing situations they encounter. In a way, it’s all about choice: now, instead of encouraging students to find the right word to convey an idea, I help them identify writing situations and shape effective responses to those situations. And they help me do the same.