Meet Your Professor: Avery Blankenship

Meet Your Professor: Avery Blankenship
Recruiting students from across the U.S., Campus is the new alternative to online community college. Our online associate degree in business program consists of 100% live, online classes taught by professors who also teach at top-ranked colleges and universities. Read on to learn more about our talented teaching team.

Introducing doctoral candidate at Northeastern University and feminist scholar, Professor Avery Blankenship!

From an early age, Blankenship showed a deeply rooted love for English and teaching, which led her to pursue her undergraduate studies in English and Computer Science at Rhodes College. She then went on to earn her M.A. in English from Northeastern University, where she discovered her niche doctoral research topic, 19th-century cookbooks.

During her studies, Blankenship observed how classrooms often posed challenges for students from marginalized backgrounds, which sparked her teaching philosophy: engage with students in a way that resonates with their individual experiences and addresses their unique needs.

As an instructor at Campus and Northeastern University, Blankenship empowers her students to write and question systems of power both historically and contemporary to the digital world.

Why Campus?

As a former community college graduate and a former online college student, Blankenship’s perspective on education and what led her to Campus really intrigued us. When we asked her about what initially drew her to teach at Campus, she told us that after receiving an email about our program, she was enthusiastic about bringing her expertise to students across the country.

“I hadn't heard of Campus the program before, but I had heard of Campuswire, especially since the pandemic had brought education technology to the forefront of everybody's attention,” Blankenship shared.

Blankenship expressed that she became more interested in the Campus program because she attended a two-year school herself.

“Community college was such an influential part of my education and taught me so much about who I am as a professional and a scholar, I really wanted to take the opportunity to be able to pass that on to somebody else.”

Continuing her perspective on community college programs, Blankenship emphasized one of the unfortunate aspects of their nature: “I think community college is an incredibly great way to start college education and unfortunately goes underutilized because of inaccessibility. So, I was happy to be part of a program that's focusing on making community college accessible to people who otherwise wouldn't have access to it.”

Blankenship also highlighted how increased access to education affects students across the country, especially in her own experience.

“I've taken online classes. I am somebody who is disabled, and so I have a physical disability that can sometimes prevent me from physically going somewhere, particularly at the start of the pandemic. I have an autoimmune disease,” Blankenship shared. “Without online learning, I would have just been completely cut off from knowledge. And I think that the thought of being cut off from knowledge is scary, you know? It's something that only hurts all of us.”

Blankenship added: “The more that we can do to bring education to more people and to show them that they have a right to know, it only benefits us as a society.”

Blankenship’s passion to help make high-quality education accessible perfectly aligns with our own mission here at Campus, which made her an ideal fit to join the Campus teaching team. What’s more, in our interview with Blankenship, she highlighted that the effects can already be felt by our students.

“I have a lot of respect for what Campus is trying to do, and I know the students do, too,” Blankenship remarked. “A lot of my students have told me many times that this is the first time somebody has told them that they could do something. I think students are beginning to see that they don't need permission for things. They don't need permission to try. I think that that's an incredibly valuable skill to have because it really is a skill to be able to say like, ‘I don't need permission to be able to try this thing.’”

Professor Fun Fact: Blankenship is a home seamstress! “One of my biggest hobbies is sewing ball gowns. I’ve been sewing since I was in fifth grade, and I really enjoy sewing these enormous dresses with fancy embroidery and six different layers of skirts. I find costuming work really really fun!”

Naturally Drawn to Teaching

What inspired Blankenship to teach English literature to college students? While she’d mentioned to us that she’d decided on studying English in general in the fifth grade, she also brought attention to what led her into education.

“I guess the easy answer that I could give you is that I feel like I'm good at explaining things, and I feel like I naturally, sometimes in a way that can come across as annoying, always explain things.” Blankenship chuckled. “That's just the tendency that I have, which kind of naturally leads you to be a teacher.”

When we got the chance to learn a little bit more about what drives her passion for teaching her students, Blankenship shared that there have been many moments where she could have fallen off the path of being a “successful person or being somebody who is taking full advantage of life.”

“And time and time again, the people who have prevented that from happening have been teachers. I think that the role that a teacher has is not just to give you facts and show you how to write an introductory paragraph, but to show you how – once you can do that – you now have a kind of power in a part of your life that you maybe thought you were powerless.”

The skill of writing in particular is something that Blankenship found to be one of the most important skills we can have as human beings, and she loves that she can teach that very thing.

“It's something that has meant so much to me in my life that if that's something that I can give to somebody else, I will do anything to do that.”

The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword

Throughout our interview with Blankenship, her infectious enthusiasm for English literature and writing left us feeling empowered, and as she pointed out to us, writing can do just that.

“I constantly am going on and on and on about how all writing is political. All writing is about power,” Blankenship shared. “All writing puts you in a position of power. At first [students] might think that I'm teaching them a new way to write, but really, a Facebook post is political. A text message is political. An email is political. It's all about power. Language is power and the acquisition of language is power. Getting to share that with another person who has maybe felt powerless often, I think is probably the best part about teaching.”

To give us more insight into understanding how this shift in perspective can encourage students to write, Blankenship shared an anecdote from the research she’s completing as part of her doctoral dissertation on the 1800s.

“I study a period where over half of the population could not read and write, and it wasn't that long ago. I mean, we're talking about our great grandma’s grandma,” she shared. “You know, it is not that long ago that many of us would have not been allowed to read and write. In that period, people again and again and again cite the ability to read and write as the thing that gave them freedom and that gave them power.”

“I mean, it's a convoluted way of saying I love to write, but also that my favorite part of teaching – is getting people to see that, and that they already do it. It's not learning a new skill. It's something you already do. You just probably haven't thought about it in those terms.”

Researching the Recipe for Opportunity

On the note of Blankenship’s current research focus, she shared with us more about her topic of study and what inspired her to explore it further. She got into 19th century American cookbooks as a master’s student, having always been passionate about social justice, women's rights, and thinking about gender disparity and labor disparity.

Blankenship is a feminist scholar who felt drawn to cookbooks from the 1800s and how they gave women a platform to write. She explained, “Everybody in the 19th century had to eat somehow, but we don't actually wonder how they ate and where they got their food from and who was making it.”

“I think cookbooks provide this really unique opportunity to see how women in this period were really not allowed to write and communicate on a public platform, how they form communities with one another, and how they positioned themselves as powerful and influential within the kitchen,” Blankenship elaborated. “While there's so much opportunity there for there to become an oppressive space in cookbooks, we often see that they're actually using what otherwise would be an oppressive space to carve out a political agenda in themselves.”

During the interview, Blankenship went on to acknowledge that she often gets questions about her research and how it relates to English. She went on to outline her thoughts on how cookbooks and literature connect.

“I think at its core, literary studies and English in general is all about teaching you how to see the world and how to understand how other people see the world,” said Blankenship.

“One of the most valuable skills that you can have as an academic is being able to read someone's writing, really understand what world they're coming from and how the world that they're in shapes both what they write and what they're capable of writing. It's endlessly fascinating.”

The Smart Way to Launch Your College Career

The Campus online associate degree in business program helps students knock out the first two years of college and supports them as they prepare for life after graduation.

Want to attend classes led by mission-driven educators like Avery Blankenship? Apply now to be part of the next trailblazing cohort of the Campus program today.

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