Alice Osborn’s past educational and work experience is unusually varied, and it now feeds her work as a poet, speaker and popular writing coach. In the past decade, Alice has taught classes and writing workshops to thousands of aspiring authors of nearly all ages from 9 to 90 both around the corner and internationally. Heroes without Capes is her most recent collection of poetry; previous collections are After the Steaming Stops and Unfinished Projects. Alice is also the editor of the anthologies Tattoos and Creatures of Habitat, both from Main Street Rag. A North Carolina Writers’ Network board member and a Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared in the News and Observer, The Broad River Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Soundings Review and in numerous journals and anthologies. When she’s not editing or writing, Alice is an Irish dancer who plays guitar and violin. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, two children and four very messy and loud birds.
Education: MA English, Rhetoric/Composition, North Carolina State University
Master’s Thesis, “A Conversation in the Composition Classroom: Finding Our Voice Through Creative Nonfiction” Advisor: Chris M. Anson, Phd
B.S. Finance, Virginia Tech
Since graduating from Virginia Tech in the mid 90s, I have never stopped learning professionally and personally even when. I’ve been away from a formal classroom setting. Since I’m a goal-oriented person and a self-directed learner, I sought out all volunteer opportunities after college, to help me find that elusive first full time job in marketing, publicity or sales.
I’ve also discovered that I’m a transformative learner who has gained enormous insight through my personal relationships, numerous job changes and through the birth my now 12-year-old son, Daniel. As Jack Mezirow has stated in his work, transformative learning requires experience, then critical reflection, which leads to individual development. Daniel’s birth was my largest transformative learning experience that ushered me out of retail and into the world of education and writing, but I had other transformative experiences including moving from Virginia to South Carolina, getting fired from a job, and joining the Raleigh Jaycees.
The Jaycees always provided me with excellent opportunities to share knowledge, reflect upon that knowledge, and take action. Throughout my ongoing five year Jaycee career, I’ve focused my energies on individual development projects dealing with sailing, books, movies, skin care, and writing because I either needed to learn from others or I needed to teach, which is my way of taking action and getting others involved with my interests.
Since I’ve been in and through graduate school, my development has been focused on creative, academic and technical writing. In fact, my thesis, which I defended fall 2006, combined both my creative writing and academic interests through the personal essay form. Using critical and transformative theory, I claimed that when students write down their personal stories, they will feel more in control of their work, which will allow them to grow in their writing confidence and abilities.
I also know my four semesters of experience in the Writing and Speaking Tutorial Services (WSTS) center at North Carolina State have been valuable. I’ve learned how to ask the right questions to get the students thinking in the right direction, so that I’m not doing all of their work for them, and I’ve learned how to be an intuitive and compassionate instructor who listens.
Thinking about how I would teach my future students, I believe I would follow many of the critical and feminist theorists who use students’ personal experiences to give meaning to their academic work. I feel that the role of an educator is to foster critical thought and to inspire students to think about things they have never thought of before.
When I graduated from Virginia Tech with my B.S. in Finance, I didn’t immediately land a full-time job. My family and I had moved from Northern Virginia to Charleston, South Carolina, and I had to adapt to a new state, a new job climate, and living with my parents and brother again after college. For several years, I felt that I was a failure for not having a job so I could afford to rent my own apartment, but I tried to make the best of my situation so that I could gain the sales, marketing and technical experience I needed to improve my living situation.
So soon after we moved, I signed up for a Japanese class at the College of Charleston, started a non-paying internship with the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, and took a few part-time receptionist jobs in between. While at the Chamber internship and through seminars sponsored by the Chamber, I learned basic sales techniques and marketing tips. I also built up my confidence around people through numerous after-hours Chamber business events and networking sessions. I also practiced some of my new sales and marketing skills when I started the Virginia Tech/Charleston Area Alumni Chapter and organized meetings by calling local alumni to develop our membership. During this time, I was learning a lot of useful business skills and marketing information in those two years, but still felt dissatisfied that I hadn’t been hired full-time.
