Skip to main content

Joyce Kinkead to Talk about Importance of Story in 36th annual Last Lecture

Thursday, Mar. 31, 2011

USU's Joyce Kinkead presents the 2011 'Last lecture'

In the 36th annual Last Lecture, Joyce Kinkead presents "Standing on Boo Radley's Porch: The Importance of Story."

Utah State University professor Joyce Kinkead believes in the importance of stories in people’s lives. She will expand on the value of the humanities and of the stories people read when she presents the 36th Annual Last Lecture, Wednesday, April 6, at 2:30 p.m. in the Taggart Student Center Ballroom.

Kinkead’s title is “Standing on Boo Radley’s Porch: The Importance of Story.” The lecture is free and open to the public.

A committee of USU Honors Program students selected Kinkead, associate vice president for research and professor of English, to address the student body as if it were her “last lecture” to the student body.

During her interview with the Honors students, Kinkead talked about how stories can teach people how to look at the world with a different perspective, said committee member Nikelle Hunsaker, a human movement science major.

“She talked about how reading broadens our intelligence and understanding by giving us more than just facts and trivia,” Hunsaker said. “It gives us the skills to be able to look deeper into issues and have the skills necessary to deal with them.”  

The committee was particularly impressed with Kinkead’s accomplishments on campus.

“All of her efforts have been to help give students more opportunities to excel,” Hunsaker said. “She has worked very hard to help encourage individual students to achieve their full potential, including co-publishing with them. In addition, she works hard to make her classes applicable to her students in their careers — beyond their time at Utah State.” 

The committee also included two student co-chairs, Ben Carroll (engineering) and Karmella Dolecheck (animal science); Danielle Allen (art); Natalie Gibson (natural resources); Tessa Ryser (English); and Jamie Wilson (engineering).

Kinkead has been at USU since 1982 and has held a variety of positions across campus, enabling her to have a profound effect on undergraduate education at the university. While she was associate dean of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, she created the Rhetoric Associates program, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary and was renamed the Writing Fellows program. She also created the Undergraduate Teaching Fellows Program. As a result of her effort and mentorship, 16 students have been published in refereed journals, 12 of them as sole authors. Four of the students are co-authors with Kinkead on book chapters.

After working as associate dean and acting dean in the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Kinkead honed her focus on undergraduate research in her position as associate vice president for research.

She created and administers the Undergraduate Research Fellows Program, which places students in undergraduate research positions from their first year, under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Research Fellows receive a $1,000 stipend per year. Alongside the Fellows program, she created the Undergraduate Research Scholar transcript designation. Students who participate in at least two semesters of research, scholarship or creative activity supervised by a faculty member may apply for the notation on their transcript.

Believing that an essential part of research is dissemination of that research, Kinkead proposed that ASUSU create a travel fund, which the students oversee. The Academic Opportunity Fund contributes $20,000 per year to professional development opportunities, allowing students to present their work at regional, national and international conferences.

Her work has not gone unnoticed. She is a councilor in the Council for Undergraduate Research and was a guest of Alan Jenkins and Mick Healey of the United Kingdom Reinvention Centre to investigate undergraduate research connections between the two countries.

“Dr. Kinkead has transformed the culture of Utah State University through her dedication to student involvement in research,” said Christie Fox, Honors Program director. “We now have a national reputation for students getting their ‘hands on’ research, and that is largely due to her sustained effort. Countless numbers of students have come through Honors to tell me that Dr. Kinkead enriched their educational experience; her enthusiasm fueled their own work. This Last Lecture combines a love for the humanities with a passion for teaching: perfect for an Honors lecture.”

Kinkead received her bachelor and master’s of arts in English from University of Central Missouri, and her doctorate in College Teaching of English from Texas A&M Commerce. She has been a Fulbright Scholar in Stockholm, Sweden, and Cyprus. She consulted for the Ministry of Education in Trinidad and taught American Studies at Keimyung University in Taegu, South Korea. In 1999, she was selected as an American Council on Education Fellow, resident in the Office of the Chancellor and Provost at the University of California, Davis.

She teaches in USU’s English department, specifically in English education. Her course “Farm in Literature and Culture” exemplifies her interest in how agriculture and humanities intersect.

The Last Lecture is a unique tradition at USU because it is entirely focused on students. Each year, Honors sends out a request for nominations from students. Students are asked to nominate those professors who have had a memorable impact on them inside and outside the classroom. Last Lecture candidates must be full professors. A committee of Honors students then reviews each nominee’s qualifications and narrows the nominees to a short list. The committee then interviews those candidates and chooses the Last Lecturer.

Related link:

Listen to an interview on Utah Public Radio with Dr. Kinkead about her Last Lecture. The interview originally aired the week of March 28, 2011. (*Links to UPR interviews remain live one year following broadcast.)

Writer and contact: Christie Fox, 435-797-3940,

Post your Comment

We welcome your response. Your comment or question will be forwarded to the appropriate person. Please be sure to provide a valid email address so we can contact you, if needed. Your submission will NOT be published online. Thank you.

More News

All news


Utah State Today is available as a weekly e-mail update, with links to news, features, and events. Subscribers stay connected, whether on campus or off.

To receive Utah State Today every week, simply enter your e-mail address below.

Unsubscribe here.

Visit our social media hub

Visit our social media hub to see a snapshot of student life and find more USU social media accounts.

Learn more About USU