Then, in late 1995 I worked for three months for a family-owned advertising agency, but was fired after 90 days because they hired me for the wrong position (they needed a receptionist, not an assistant account executive). I didn’t have much responsibility except processing invoices, and I didn’t know how to ask for more. I was initially stunned, but promised myself that at my next job I would be more proactive and ask my boss for more work after I had finished my tasks.
Looking back on my years after college, I was a self-directed individual who needed a minimal amount of outside guidance from my parents or employers. My goals included getting a full-time job and getting out of my parents’ house. However, I also realize that I didn’t grow very much as a person until I had the transformative experience of losing my job, which forced to me to reevaluate how I managed my attitude at work.
Fortunately, in early 1996, Belk Department stores hired me for their advertising department since I had Macintosh skills from my Chamber jobs, advertising skills from my part-time work, and people skills from all of my volunteer efforts. The advertising department didn’t promote any continuing education, but I later gained management training when I was selected to be a Belk Management Trainee in 1998 at the largest Myrtle Beach store.
I was given a three-week management training in Charlotte, North Carolina, but the most valuable training involved a human resources course. In this course we learned about active listening, how to conduct a job interview, and how to deal with difficult employees. This course helped me so much in all of my jobs at Belk (I later moved to Raleigh where I became a buyer, then I returned to an area sales management position in 2002 at Southpoint mall in Durham, NC), as well as within my personal relationships, since it taught me active listening skills.
Before my son Daniel was born, I thought I would become a Belk merchandise coordinator or store manager, but his birth changed all of these ambitions. After my seven-month maternity leave, I worked at the Belk Lancôme counter (both my favorite and my last position at Belk) for almost year before taking graduate classes waiting for admission into the English MA program at NC State. Although my husband never complained about me working nights and weekends before Daniel, he wanted me to find a career where I would work the same hours he did so we could all be together as a family at night and on weekends.
A few months after Daniel was born I took a writing class with the UNC-Chapel Hill Friday Center for Continuing Education and subscribed to several writing magazines. I felt it was time to get serious about writing and not think that it was just another hobby. Since I was in the fourth grade, I wanted to be a novelist, but I bowed to parental pressure when choosing a college major that would be more likely to prepare me for the workforce.
I did not write much during high school or college, although I wrote a narrative poem in ninth grade which garnered 2nd place. Also, during my last year in Charleston I submitted sailing race results and gave radio interviews, as well as wrote profiles for my sailing club’s newsletter. An older sailing friend of mine told me I should write for a living and get out of Belk. Although it would take me a few more years to accomplish this, I realized even then that I needed to write, but after I left Belk, did I feel free to pursue my writing goals, which included daily writing and reading with the Jaycee Book Club.
When the former Jaycee Book Club chair stepped down in late 2002, I jumped at the chance to lead the group during 2003. In the middle of that year, I also started the Jaycee Film Club with my husband. When deciding on what movies to watch for Film Club, my husband decided on One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Although I knew it was an important film, I had never seen it. But after I did, I had another transformative experience because I realized that one courageous individual, but otherwise average person, could change the status quo and make a difference.
Although I don’t plan on attacking Nurse Ratched, I want to be an educator who makes her students use their voices to persuade and argue for what they believe in. I also want students to question the status quo and to take apart issues until they find their own version of what their truth is, since there’s not one universal truth for everyone, as the feminist scholars would agree.
With everything going on in my life, I’m learning how to best manage my time with a young son and meet my professional goals. For me, balancing means using scraps of time to write or read and not thinking about work when I’m with my son and husband. I probably gained a lot of my enthusiasm about learning from my parents who are intellectually curious and wanted me to know about history and world culture when I was a child.
My dad had an enormous library, and I remember them always reading books and discussing what they read with me. He was in the HR profession and often told me to take night classes whenever I could, so that I wouldn’t stagnate in my field. My involvement with the Jaycees also exposed me to a wealth of projects that developed my thinking and learning style. As a result, I want to be around others who don’t want to stop learning and who aren’t afraid of having their views challenged.
Learning is essential to gain knowledge and wisdom, and I feel that I’ve learned best through my transformative experiences. Sometimes the greatest learning takes place after we reflect and act upon experiences we haven’t anticipated.
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